Friday, April 20, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board gives Pepin Academies charter school initial approval

LAND O'LAKES — A well-regarded charter school for students with special needs has won initial approval to open in Pasco County despite concerns over the way its application was handled.

Pasco School Board members said they had only positive views of Pepin Academies, which operates in Tampa and is looking to expand northward.

"I would be very pleased if the school were added in this county," vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley said.

But Crumbley and other board members voiced displeasure with the process that superintendent Kurt Browning used in reviewing Pepin's application and bringing his recommendation to the board.

Browning stepped away from past practice in giving Pepin a chance to respond to questions about its financial and academic viability, as reflected in its submissions. He said it was only fair to give the applicant a chance to clarify the information it provided.

"As a new superintendent, I have taken a new approach … on how we need to evaluate charter schools," Browning said, explaining that the added details convinced him of Pepin's viability.

His staff initially suggested denying the application, so the about-face caught some board members off guard.

Board member Joanne Hurley, who cast the only vote against the charter, chastised Browning for offering Pepin what she considered a "do-over," an opportunity not afforded to past applicants with similar problems.

Browning met with Pepin officials in his office to let them know where his staff found deficiencies in the application — such things as missing cash flow projections — and then gave the school seven days to provide clarifications in writing. He said he accepted only technical information and corrections, and nothing substantive.

"You have a new way of doing things, but you didn't give the board notice," Hurley said.

Browning said he didn't think he needed to inform the board if he was changing procedures based on its existing policies.

Hurley further argued that Pepin was permitted to submit substantive changes, against law and policy. Even then, she said, "I still found weaknesses in the application."

Browning responded that Pepin could have simply resubmitted in January, so it made sense to work with them now. "Which I think would have been far more preferable," Hurley shot back.

Board member Steve Luikart said he also would have liked to have more time to review the information presented, considering that Browning provided late documents to the board. At the same time, he and others said they did appreciate Browning's more open way of dealing with charter applicants.

"It looks to me that what occurred is what this board wanted to occur when we ran into issues a couple of years ago," board member Allen Altman said.

The district still must negotiate a contract with Pepin before the school may open.

 
Comments
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts today

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts today

High school students from around the Tampa Bay area are participating in the National School Walkout today commemorating the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and calling for gun law reform.A large group of students from St. Petersburg High ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18
After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

TAMPA — Sam Sharf’s parents thought he had the best position on the Plant High School football team. As back-up quarterback, he could impress the girls but rarely played enough to get hurt.Now a junior, Sharf is off the team so he can focus his energ...
Published: 04/18/18

Gannon University’s Ruskin growth includes $21 million addition

RUSKIN — Gannon University is experiencing some serious growing pains and as a result, SouthShore is going to see a big change in the landscape. When it opened its doors in 2015 as a satellite campus for its home school in Erie, Pa., Gannon occupied ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Enrollment growth anticipated for Pasco County charter schools, with two more to open in the fall

Most of Pasco County’s more established charter schools expect to see their student population remain stable in 2018-19.Even so, enrollment in the county’s charter schools is expected to grow by about 1,100 children — or nearly 25 percent — in the fa...
Published: 04/17/18
Sunlake High sophomore wins summer scholarship to Ringling College of Art and Design

Sunlake High sophomore wins summer scholarship to Ringling College of Art and Design

LAND O’ LAKES — As a child, Taylor Young started doodling with crayons as a hobby. Now at age 16, this Sunlake High School sophomore has received a full scholarship, valued at $6,000, to attend the Ringling College of Art and Design Summer Pre-Colleg...
Published: 04/16/18