Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plans start to gel for new Brooksville charter school

BROOKSVILLE — It will be months before middle school students walk through the doors at the Brooksville Engineering, Science & Technology Academy. But the makeup of the charter school — Brooksville's first — is beginning to come into focus.

Surprisingly well, actually.

"I couldn't be more thrilled," said Aimee Whitehead, president of BEST Academy's board. "You kind of sense the need — you feel that you can potentially offer some students a life-changing opportunity. We're getting to that point."

The big unknowns until now have been enrollment, finances and administration.

So far, nearly 80 students have applied, just shy of the first-year target of 88 students. The vast majority — 70 students — applied for the sixth grade, said Nevin Siefert II, one of the school's interim directors and director of administration at Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology, a charter school in Spring Hill. Seven students have applied to enter seventh grade.

Siefert said the school likely will do some targeted marketing to get more seventh-graders.

BEST Academy, as the school will be commonly known, initially planned on starting with two sixth-grade and two seventh-grade classes. Due to the large number of sixth-grade applicants, that grade will now have three classes, taking 66 students, Siefert said. The seventh grade will have one class.

Students can still be placed on a waiting list for sixth grade. Enrollment is ongoing for seventh grade.

Eventually, the school is expected to serve 132 students in six classes, including eighth grade.

BEST Academy will pull students from across Hernando — and potentially from nearby counties.

But the school's target group is students living within the Parrott Middle School zone — more specifically, those living in predominantly African-American south Brooksville.

"We really wanted it to be a community school," Siefert said.

Whitehead said she's excited to offer more schooling options to parents and students on the east side of the county "because there's just not as much choice there."

To make it easier, Siefert says, the school has a tentative agreement with the Hernando County school district that any student living in the Parrott zone can be bused to Parrott; students will then be shuttled from there to BEST Academy.

Part of the school's success will depend on having the right administrator, and school officials believe they've found him in H. Andre Buford.

A Spring Hill resident, Buford has nearly 30 years of experience as an educator, including stints as a teacher and principal, primarily in Rutherford County, Tenn. He was the education supervisor at the Hernando Correctional Institution, a state prison south of Brooksville, for about five years. He is now the education director for AMIkids Pinellas, a nonprofit dropout prevention program that has a partnership with the Pinellas school district and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

"He is highly qualified in the terms that he's not only worked with the traditional schools but with nonprofit schools," Siefert said.

He's also dynamic, articulate, part of the community. He heard about BEST during a church presentation.

"He's a good figurehead for the community," Siefert said. "He's going to be a great fit. He'll be a beacon for kids to come."

His official start date is May 1.

BEST Academy's financial picture is looking stronger.

The big reason?

In early February, the school was awarded a two-year, $350,000 state start-up grant, paying for everything from desks and computers and tablets to a $35,000 engineering curriculum.

"It's vital. It's an integral," Siefert said. "In order to outfit the school for the students, you need to have the start-up grant."

Not only did the school win the grant; it had one of the best proposals in the state, ranking third overall out of 150. The top 60 received funding, Siefert said.

The academy will be at the old Moton School at 835 School St. in south Brooksville, a complex that for many years housed all of the county's African-American students.

The charter school — which, like all charters, operates independently and tuition-free with state funding — will be one of two opening in the fall.

Gulf Coast Middle School, a replication of Gulf Coast Academy, will also open in Spring Hill.

The common link between the three schools: Siefert and Joe Gatti, Gulf Coast Academy's curriculum and instruction director.

Whitehead started thinking about the school after Gatti and Siefert began looking at property in Spring Hill for Gulf Coast's second location.

Gatti and Siefert had begun talking about putting a charter middle school similar to Gulf Coast, which emphasizes science and technology, in Brooksville.

Whitehead, a part-time online instructor at Gulf Coast, quickly became the driving force behind the BEST project. Much of the school's curriculum — and its emphasis on outdoor education, including kayaking and caving trips — will be modeled after Gulf Coast's.

The Gulf Coast administrators helped the school through the charter application period and grant process. Now they are interim directors.

"Here's the metaphor," Siefert said. "We are the training wheels. We're on for just as long as we need to be."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

For information about the Brooksville Engineering, Science & Technology Academy, visit flbestacademy.org online.

Plans start to gel for new Brooksville charter school 03/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 7:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  2. Marine colonel on temporary duty at CentCom arrested in Polk prostitution sting

    Macdill

    A Marine colonel on temporary duty at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base was among nearly 300 people arrested in a Polk County Sheriff's Office prostitution and human trafficking sting.

    Marine Col. Kevin Scott, 51, was arrested in a Polk County prostitution sting on Oct. 14. Scott, on temporary duty at U.S. Central Command, was charged with a misdemeanor county of soliciting a prostitute. He was released on $500 bond. Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
  3. Senator says deal set on restoring ACA subsidies ended by Trump

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading Republican senator says he and a top Democrat have reached an agreement on a plan to extend federal payments to health insurers that President Donald Trump has blocked.

    President Donald Trump sits for a radio interview in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) DCSW104
  4. Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County has pulled the plug on a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Center that had been scheduled to open to the public on Sunday.

    Pasco County has postponed a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway and is seeking an alternative site. Last week, commissioners said they feared a repeat of the long lines of traffic that appeared outside Plant City Stadium on Oct. 9. The nutrition program for people affected by Hurricane Irma had been scheduled to come to Land O' Lakes Oct. 18 to 27.  [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Officials caution residents regarding storm debris removal

    Briefs

    As the Pasco County Solid Waste Department and its contractors continue to remove debris left behind by Hurricane Irma, residents are reminded that the free removal does not include picking up new, green vegetation.