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School Board finds problems with charter school application

BROOKSVILLE — A new charter school applicant faces two choices from the Hernando County School Board: Revise its application by Oct. 1 or go home.

District staff members found "multiple deficiencies" in the application by Fort Lauderdale-based Mavericks in Education to open a 400-student school exclusively for high school dropouts or at-risk students.

The plan contains plenty of flash: A year-round schedule, video games in the student lounge and marketing help from pro basketball star Dwyane Wade.

But the for-profit company's proposed budget didn't include sufficient numbers of appropriately certified teachers to comply with state and federal requirements, according to a district report.

Nor did it propose an adequate plan for special-needs students or struggling readers. Its budget used inadequate spending controls and relied on inflated state funding projections that "would wipe out the charter school's proposed first year (surplus) of $55,740," the committee found.

Any one of those problems would be sufficient to deny the application under state law, Hernando officials said.

Unlike the majority of Florida counties, the Hernando board's opinion holds considerable weight. Last week, the state Board of Education granted the Hernando School Board the exclusive authority to judge charter applications, putting it outside the jurisdiction of the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, an independent charter authorizer.

Still, Hernando superintendent Wayne Alexander is recommending against outright denial.

If the company can put together a feasible plan, he said, the school's program could help spur the county to better serve at-risk students like those who attend the district's alternative STAR Academy.

"Maybe they can service those kids better than we do," Alexander said.

Mark Thimmig, president and CEO of Mavericks, said his company would happily go back to the drawing board.

"We have a very good working relationship with the school district," he said, describing Hernando's critique as a "very positive sign."

The School Board is scheduled to review the matter at a 1 p.m. workshop session Tuesday at 919 N Broad St.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

>>fast facts

Board's findings

Some problems the county had with the application:

• The proposed budget didn't include sufficient numbers of appropriately certified teachers to comply with state and federal requirements.

• An adequate plan was not proposed for special-needs students or struggling readers.

• The budget used inadequate spending controls, and relied on inflated state funding projections that "would wipe out the charter school's proposed first year (surplus) of $55,740."

School Board finds problems with charter school application 08/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:12pm]
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