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Staff rejects proposed charter school for Pasco's disabled

For two years, the Center for Independence in Hudson has proposed opening a charter school to serve students with disabilities ages 18-22.

The first year it withdrew its proposal, lacking a location to house the school. This year, Pasco school district staff is recommending denial of the group's application.

"I couldn't tell you if they would run a good program or not," said Nancy Scowcroft, district charter schools supervisor. "It's not in the application."

A team that reviewed the center's submission found it lacked several key items required in state law for consideration of a charter, such as educational goals and objectives for improving student achievement.

The center had aimed to serve about a dozen students, training them for jobs while continuing their education. The students would have disabilities that qualify them for public education beyond traditional high school age.

Center for Independence chief executive Emile Laurino expressed surprise at learning that the charter application was recommended for denial. The recommendation was posted on the district's website before he was contacted by anyone.

Laurino said district officials helped with the initial preparation of the application, but no follow-up questions or assistance came.

"I have to get with my board of directors to see exactly what they would like to do," Laurino said. "It's a big loss to individuals with disabilities in Pasco County. I'm going to recommend to my board of directors that we appeal it."

The staff also is recommending rejection of a charter application by Freedom Academy, an arts-oriented math and science elementary school for the Zephyrhills area. Officials said the applicant failed to provide an adequate budget plan to ensure the school's financial viability.

These recommendations go to the Pasco School Board on Tuesday for its consideration. They represent a portion of the 11 charter applications filed with the county this year, the most it has ever gotten at one time.

Those application numbers have increased locally and statewide as a result of a new state law making it easier for charter providers to win access to communities. The board already has given its cautious approval to a school proposed by Charter Schools USA based upon one of its other schools designated "high performing" by the state.

Board members have said they reserve the right to reject that school if they cannot resolve concerns during contract negotiations.

The board expects to take up the remaining charter applications, which include ones from state Reps. Richard Corcoran and Will Weatherford, and from a group of Pasco County teachers. Pasco currently has five charter schools in operation.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Staff rejects proposed charter school for Pasco's disabled 10/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2011 8:51pm]
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