Advertisement
  1. Education

Complaint targets Hillsborough school operated by Charter Schools USA

Published Apr. 10, 2014

TAMPA — As if Woodmont Charter School did not have enough problems, a former teacher has lodged a discrimination complaint and says the F-rated school uses teachers who are not properly certified.

Tammy Gilmore, a community activist who now lives in Atlanta, has written to Hillsborough County Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia and charter schools director Jenna Hodgens, saying the school in Temple Terrace is out of compliance with numerous state regulations.

"Most of the low-income parents of the school are unaware of their rights and fail to understand the school grade, as well as newcomers of the school that are from low-income families as well," Gilmore wrote on March 20. "I can trust that you will follow up on my complaint and concerns."

A former teacher and parent at Woodmont, Gilmore said she was fired this year after she took time off due to an illness. In addition to contacting the district, she said she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination based on her race, gender, age and medical disability.

The district is looking into Gilmore's allegations, Hodgens said. If instructors are teaching subjects without certifications, Hodgens said she will find out if they have the required "out of field" approvals.

A spokeswoman for Charter Schools USA, the Fort Lauderdale company that runs Woodmont, said the company could not discuss Gilmore's allegations about her treatment because of employee privacy concerns.

"It is important, however, to be clear that, to our knowledge, all of our teachers meet the proper certification requirements by the district and the state," spokeswoman Colleen Reynolds said. "We continue to work with the district to clear up any concerns and are confident that all questions will be answered fully and satisfactorily."

The inquiry happens as Charter Schools USA finds itself under increased scrutiny in Hillsborough.

Recently the company was part of an unsuccessful effort to open a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base. The nonprofit Florida Charter Educational Foundation, which has the same address as the for-profit company, applied for the charter. Hillsborough officials raised questions about governance and the relationship between the two entities, and rejected the plan. The foundation said it will submit a new application.

The district, meanwhile, is asking questions about governance at Woodmont and two other schools managed by Charter Schools USA — Henderson Hammock in Citrus Park and Winthrop in Riverview.

Hodgens said she hopes to meet with Ken Haiko, chairman of the foundation. So far there have been phone calls and letters, but no meeting.

When discussing the MacDill proposal last year, Elia said Woodmont's F grade troubled her. Charter Schools USA officials said they fully expect the grade to improve, as happens whenever they open a new school in a struggling community.

Hillsborough is not alone in asking questions of the company. In Pasco, Haiko's foundation recently withdrew its application for a Charter Schools USA school, saying it had not found a good location. Before that happened, school officials said they were troubled that the governing board had no Pasco residents.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Pasco County school district is considering adopting a policy for student medical marijuana use on district property. [Getty Images]
    The rule will not change the district’s current approach to the touchy topic.
  2. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, 55, is now in his 11th year leading the fourth largest school district in the nation. Miami Herald
    The charismatic leader of the nation’s fourth-largest school district has a complicated legacy. He almost took over the Pinellas County School District in 2008.
  3. Alachua County school superintendent Karen Clarke welcomes the crowd at a "listening session" Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 to discuss changes in the Florida's education standards. A similar session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Jefferson High, 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa. The Florida Channel
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  5. In this image from a telecast by The Florida Channel, Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran speaks to a Gainesville crowd that came to discuss revisions to the state's education standards this past week. “We’re going to end up with the world’s best standards,” Corcoran said. The Florida Channel
    The effort, ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, aims to transform the way students learn in public schools. A “listening session” is set for Tampa’s Jefferson High.
  6. Darcy Krueger, 17, models the jumpsuit she wore the night she was denied entrance to the Tampa Bay Homeschool Homecoming dance. Courtesy of Jennie Ellis Photography
    The organizer who wouldn’t let the 17-year-old into the dance said the rules require girls to wear dresses, not pants. But the teen and her mother say it doesn’t mention jumpsuits.
  7. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times  Florida Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., R- Hialeah; Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, watch the passage of the school voucher bill Tuesday in the Florida House.
    The new program, designed to eliminate waiting lists for tax credit scholarships, is likely to be challenged in court.
  8. A research group has raised concerns that Florida's plan to track student social media usage and collect other data will compromise children's privacy.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. Left to Right: Hospitality panel members Viviana Leyva, Steve Westphal and Jeff Gigante talk about the needs of the hospitality industry in Tampa Bay region during a kickoff of the University of South Florida Hospitality Leadership Program last month. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Restaurant and hotel owners say they have a need for finding and keeping talented workers.
  10. Sigfredo Garcia rubs his eyes as he prepares to hear the closing arguments on Thursday in his trial on charges he killed Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel in 2014. The case went to the jury later in the day, and they will resume deliberations Friday. Tallahassee Democrat
    Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel was killed in 2014. Prosecutors blame his ex-wife, but only the hitman and his girlfriend stand trial.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement