Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

Gradebook podcast: Charter schools take over a tiny Florida school district. Who’s next?

Jefferson County’s story might offer some insights into the state’s approach to public education on a larger scale.
Somerset Academy Jefferson County in Monticello, about 25 miles east of Tallahassee, is Florida’s first all-charter school district. [Jessica Bakeman | WLRN News] [WLRN]
Published Sep. 5

The tiny Jefferson County school district, about 25 minutes outside Florida’s state capital, turned out poor student performance for more than a decade. Its finances were in peril, too, as the racially divided community battled politically over the flailing school system of about 800 students.

About three years ago, the state stepped in, declaring the district in financial emergency, and then pushing an academic turnaround plan that ultimately turned Jefferson County into a district operated by charter schools.

The efforts, though small in size, offered an insight into the possibilities of where the state might go with other, larger school districts that don’t meet the test-based accountability expectations set by lawmakers.

WLRN radio education reporter Jessica Bakeman spent close to three years looking into the tale of Jefferson County schools. She shares some of her key findings with reporter Jeff Solochek.

RELATED: See WLRN’s complete report, Chartered: Florida’s First Private Takeover Of A Public School System, for more details.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Harold Fritz, 75, was awarded the nation's highest and rarest honor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in 1969. The Army lieutenant saved his platoon during an ambush in the Vietnam war. He spoke to students at Farnell Middle School in Tampa. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times
    Harold Fritz wanted to talk about teachers’ salaries and education. The kids wanted selfies with one of the 71 living recipients of the nation’s highest honor.
  2. Pasco County schools assistant superintendent for operations Betsy Kuhn oversees the district's campus security initiatives. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Schools identified these needs after a thorough review of their campuses.
  3. Hernando County School District
    The Hernando County School District’s overall premiums will go up about 10 percent. Unless it’s renegotiated later, the entire increase falls to employees.
  4. A Florida black bear (not this one) was found at a Marion County school and removed. CARLTON WARD JR  |  Carlton Ward Jr
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Adjunct faculty at St. Petersburg College voted to unionize Tuesday, joining thousands of other adjuncts across Florida who are fighting for better working conditions and pay. [Times]
    The employees are the seventh group in Florida to join Service Employees International Union in recent yeas as it pushes for investment in the state’s higher education institutions.
  6. The University of South Florida ranked ahead of UCF, FIU and FAU in the U.S. News & World Report's Global University Rankings. [USF handout]
    The University of Florida finished 105th, while USF came in at 310. Harvard led the world.
  7. Workers begin construction in 2010 on what would become Winding Waters K-8. That was the last new public school built in Hernando County, which faces capacity strains as officials ask for impact fee increases to keep up with growth. HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    The district first would add classrooms at three existing schools, but could need four new schools by 2039.
  8. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  9. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  10. First-year Cox Elementary School teacher Kevin Knibbs, 33, of Dade City, answers questions about the components of time: hours, minutes, seconds, to his third-grade class on Monday, September 30, 2019, at the school in Date City. From left are students Angel Young, 8, Arlene Luna, 8, and Jahkia Gray, 8. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement