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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Charter schools agree to meet over who’s in charge

TAMPA — Officials from the three charter schools that could lose their contracts with the Hillsborough County school district have agreed to meet with district officials after receiving letters that threatened termination of their contracts within 90 days.

District officials don’t believe local boards are making decisions for the school. Instead, they say, Fort Lauderdale-based management company Charter Schools USA is calling the shots. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia says this violates the schools’ contracts with the district.

The chairmen of the local boards, however, say the schools are indeed run by local people.

Florida law does not require charter schools — privately run, but publicly funded — to be governed by local board members. But Hillsborough does.

The district made attempts to meet with officials from the schools to settle the issue before sending the 90-day termination notice, Elia said, adding that the schools would have 14 days to request a hearing with the school board.

In letters sent to Elia on Friday, the meetings were agreed to by the organizations that oversee the schools — Florida Charter Educational Foundation chairman Ken Haiko and Bay Charter Education Foundation chairman Rod Jurado.

On Monday, the two sent letters to the school board, demanding a hearing. They wrote that they received termination letters because of Elia’s “inability to evaluate” the schools’ governance structures.

Both men have said their foundation boards have local members.

“We desire to have a constructive working relationship with the School Board for the benefit of our parents and students,” wrote Jurado, a Temple Terrace resident whose board oversees Winthrop and Woodmont. “Hence, we are requesting a meeting on this matter in the hopes that we can put it behind us and both forge ahead in continuing to offer high quality education in Hillsborough County.”

Haiko — whose board oversees Henderson Hammock — wrote that he was “disheartened” by the termination letter, but that he will work with the district to straighten out any concerns. Haiko resides in Fort Lauderdale.

“Certainly, we did not intend to leave the School Board feeling like we had not provided enough information to satisfy its stated management concerns,” he wrote.

Regardless of the meetings’ outcome, the three schools will remain open at least for the entire 2014-15 school year, Elia explained in letters to the 2,700 parents of students at Henderson Hammock, Winthrop and Woodmont charter schools.

“Under no circumstances will we disrupt the education of students,” Elia wrote.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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