TAMPA – A proposed MacDill Air Force Base charter school got the axe Tuesday.
The Hillsborough County School Board voted unanimously to stick with Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s recommendation to turn down the application because of questions about who would be in charge. Additionally, district officials said the 475-page application did not cite specific examples for how the school would address the needs of military children.
MacDill Charter Academy would have served nearly 900 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The Florida Charter Educational Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, applied for the charter. Day-to-day operations would have been run by Charter Schools USA.
The foundation would have been the oversight authority, with a MacDill council advising.
While she voted to deny the charter school’s application, school board member Doretha Edgecomb said the issue of whether military families are getting enough support from the district needs to be resolved.
“We might be at odds about the clarity of the governance, but we are not at odds about doing what we can for students and their families,” she said. “We are willing to work through the issues so we can come to a resolution.”
Elia said a task force will be formed to look at how the district can best meet the educational needs of military families.
“The long-standing working relationship we’ve had with MacDill is an extremely important thing to develop and work on,” Elia said.
Board member Stacy White expressed disappointment that a recommendation did not come to the board until Monday night.
He asked whether there was a chance the application could be amended.
Charter schools director Jenna Hodgens said district and charter school officials met Monday because it was the only day that everyone could be there. Hodgens explained that a decision must be made Tuesday.
“I am going to apprehensively support the superintendent’s recommendation because of the clear deficiencies we have with the application itself as it is presented to the board today,” White said.
In a statement written to the board, proponents said a charter school on base would have best addressed the needs of students in military families.
“Military students don’t need a different curriculum, they need a different culture,” Florida Charter Educational Foundation Chairman Ken Haiko said in the statement. “Having a charter school on site, primarily serving military families, will create a far better culture than having these students scattered all over the district.”
In the public forum during the meeting, Haiko added: “Our goal is to provide educational opportunities to students who may not have other options. It allows us the opportunity to serve military families, who sacrifice in so many ways to serve us all.” In addition to the MacDill proposal, the school district had 13 other charter school applications to consider. Seven withdrew and the board approved six. They could open as early as fall 2014.
The new schools are:
Early Career Academy, which will serve juniors and seniors in high school who want to go straight into a career upon graduation. Graduates will earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in partnership with ITT Technical Institute.
Bridgepoint Academy “North,” a K-8 school with an extended school day that would put students on a dual-language track.
Florida High School for Accelerated Learning, a high school for students ages 16 to 21 who are low-performing or have dropped out.
Lutz Preparatory Middle School, which will serve as the next step for students attending the already operating Lutz Preparatory School, an elementary school.
Florida Virtual Academy, an online charter school.
Village of Excellence Academy Middle School, which would serve as an extension for the already existing elementary school.
Board members April Griffin and Candy Olson were absent.