Pasco School Board rejects charter school application
LAND O' LAKES - The Pasco County School Board rejected a charter school's application Tuesday, citing such concerns as a state investigation of the management company that would run the school and weak academic results at other schools the company operates. "As far as I'm concerned these are very serious matters that need to be addressed," board member Alison Crumbley said. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her staff had recommended the board accept the application from Florida Virtual Academy at Pasco County because they said the application met minimal requirements set by the state. In the recommendation, though, the staff raised several red flags, including the fact the state Department of Education is investigating the management company, K12 Inc., for reportedly using uncertified teachers to teach online courses in Seminole County.In addition, some schools the company operates have low math scores compared with traditional public schools, Crumbley said. K12 also has faced allegations of possible securities fraud. K12 Inc. operates charter schools in 32 states and the District of Columbia. In Pasco, K12 proposed an online charter school that would serve 200 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade the first year. Two board members, Cynthia Armstrong and Steve Luikart, agreed with Crumbley's concerns, but initially expressed hesitation to reject the application. When a charter school's application is accepted, the school still must negotiate a contract with the school board. Armstrong said the concerns could be addressed during those negotiations. Luikart said accepting the application and dealing with the concerns during contract negotiations might "keep us out of a legal battle." "They did dot their i's and they did cross their t's (on the application)," he said. Board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley, though, sided with Crumbley, saying that the investigations and student performance problems elsewhere with K12 schools "give me a pause to where I don't believe we should approve this application." The vote to reject the application was unanimous. Board member Allen Altman was absent. This isn't the first time Florida Virtual Academy applied to become a charter school in Pasco. The school board rejected an application from the school a year ago. Among the reasons for that rejection: The enrollment projection, 500 students the first year, was considered unrealistic, and the school's courses didn't appear to correlate with state standards. Florida Virtual Academy appealed that decision to the state Board of Education, but withdrew the appeal several days before a scheduled May 21 hearing before the Charter School Appeal Commission, according to district records.
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