Clay superintendent says charter likely to close after 2 Fs

Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis said he plans to send letters home to parents of Orange Park Performing Arts Academy students next week, saying the charter school is likely to be closed after receiving two consecutive F grades.

Davis was talking during a school board agenda workshop, during which board members discuss what will be on the agenda for the next monthly meeting. He said he is not going to submit to the state the school’s latest appeal of its grade because the appeal contains inaccurate information.

“The department of education terminated the contract for OPPAA for not meeting academic requirements,” he said after the meeting. “It’s out of our hands.”

But officials of the 3-year-old school say it is not closing, just becoming a private school, which will open the same day Clay Schools open for students, Aug. 15.

School founder and Board Chairwoman Alesia Ford-Burse said the school will continue to appeal its grade, which it says should be a D.

“He can’t send those letters out until after the Department of Education issues a final grade,” she said.

Meanwhile, the academy’s 168 elementary students are in limbo. Davis said about 130 students are from Clay County, and the rest are from Duval and surrounding counties.

The letters from Clay County will tell each student which neighborhood school they’re assigned to based on residency, along with its contact information, Davis said.

Ford-Burse said she believes her school will retain most students despite the uncertainty.

“Most of our parents I’m sure are staying on,” she said. “We’ll still have an open school. It’ll be a private school.”

She didn’t say what the tuition may cost but said she expects many students will receive state-funded vouchers.

The academy has had a rough road since before its beginning.

The district school board twice voted down an application to open the school until the state-run charter appeal commission granted the charter in April 2013. It opened in 2014.

It achieved two F’s, but the school asked the state for a waiver of the law requiring the school to close. In mid-July the state board of education denied the waiver.

The school filed an appeal of its grade through the district to the state.

“We were only a few points away from a D,” Ford-Burse said.

But the appeal seems to be dead. Davis said he won’t pass on to the state an appeal which is based on factually incorrect information. The facts under contention are whether the state properly accounted for several students’ learning gains and whether the charter school received enough funding for its reading program.

Davis said the students learning gains weren’t enough to change the school’s status, and the school received $55,893 for its reading program. In total the school received $4.1 million over the past three years in per-pupil funding, he said.

The deadline for the appeal is July 31.

Christopher Norwood, a consultant who represents charter schools in disputes, said that only after the deadline passes can a district school board vote to terminate a charter school contract. Contacting students ahead of time is inappropriate, he said.

Davis said the Clay County board does not have to vote to end the charter school’s contract, because the state has already done it.

Read the story on the Florida Times-Union. 

Florida Times-Union


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