From Marlene Sokol in the Tampa Bay Times:
TAMPA — Responding to concerned parents who learned last week that the Hillsborough County school district is challenging the legality of three charter schools, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia assured them Thursday that the schools will not close
“We are committed to keeping the schools open for the remainder of the school year,” Elia wrote in a letter to parents. “Under no circumstances will we disrupt the education of students.”
The situation affects more than 2,000 students at Woodmont, Henderson Hammock and Winthrop, three schools operated by the for-profit Charter Schools USA.
The letter does not say how Elia will keep the schools open if they lose their charters. But district spokesman Stephen Hegarty described two scenarios. The district could take over the operations after their charters are revoked. Or the terminations might not take effect until after the school year is over
For several months the district has been trying to get clarification on what role local nonprofit boards have at the schools, and how much power is in the hands of a board affiliated with Charter Schools USA.
“When our school district enters into a contract with a charter school, it is very important that we know who is running the school.” Elia wrote. “When charter schools are operated by local people of good standing who care about the children in the community, it provides an important connection for students and parents.”
If the local nonprofits show they are actually running the schools, Elia wrote, she will not terminate the contracts. If not, she will. A letter to that effect, dated July 29, gives the boards two weeks to say if they would like a hearing.
WTSP 10 reporter Kendra Conlon has a response from CSUSA communications director Colleen Reynolds:
“The boards just received the letters – one on Friday afternoon and one this afternoon, so they still have to meet to discuss their alternatives. I can tell you that the boards’ focus will always be to provide high quality educational and academic options that students don’t otherwise have. With that in mind, I’m sure the boards will do “The boards just received the letters – one on Friday afternoon and one this afternoon, so they still have to meet to discuss their alternatives. I can tell you that the boards’ focus will always be to provide high quality educational and academic options that students don’t otherwise have. With that in mind, I’m sure the boards will do whatever they need to do to make sure parents continue to have a choice in their children’s education in Hillsborough County. They’ll work through the system and hopefully will be able to resolve this issue amicably on behalf of the students. This is not about what’s best for the adults – it’s about what’s best for the students
What utter spin.
So if that sketchy CSUSA board which got them in trouble in the first place will do “whatever they need to do to make sure parents continue to have a choice,” and really feels it’s not about what’s best for the adults,” they will have to admit that sketchy board has been, well, sketchy. Such an admission could slash CSUSA CEO Jonathan Hage’s bottom line and lighten up those hefty management fee hauls. Worse, the Hillsborough incident will prompt other local Florida school boards to take a look at the CSUSA boards supposedly providing oversight over the facilities in their district.