For Profit Charter School Giant Academica Struggling to Get Students in St.Lucie

Fernando Zulueta’s Academica doesn’t have any cash shortages, but not all is so rosy. Fresh off its $100,000 contribution to a pro-ed privatization PAC, it has plenty of money left over to float a few grants its new, but struggling franchise in St. Lucie County. Writes Kelly Tyko for TCPalm:

……..instead of getting ready for the festivities Friday afternoon, charter school officials met with St. Lucie County School District officials at district headquarters in Fort Pierce. Schools Superintendent Michael Lannon called an emergency meeting of the charter school’s board of directors to discuss concerns district officials had with the school.

Charter schools are publicly funded, tuition-free schools that sign contracts with local school districts and operate under their supervision. Districts can shut them down if they fail to live up to the terms of their contracts, violate the law or demonstrate financial insolvency.

“I would not be doing my job if I didn’t ask for this level of due diligence,” Lannon said. “You’re ours and we’re yours.”

The district’s concerns with the new school stem from a lower than expected enrollment, which impacts the school’s budget. Originally, the school’s Principal Erika Rains expected to accept 250 students into the inaugural class of ninth-graders. That figure was lowered to 150 students and Rains said Friday the school has 139 students enrolled.

The school plans to add a 10th-grade class the second year, 11th grade the third year and a senior class the fourth year.

“We have been diligently trying to recruit ninth grade,” said Teri Pinney, board chairwoman of the school’s board of directors. “We are going to do what we said we are going to do in our charter.”

The school, which is part of the Somerset Academy Inc., a nonprofit educational organization which operates many Florida charter schools, also is working with Academica, the state’s largest charter school management company. Officials with Somerset said Friday they are giving the school grants, which will help with its budget.

Many districts have been opening college prep or dual enrollment facilities. Some as charter schools. We have one in Okaloosa county and its a good one, too. The Collegiate High School of Northwest Florida State College has been ranked as the number one school in the state and one of the best in the nation.(Based largely on test scores) But it draws the very best students from a pool of whats already Florida’s highest performing district.

I would imagine that Academica will do a good job with the kids they are attracting in St. Lucie county. They’ll deliver high scores on high-stakes tests. But these  are the kinds of kids the Zulueta brothers have  been targeting to build their empire. And as Florida’s school grade system is based on how high test scores are and not whether or not students are making progress, these extremely sharp kids will make Academica look awfully good. While it’s raking in what’s sure to be another obscene management fee in St. Lucie county, Academica  has added another building which contributes to the big lie that charter schools are outperforming  public schools.



About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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