Milburn Academy in Bradenton grabs attention of NAACP

ataylor@bradenton.comSeptember 29, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Richard Milburn Academy, an alternative charter school catering to 17- to 22-year-olds, continues to garner attention since Manatee County School Superintendent Tim McGonegal recommended the school be closed.

On Wednesday, the local branch of the country’s oldest civil rights organization jumped into the fray, sending a public information request to the school asking for eight different public records.

A letter from NAACP Education Chairwoman Peggy Delegato requested data sent to the state’s Department of Education, racial demographics, financial records, a list of teachers teaching out of field and other information relevant to the closing of the Bradenton academy.

“Richard Milburn has a high minority population,” Delegato said. “We want to make sure the students are not adversely affected.”

Ed Bailey, Manatee County president of the NAACP, said it’s important to “get the facts.”

“We were alarmed that it seems to be a trend for Richard Milburn Academies to close,” Bailey said, referring to the fact that two other Milburn Academy schools were closed in Sarasota and Pasco County in the past five years.

Richard Milburn Academy issued a formal statement Wednesday about its closing in Bradenton.

“Due to the district’s unwillingness to work with Richard Milburn Academy Bradenton on a corrective action plan that would address their concerns, our Governing Board has made the difficult decision not to engage in a lengthy legal battle that would ultimately drain public educational funding and result in prolonged uncertainty for RMA students and their parents,” the news release says.

Richard Milburn representatives say they will continue to work to meet students’ needs and assist them to “make the transition to a Manatee County School District program.”

Administrators and counselors at the school will meet with students and parents to review the students’ academic status and options, according to the letter.

A letter also was sent to Manatee County School Board Attorney John Bowen from the academy’s attorney. In the letter, attorney Melissa Gross-Arnold of the Arnold Law Firm said it was clear McGonegal wants the school closed.

“On this basis, the RMA Bradenton Governing Board believes it is in the best interests of the students ... to set October 31, 2011, as a specific date for transitioning students out of the school,” Gross-Arnold said.

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