Rowlett becomes Manatee's first conversion charter

eearl@bradenton.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Rowlett principal Brian Flynn listens as members of the public address the board in support of Rowlett elementary's conversion to a charter school during Monday's meeting at school district headquarters in Bradenton. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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MANATEE -- The room burst into applause, with some scattered squeals, when the Manatee County School Board swiftly and unanimously approved Rowlett Elementary's bid to become the county's first conversion charter school Monday night.

Starting in fall 2014, the school will be known as William Monroe Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication.

Rowlett, along with two other potential charter schools, submitted its application Aug. 1.

It was the only charter application Superintendent Rick Mills recommended for approval.

Start-up charter iGeneration Empowerment Academy and district contract school The Manatee Y Technological High School also applied, but Mills recommended denial of both contracts last month. The vote to deny the contracts was removed from the agenda for the Monday meeting.

Mills recommendation came after reviewing the charter applications and meeting with school representatives.

"After I recommended the denial of their contracts, they decided to withdraw the applications," Mills said.

Preparations to becoming a conversion charter include negotiating contracts with the district for transportation, food service and facilities maintenance.

School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said Rowlett is ready to take on the additional responsibility.

"They did an excellent job on their application," Carpenter said. "They passed through a rigorous screening process, and they have good parent leadership. I think they have their act together, and I wish them well."

Robert Sket, a Rowlett parent who helped put together the charter application, said the school will exemplify a "we the people"

government.

"It will be accountable with a strong fiscal plan and strong parent involvement," Sket said. "We the parents can direct and assist the programs we want such as language programs and technology."

Sket said support received from parents, teachers and the community will help prepare the school's 900 elementary students for the future.

Rowlett Principal Brian Flynn attended the meeting and left with parents out the boardroom doors in a parade-like exit.

Flynn said converting to a charter will ensure Rowlett maintains its magnet programs in arts and technology.

"It is very exciting to get a 5-0 vote," Flynn said.

Flynn said after the celebration will come hard work.

"We have to develop a contract with the district and with staff and do all the things you normally do to get the school year started for the following year," Flynn said, "We have a great team that worked hard to make this happen."

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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