The 700 students at Manatee Charter School may be looking for a new school next year.
The School District of Manatee County is not planning on renewing the kindergarten through eighth grade school’s charter, according to a Feb. 9 letter to Manatee Charter School Chairman Ken Haiko from school district general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum.
Teitelbaum laid out a damning case, citing a host of violations by the school, including a chaotic learning environment, shoddy record keeping and declining test scores. The letter describes a “lack of student engagement,” “extreme amounts of student breaks,” a “lack of systemic, research-based instruction” and “minimal small group instruction.”
(A) lack of student engagement ... extreme amounts of student breaks ... lack of systemic, research based instruction ... minimal small group instruction.
Excerpt from letter identifying issues with Manatee Charter
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But Manatee Charter officials say school district officials gave no warning of any of the issues and is not following the legally prescribed process.
“They conducted their alleged review, discussed it among themselves and called us into a meeting to tell us that they were recommending non-renewal,” said Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the school. “There was no warning; no indication with other district meetings that this was the course of action they were recommending.”
Ultimately, the School Board of Manatee County will decide whether to renew the school’s charter. A hearing is scheduled for March 17, but Manatee Charter has requested a continuance. The school board will decide whether to grant the continuance at Tuesday’s meeting.
The letter also noted administrative failings. According to Teitelbaum, the charter school risked losing funding by not accurately updating data required by both the state Department of Education and the federal government.
They conducted their alleged review, discussed it among themselves and called us into a meeting to tell us that they were recommending non-renewal.
Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the school
Again, charter officials dispute these claims, saying the school district wanted unnecessary data. Reynolds said the charter complied and asked for notification if there were any issues with the data and heard nothing from the district until Teitelbaum’s letter.
Charter school officials say they are getting better test results than district schools with similar populations. Ninety-nine percent of Manatee Charter’s students qualify for free lunch, and 80 percent are minorities, according to the school. School grades for the first four years of the charter school’s existence have been F, C, D and D.
Manatee Charter, 4550 30th St. E., is run by Southwest Charter Foundation (formerly Lee Charter Foundation). Reynolds said Southwest/Lee has never had a school’s charter revoked or not renewed, and the organization runs six other schools in the state.
If the board ultimately votes to not renew the charter, the school would be shuttered following this school year. The school choice period would be extended for students who wish to attend regular Manatee County public schools.