The Lincoln Memorial Middle School staff and community has voted overwhelmingly to apply to convert to a charter school.
Principal Eddie Hundley said teachers at the school initiated the process in December. In a Thursday night vote, the vote was 31 yes, one no and two votes that could not be counted. The parents voted 297 yes and 51 no.
Under Florida statute, the school needed to have at least 50 percent approval from each group to begin the application process. Now, Lincoln must submit an application to the district by July 1, and the School Board of Manatee County will vote on the conversion.
Hundley said the conversion is necessary because of Lincoln’s high population of poor and minority students. The school opened as a segregated high school in 1948 and became Lincoln Memorial Middle School with integration in 1969.
He pointed to the success of Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication, which in 2013 became the first school in Manatee to convert to a charter.
“If kids that are high performing need a special type of school, and kids prolific in the arts need a special type of school, then kids that are under-served and need more time need a special type of school,” Hundley said.
Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene said district officials were aware of the vote to convert, but could not confirm if it had followed the legally-mandated process.
“The district looks forward to seeing their supporting documentation for following the state board rules for voting for a charter conversion,” Greene said.
Hundley said the charter would provide an extra hour of class in the morning for “career exposure.” He said under the current structure, many high-need middle-school students spend their electives doing testing remediation, robbing them of classes that expose them to future careers.
He also said the dwindling population of the school meant the school needed to try a fresh approach. The school has a capacity for more than 900 but has roughly 480 students attending.
Kevin Jackson, one of the leaders of the parents in the movement to convert to a charter, said one of his goals was to restore his alma mater to its former glory.
“We are going to resurrect Lincoln Trojan pride,” Jackson said. “Not only so they understand what it means, but to bring it back.”