Manatee Charter School’s future will be determined Monday by the School Board of Manatee County.
Superintendent Diana Greene notified the charter, which has operated since 2011, that the district did not intend to renew their charter in a Feb. 9 letter. The letter, signed by school board general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum, cited a litany of violations and described a disorderly school environment.
Manatee Charter’s lawyers have argued the district is not following due process in its attempts to shut down the school. Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the charter, said the school district caught the charter off-guard with its decision.
“There is typically a time period in which the school has an opportunity to bring the school back into compliance,” Reynolds wrote in an email. “This never happened. Interestingly, the alleged notice doesn’t comply with the requirements of the Florida Statute.”
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District lawyer Erin Jackson was not available for comment Friday, but district officials say they have followed all the steps dictated by the contract signed between the two parties.
Two letters from Director of District Support Frank Pistella and Teitelbaum to Manatee Charter Principal Deborah Tracy, dated Nov. 30, 2016, and Dec. 16, 2016, warned the charter it was in breach of contract for not inputting student grades.
The school, located at 4550 30th St. E., is run by Southwest Charter Foundation (formerly Lee Charter Foundation), a governing board under Charter Schools USA. All of Manatee Charter’s students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and 80 percent of the students are minorities.
Christene Sket, who helped found Rowlett Academy, said she was surprised by the district’s move to shut the school down. She said she believes state law may be on the side of Manatee Charter, and in spite of the board’s decision, the charter will likely appeal to the state.
“I think it’s a flexing of muscles on the district’s part,” Sket said. “I think what makes sense and what is legal are two different things.”
Monday’s hearing could be lengthy. At the March 14 school board meeting, Manatee Charter lawyers described a three-day affair where more than two dozen witnesses would be called to testify.
It will be a long day for board members, who will also be deciding on the impasse between the teachers’ union and the school district at 4 p.m.