BRADENTON -- Starting with five applicants, the Manatee County School Board vote unanimously to deny the one active charter school application left Tuesday evening.
Four of five organizations withdrew applications to open a charter school for the 2016-17 school year in Manatee County after district staff gave indications the charters would be likely be denied.
One remaining applicant, Avant Garde Academy of Manatee, still went before the board. Two members of the public spoke in favor of allowing the charter to open, citing successful Avant Garde schools in other counties, but the board ultimately followed the recommendation of the staff to deny the application.
"The application that we have presented is really a model that's been already approved in two other counties," said Executive Director Frank Bolanos. " It's already been implemented as well. We submit respectfully that the application meets the requirement of state statute."
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Judy Griffin, director of district support for Manatee County, said the charter school application had serious flaws and did not muster enough support within the district for approval to be recommended.
The reading plan and curriculum were not up to par and left evaluation committee members with questions, she said.
"It's not that they're not any good. It's that they're not ready," Griffin said, adding charter applicants sometimes apply two or three times before being approved.
Board members John Colon and Bob Gause questioned how often district staff recommends denying charter school applications.
Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication, which converted from a Manatee County public magnet school into a charter school, was the last charter application approved by the board.
The high rate of denial was troublesome for Colon.
"That says to me there's something wrong with our process," Colon said.
"I get concerned when I see a lot of applications being denied. We're trying to encourage alternative solutions," he said.
Superintendent Diana Greene said the Evaluation Committee looks at 19 state standards when evaluating charter school applications. The latest application passed four of 19 standards.
Board member Charlie Kennedy said he did not want the organizers to be discouraged.
"If it does go against you tonight, I hope we will see your application again," Kennedy said.
In other business:
The board approved the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic calendars. Students will report to school Aug. 10, 2016, and Aug. 10, 2017. The change allows the first semester to be completed before winter break.
Miner voted against the measure citing concerns the school year would not end before Memorial Day. Miner said the two days of school after Memorial Day were a waste of money and students would not be learning.
Miner favored removing two dates from the winter break so the school year would end before Memorial Day.
The board approved raises for all district employees through four separate agreements. This is third year in a row the board has been able to provide some type of raise for all employees
The board formally accepted the resignation of Hollis Morantes, a Lakewood Ranch High School teacher arrested on drug charges. At the time of her arrest, the district started an internal investigation and Morantes was put on paid administrative leave. Morantes resigned before the investigation was over.
The board sold the former Parent Information Center on Manatee Avenue East for $390,000 to Margaret Heagerty, trustee for the James J. Heagerty Revokable Trust. Last year, the Parent Information Center was relocated and renamed. The Office of Student Assignment is now behind Lincoln Middle School, 1400 First Ave. E., Palmetto.
The board had previously approved selling the property, but the buyer backed out at the last minute, according to staff.
The board was set to fire Steve Gulash, a behavior techniciant, for "abandonment of position," but the item was pulled off the agenda before the meeting began. Gulash, a witness in the Roderick Frazier student abuse scandal at Manatee High School, said anxiety and stress have caused him to miss work, but his absences are excused with a doctor's note.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.