Charter school says it is unfairly under attack. It will use town hall to air complaints

School District wants answers from Lincoln Memorial charter school

In six notices over two weeks, the school district questioned the finances, transparency and leadership at Lincoln Memorial Academy.
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In six notices over two weeks, the school district questioned the finances, transparency and leadership at Lincoln Memorial Academy.

A contentious saga between the school district and Lincoln Memorial Academy will continue with a town hall meeting on Thursday evening.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Lincoln Memorial, 305 17th St. E., Palmetto. Its leader, Eddie Hundley, will answer questions about the school’s troubled finances and its plan for the future, along with his view of the “discriminatory practices” against his campus, according to an event flier.

Hundley’s feud with school officials began after the districts in Manatee and Sarasota counties filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Education, citing the principal for giving two job recommendations to Quentin Peterson, a former employee who was under criminal investigation.

The principal maintained that he was largely kept in the dark, and that Peterson was neither fired nor arrested when the job recommendations were made. However, after a review of the evidence and witness testimonies, an administrative law judge proposed sanctions against Hundley, and the state officially revoked his educator certificate in May.

Lincoln’s governing board said the complaints against Hundley and the resulting media reports were a symptom of “racism and a tribal mentality.”

“The investigative spotlight is abysmally missing the correct target,” his board said in a prepared statement last year. “We find manipulation of facts in the ‘Quentin Peterson Case’ as headlined by the media outlets to be sensationalism, and barely disguised personal motives in attacking Principal Hundley.”

Principal of Lincoln Memorial Academy, Eddie Hundley maintained on Tuesday that he didn’t know about the evidence that ultimately led to that teacher’s arrest.

It appears the school will again highlight “negative impacts of the media” and “the discriminatory practices towards Lincoln Memorial Academy by some members of the School District of Manatee County,” according to the town hall flier.

Hundley and his board perceived the ongoing spotlight — complaints by two school districts, hearings in Tallahassee and the associated news reports — as an attack against Lincoln. The school district recently sent a handful of non-compliance notices to the school, regarding its finances and leadership, but Hundley said he was unmoved by the “concentrated effort to suggest Lincoln is not in compliance.”

In six letters from June 25 to Monday, the district asked Lincoln to hire a new principal, noting that Hundley’s educator certificate was revoked for five years, denying him the right to “be employed by a district school board or public school in any capacity requiring direct contact with students.”

The district asked Lincoln to prove that it was current on employee salaries, utility bills and contributions to the Florida Retirement System. The state agency outlined several delinquent payments in letters to the school and district superintendent.

In response, Lincoln’s governing board accused the district of withholding federal grants and slowing the transmission of approved funds, an allegation denied by district officials.

While the school was originally projected to receive $283,200 in Title I money, the final amount was about $133,000 less than expected after a review by the Florida Department of Education, according to past statements from the district.

District attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum previously said that Manatee provided all federal grants due to Lincoln. He also noted that Lincoln’s deficit — more than $235,000 by the end of April — was greater than any money lost between the projection and final grant allocation.

As it worked with the school to form a corrective action plan, required by the Florida Department of Education, the district urged Lincoln to use federal grants on top of its budget, and not to rely on grants as the foundation to its finances.

“Upon learning that Lincoln Memorial Academy (LMA) had been in arrears financially during February, March and April of 2019, the district reported that to the FL DOE and began working with LMA on a corrective action plan aimed at restoring the school’s financial solvency,” district spokesman Mike Barber said in a recent statement.

“As part of that process, we have provided LMA with clear documentation of our statutorily-required concerns.”

Principal Eddie Hundley is speaking out after the Florida Department of Education said he made "misleading employment references" for Quentin Peterson, who is now facing a child pornography charge.

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Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.