BRADENTON -- One wants to continue upon the successes of its first charter in Manatee County by opening a second school. The other wanted to restore services to at-risk students through a charter school as opposed to a contract school.
Now, only one will come before the Manatee County School Board on Tuesday, as the board is set to consider signing an extension on a charter application for Team Success STEM and delay a final ruling until November. After signing an extension at a previous meeting, Manatee Y Technological School officials decided to pull their application from the running Friday.
The board was set to deny both charter applications Sept. 23, but ultimately tabled ruling on the applications to discuss whether the district could review additional materials sent over by officials at the YMCA the day of the meeting. Representatives from Team Success were also in attendance that night and the district signed an extension for that school as well.
The Manatee County School District decided it would review the additional materials sent by the two schools, even though the application process was already over. After reviewing the additional information, the board had planned to deny Manatee Y's again, but sign an additional extension for Team Success STEM's application.
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Manatee Y's additional materials ran 29 pages. Team Success STEM's additional materials ran 61 pages and district officials have yet to fully work through the materials, which is why they are requesting an extension from the board. Team Success STEM officials have already agreed to the extension.
The regular charter applications can run up to 200 pages and details how the school will be run, are reviewed and graded by a committee using a state tool that includes 19 categories, and each application is considered in its entirety, officials said. Among the categories are budget, curriculum plan, exceptional students and student performance and assessment.
The committee then makes recommendations to the board.
Currently, the district has 12 charter schools, 51 traditional schools and Manatee Technical Institute. The newest charter school, Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication, opened in August. Rowlett was also a conversion charter school and was once a district magnet school. When applying for a charter, Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication met the standards in 15 areas, partially met the standards in three areas, and one area that did not apply, said Linda Guilfoyle, the director of district support and the district contact for charter schools.
Charter schools are public schools with fewer restraints and restrictions than the traditional schools run by the local school district. The local school board is responsible for reviewing the applications and making a determination on whether the charters fit state and local requirements and can open.
On Sept. 23, the board did deny a charter application for Cortez High School. Two others applicants withdrew from consideration when told by the district they would not be recommended for approval by the board.
Team Success STEM
Team Success, the district's only Title I elementary charter school, wants to expand and open a new charter school under the same brand, focusing on sci
ence, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"We're very strong in math and science. This would be a natural progression," said Fred Spence, the Team Success chief executive officer.
The district's original score sheet for Team Success STEM found the application did not fit 14 of the 19 categories.
Spence said Team Success officials felt they weren't given a proper opportunity to respond to the concerns cited by the district, and that the district was very subjective in the application process.
After the board ruled on an extension in September, Team Success officials issued a 61-page response to the district's critiques.
One of the evaluation critiques said the school doesn't target a specific population, other than STEM. The response echoes the application when responding to that critique.
"The application states that it 'will attract a cross-cultural student body and will be most appealing to parents who wish to have their children attend a school which promotes scholarship, values, structure, and self-discipline,'" the response reads.
The district's evaluation committee has yet to fully work through the Team Success STEM response and asked the board to extend its ruling until Nov. 18. Spence and his team have already agreed to that extension.
The school was originally slated to open in the fall of 2015, but depending on how long it takes before the board approves or denies the application, the potential opening may need to be pushed back another year.
"If we are awarded the contract, I don't want to feel rushed," Spence said.
Manatee Y officials are going to pull their application from the running, Sean Allison, the president and CEO, told the Herald on Friday.
"There is some frustration, I can't hide the fact," Allison said. Officials have filed for a charter school for multiple years and have never been recommended for approval from the board.
Previously a contract school with the district, officials at Manatee Y wanted to continue the services they were providing to at-risk students in the county. The school district announced a decision not to renew the contract in the summer, saying they could provide the same services at a lower price, saving the district $800,000.
The announcement of the closure came in the wake of a highly critical audit of the YMCA. The audit did not specifically mention the contract school, but the addendum to the audit included emailed complaints.
The district's evaluation of the charter application found it did not meet 14 of the 19 standards.
The Manatee Y's additional materials open with a two-page letter from Allison, in which he praises the work of the former Manatee Y contract school and notes that the abrupt closure of the contract school means a charter school is needed now more than before. In his letter, Allison said the students previously served by the contract school aren't all attending alternative programs run by the district.
"The Manatee YMCA has a plan and a model that has proven to work with this population of students," the letter reads. "Let's bring these students back to the public school system and help them build a better foundation for their future and ours."
After meeting with district officials on Friday, Allison said Y officials decided their time would be better spent pursuing different options to serve at-risk kids, including potentially opening a private school.
Allison said officials would continue to work with the district on existing programs and helping students.
"We're just going to shift gears a little bit and shift our direction," he said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.