Chartering New Territory Part 1

By: Angelica Alvarez Email
By: Angelica Alvarez Email

Tallahassee - May 2, 2012 - 11:48pm

Charter schools are public schools that operate under a performance contract or a charter. It frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results.

A hot button issue for lawmakers this legislative session was a bill called the Parent Trigger Bill. That bill would have given parents the option of turning their child's school into a charter, if they weren't happy with that school. The bill did not pass, but it raised the question of can anyone just start a charter school? That answer is essentially yes, but it takes more than just knowing your three Rs.

Dr. Alex Penn is the leader behind what will be Tallahassee's newest charter school. Come August she will transform a now empty building just off Virginia Street across the street from the Tallahassee Fire Department into Mavericks High of Leon County. The school will be for high school students who need a second chance.

"It's an alternative school, for students who have perhaps dropped out, do not have enough credits to graduate on time,who need extra help and a different way of learning, " says Dr. Penn.

The school will be the sixth charter for the Leon County School District. Not all charter schools focus on second chances.

Jerry Lewis is an attorney who sits on the board for C.K. Steele - Leroy Collins Charter Middle School, which is the first charter school in Florida.

"How we separate ourselves from other schools is with entrepreneurship," says Lewis. He goes on to say they focus on applying the basic fundamentals to future careers.

But there is a lot of footwork before you get to where C.K. Steele - Leroy Collins Charter Middle School is today.

"People who are interested in starting a charter school must do is work with the school district to submit an application," says Bev Owens with Leon County Schools.

The application is a binder with paperwork of information that weighs at least five pounds. It takes about year's worth of planning when it comes to creating a charter school. You also have to find a target population that would attend, find a place to house the school, organize state approved curriculum and find people to run the school and most importantly you have to fund the school.

"We also want to ensure that the applicant has the finances available to actually run the school. The district actually reviews charter school finances monthly, " says Owens.

Charter schools must re-apply with the school district every five years to stay open. .

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