Hamilton Co Superintendent Speaks On Coming Charter School Vote

By: Greg Gullberg Email
By: Greg Gullberg Email

Hamilton Co., FL - Parents, teachers and community leaders are working to convert South Hamilton Elementary in White Springs, FL into a charter school. That's after the school board tried to close it down last year. Now the charter application has to be approved by the very same school board.

"I don't have an issue with them becoming a Charter School," said the new Hamilton County Superintendent Tom Moffses.

Superintendent Moffses says the issue is black and white. He has almost two months to make a recommendation whether to accept or deny the application to convert South Hamilton into a Charter School.

"If they meet the criteria, we'll make the recommendation that they be accepted as a charter. If they don't meet the criteria, we will not. It's as simple as that," Moffses said.

The Superintendent makes the recommendation but ultimatley it's up to the school board to vote yes or no.

In August 2011 the Florida Board of Education demanded the School Board take corrective action because the continued poor performance of Central Hamilton Elementary in Jasper. So the board voted to close South and roll the two schools together because Central is physically the bigger school.

Then came the public outcry where community members protested the school board. In July the vote was called again. And what once was a 3-2 decision to close the school became a 3-2 decision to keep it open.

But community leaders are still pushing for the charter. White Springs Mayor Helen Miller says it's to keep something like this from ever happening again.

"And that mistrust in my opinion lead to the former School Superintendent not being re-elected," said Mayor Miller.

"I'm not looking at what's happened in the past. I'm looking forward," said Moffses. "So I don't think there's going to be any issue with the School Board."

If the school board rejects the application Mayor Miller says they plan to petition the Department of Education.

Superintendent Moffses says the school board is meeting with a legal consultant next week.

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White Springs, FL - "That school is the heart of our community and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that it is successful," said White Springs Mayor Helen Miller.

Mayor Miller told Eyewitness News how they got the application in with only five minutes to spare before the Friday deadline at 4 pm. She described the great efforts to convert South Hamilton Elementary into a Charter School.

"A whole 660 pages, so it was a bigger job than we thought but we found some of the state requirements had changed," said Mayor Miller.

Parents, teachers and community leaders joined efforts to convert South to save it from being closed by the Hamilton County School Board. In August 2011 the Florida Department of Education demanded the school board take corrective action following the continued failure of Central Hamilton in Jasper. So the Board voted to close South and roll them together because it's physically the smaller school.

"We had a right to be involved in that decision. We had a Superintendent and a school board that didn't take us into consideration. So that did create a lot of mistrust. And that mistrust in my opinion lead to the former school superintendent not being re-elected," said Mayor Miller.

In July the new grades came out and Central was no longer failing so the school board reversed their decision to close it. Still Mayor Miller describes an "Atmosphere of Distrust" driving the charter effort forward.

They first submitted their application in July to meet the original deadline. But they had to withdraw it after the board pointed out some deficiencies.

Now the application is in and the same school board they're revolting against has 60 days to either accept or deny it. And that largely depends on the recommendation of the new Superintendent Tom Moffses.

Mayor Miller says she hopes to talk with the new Superintendent about his recommendation this week. If the School Board rejects the application, they will petition the Department of Education.


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