Charter school parents to get letter regarding shut down

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Within the next week, parents whose children attended Orange Park Performing Arts Academy will get a letter from The Clay County School District welcoming them to enroll in their zoned district school as final steps are taken to shut down the charter school.

Under state law, charter schools that make two consecutive “F” school grades must be shut down. Its first year of operation, school year 2014-15, the school received a “D” grade from the Florida Department of Education, it received an “F” last year and an “F” this year.

“The state’s already taken action. Since OPPAA is under our umbrella, we have to be the one to submit any of these processes. We feel that in any way shape or form if these appeals were warranted, we would send that without a doubt and we would fight that for them, but we cannot send inaccurate information – it’s a reflection on me as superintendent – I can’t do that,” said Addison Davis, Superintendent of Clay County Schools, as he addressed the school board in its monthly agenda-setting workshop today.

On July 17, OPPAA officials unsuccessfully asked the State Board of Education for a waiver of termination of its contract with the Clay County School District, which funds the school at a rate of $2.5 million a year. The waiver was denied by the state board.

Davis said 170 students are enrolled in the school and of that total, up to 40 live in other counties, not just Clay County.

“So, I am in the process of completing a formal email to send to them, to tell them their immediate appeal – that their original request – is inaccurate and then give them solid data behind our findings as well, that define and articulates what a learning gain actually is and I’m going to put together what the kids’ scale score they needed and how far away they are from making the gains. That way, it’s really clear for them,” Davis said.

He said OPPAA officials have presented information to the Clay County School District from five students the school believes made the learning gains that would propel the school from an F to a D. However, Davis said, after reviewing the data, it doesn’t add up.

“After our immediate analysis of those five students, the five students had not made the learning gains as they understood,” Davis said.

In an interview last week with OPPAA Founder and Board Chairman Alesia Ford-Burse, she claimed the charter school never received its funding allocation to develop a comprehensive reading plan, another issue she claimed should allow the school to appeal under a special circumstance.

“Orange Park never received these dollars to pay for critical reading programs which makes it difficult to compare this school with the other schools in the area that received these critical programs for reading,” OPPAA wrote in its appeal to the Florida Department of Education.

Davis said his staff found this claim to be invalid.

“They believe that they did not obtain the reading supports from a funding standpoint for reading intervention. I will provide a document to them today that identifies they were provided funding for reading initiatives,” Davis said.

District staffers are drafting a letter that will be mailed to parents in time to enroll the OPPAA students into their zoned school. Davis said he wants parents to know the district is prepared and ready.

“Then, we will have continued follow-up with outreach to these parents to let them know the Clay County School District is ready and will accept them and welcome them with open arms and provide their students with a high-quality education every day. So, we stand ready and prepared,” Davis said.

“My concern has been, No. 1, we’ve got to have the teachers to teach kids and we have such a short window now. The timing is awful on this to try and figure out how many are going to impact how many schools,” said Carol Studdard, school board vice chairman.

After the contract is terminated, Clay County Schools officials will have to conduct an inventory of the charter school’s assets to determine what was purchased with state funds. Those assets – whether in the form of desks or computers – are required to be offered to another charter school in the district before being returned for use in a traditional school.

August 15 is the first day back to school for Clay County Public Schools.

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