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Superintendent Valentine Seeking to Close Failing Heritage Charter School By June

| January 9, 2012

They may get parked for good. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s rarely been a happy relationship.

Since Academies of Excellence CEO Doug Jackson submitted applications for Flagler County’s first charter schools nine years ago–what was then called Cornerstone and Summit academies–the Flagler County School Board has looked at those plans and their various reincarnations and consequences since with something ranging between disapproval and dismay.

Jackson and the board have wrestled since, even after the schools grew to three and then were combined into the K-12 Heritage Academy, its small campus gridded between South Main and South Forsyth on Bunnell’s West Moody Blvd. (S.R. 11), just past the railroad tracks. Questions have been raised about finance and oversight. The school board denied the charter’s renewal in 2009 before reversing itself when presented with promises of better management. More serious questions have been raised about academic standards and achievements since, over a period that includes two successive F ratings from the state.

On Friday, Flagler County School, Superintendent Janet Valentine told Heritage Principal Nicole Richards that she will recommend to the school board that Heritage’s charter be revoked. The school has about 180 students. If the board goes along, as it is expected to, the school would have to close by year’s end.

“The specific reasons for this recommendation are as a result of the recent notification from the Department of Education that Heritage Academy received a letter grade of ‘F’ under Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability,” Valentine wrote Richards. “This is the second consecutive year that Heritage Academy has received a grate letter of ‘F.’ As you are aware, a school is labeled as ‘failing’ if it has received two failing grades within a four year period. That is the situation before us.”

Richard did not return a call for comment today. Jackson, reached at his office in Volusia County, released a statement through an employee: “We’re very disappointed in the district’s recommendations and are currently in discussion,” Jackson said. “We will make a statement after the data is analyzed.”

The letter to Richards was not a surprise. The school was expecting an F, and the law is clear about the consequences that follow. And Friday afternoon, Richards, Jackson, his son Mike and one other administrator with Jackson’s company met with Valentine and several other district officials, including Stewart Maxcy, the former school principal who will, next month, become the district’s charter school administrator (replacing Jim Devine, who is retiring).

“They wanted to see what kind of negotiations were possible,” Devine said. “They’ve accepted the fact Janet emphasized that she was moving forward with the procedure now.” Officially, the procedure entails giving the school a 90-day notice of closure. The district does not intend to close the school before the end of the school year, however. Judging from past history, Jackson is likely to appeal the decision–first, to the local school board, then to the state Charter School Appeal Commission.

The school, established as a non-profit (other charter schools, such as Imagine at Town Center, may be for-profit) has a $1.24 million annual budget, of which $405,000, or 33 percent, is devoted to teacher salaries, benefits and other instructional services. That compares with $296,000 in administrative costs, or 24 percent–including a $121,000 “management fee.” The school gets all but a few thousand dollars of its revenue from federal, state and local sources.

Charter schools operate on a contractual basis with their local school boards, which provide oversight (a relationship Gov. Rick Scott is aiming to weaken in order to give charter schools more autonomy, and school boards less say, in how they are run.) Academies of Excellence (Heritage’s predecessor) started operations with a five-year contract. After the school board refused to renew that contract for five years in 2009, it agreed to a one-year contract, and in 2010 to a two-year contract–a decision that divided the board: Sue Dickinson, who chairs the board, was willing to stick with only a one-year renewal. The district’s administrative staff, meanwhile, had recommended a five-year renewal.

Jackson appealed the two-year extension to an administrative mediator, and got a third year tacked on to the contract based on a series of pledges designed to show improvements at the school: the creation of a summer school program, “serving a segment of the school population that can prove difficult to serve in the traditional public school settings” (in the words of the mediation agreement), investing “a considerable sum” in facility improvements, instituting a school-wide music program, investing in more teacher development, and promising several other administrative and governing improvements.

“When a charter is not renewed or is terminated,” state Department of Education documents state, “any unencumbered public funds from the charter school reverts to the district school board; all district school board property and improvements, furnishings, and equipment purchased with public funds automatically revert to full ownership by the district school board subject to complete satisfaction of any lawful liens or encumbrances.”

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32 Responses for “Superintendent Valentine Seeking to Close Failing Heritage Charter School By June”

  1. Just me says:

    I went to this school and let me just say it sucks, you learn nothing, in less your in history or english, this school is a joke, yes they would be hurting the kids if you close the school but thats just because Most cant make it in a public school or Any other school for that matter. You cant just walk through life without learning nothing, a public school prepares you for collage. I dont know about k-8 but 9-12 you dont learn nothing. I believe this school is behind and agree it should be closed down.


  2. Craig says:

    Anita, I appreciate your comment and we don’t miss parent teacher conferences and our children’s teachers do know who we are no matter which school they have been going to . I also went to public school and I am sure my son will be fine no matter where he ends up. He was just named student of the month yesterday and we are very proud of his accomplishments regardless of what some people think of the quality of education he is getting. Our son is a confident, hard working, wonderful personal who will grow up to be a very productive and caring member of our society. It is our charge to keep it that way.

    Just me…I am sorry that you feel this way about the school that you went to however my children love it and approach school with a positive attitude everyday. I wish you only the best in your efforts to overcome your own negativity.


  3. Scott says:

    The number for the Flagler County School District is (386) 437-7526. Perhaps some of the horror stories should be shared with the school board to hurry along their decision.


  4. just me says:

    I hope the school board does the right thing an closes the doors for good, an im sure your kids will get far but why waste soo much money on a on going failing school. it dumb


  5. bonita fisher says:

    ms C thanks for your concern about our children but lets look at how we can help them not hurt them more. FPC and Bunnell Elm has already proved to me thay dont care unless you come from money or are the best at sports. Heirtage is there for them no matter what.


    • Ms. C says:

      I firmly believe in the charter school option and understand your position in wanting to keep your children where they are because they are happy there and experiencing success. But, six or seven years ago, the CEO at Heritage/AOE was given an opportunity to make a difference in Flagler County. We trusted him with an open pick of any child he could recruit in the county. Since that time, a couple thousand students and and dozens of employees have walked in and out of his doors. Some students feel they are doing well, but overall the data, media reports and real life accounts clearly demonstrate that the majority of those people were worse off walking out the door than they were walking in. Meanwhile this man is collecting hundreds of thousands of public dollars in exchange.

      It is a tragedy for the students to loose their school. It will be a tragedy for the employees to loose their jobs. But as a community, how long shall we stand for this type of injustice? How long would you wish to hand over tax dollars to someone who repeatedly harms the community with deception?

      Perhaps someone will come along and build a NEW charter school…someone who cares about education.


  6. Wondering says:

    I wonder if anyone has seen how much Heritage is ACTUALLY paying the management company. The contract states 24%, do some research and find out, might be surprising.


  7. Ms. C says:

    Do you think it is more or less. I looked around and could not find this information online. Is it public record?


  8. momofone says:

    As a mom of a student at Heritage, I find it appaling at the way everyone is hanging like vulchers to see this school closed.
    Does the school have issues….Yes. Do I like the management …..No
    The Principal and teachers probably cringe when I walk through the door as I am very loud about things that I see that need to be fixed and or corrected within the school.

    But, with that said, I would not move my child and if it does close will possibly go to home schooling.

    My young child has emotional issues from a nasty divorce. Even with her Dad out of the home for going on two years, things are still not on an even kiel emotionally.

    The principal, the teachers, the staff……ALL know my child by name. We have worked together to get her focused on her school work. The Flagler School Board has also been a big part of her recovery, getting her help with school phycologists, tutors, and teachers pitching in at their own cost of time and money to help my child.

    My little one’s confidence has grown and even though she has been an “F” student (her own choice not to do the work)……….she just this past Friday got an “A” on her spelling test.

    The entire school staff was congratulating her and made her day special.

    Yes, she personally has a long way to go, but I know that everyone at Heritage watches out for her emotional state, her SAFETY, and will continue to do so as long as they are allowed.

    If any of you want to pick apart my spelling or grammer…….go for it. But I KNOW MY CHILD IS IN GOOD HANDS.


    • Thatnerdykid says:

      Ma’am as a student of heritage high I have to say I agree with you whole heartedly. I dont know if any of this will help though; Most people dont consider a few things that I would like to point out if nobody here minds a childs word in. Our FCAT scores are generally lower than FPC’s or Matanzas for one reason and one reason alone. Have you ever heard of the term averaging? or perhaps Ratio since the general community seems to be well worded. I would like to point out that 10/10 is 100% or otherwise an A. When you have roughly ten students per grade give or take around five, A single student counts as quite a few percent. Wheras FPC has a few hundred to a few thousand or so students.One student slipping through the cracks doesnt count. ONE student doesn’t count in public schools, seventy students could fail and I’m certain FPC could still get a B or above. You have to keep ratio in mind when witch hunting a school. Not to mention one million dollars sounds like alot of money to upkeep a K-12 on when you say it fast.But I would like for someone here to post how much matanzas or FPC spend on an average yearly basis. And for the record I’m not hurling out excuses; simply asking the questions that should be asked so that as a community we may have a better understanding of the situation and its complexities. Id perfer not to use my name due to the weight it may carry but I’m assuming if Mrs.Quinn, Ms.Cindy, Ms.Richards or any other teacher may be reading this they allready know who it may be. In conclusion I would like to point out the part that isnt said. The part that is not seen, heard or touched. The elequence that is brought upon by the community within the school, From the teachers and their… granted unorthodox but effective methods towards actual individuals gpa, down to the fact that we are a closely knit group like family . No one here claims to be a perfect speller, or always structure our sentences correctly, but we are taught a more important lesson here… some things are more relevant.


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