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School Board May Revoke Palm Harbor Academy’s Charter as Serious Irregularities Surface

| May 14, 2018

Palm Harbor Academy on Old Kings Road is one of two charter schools in Flagler County. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Harbor Academy on Old Kings Road is one of two charter schools in Flagler County. It has struggled for most of its existence. (© FlaglerLive)

Citing the irregular shifting of students to a “private school” and other issues of accountability, Flagler School Superintendent Jim Tager is recommending that Palm Harbor Academy’s charter be revoked by August. The school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on giving the Palm Coast charter school a 90-day notice of revocation.

Tager is citing poor accountability, poor record-keeping and the shifting or “withdrawals” of Palm Harbor students, some of them to a “private” school within the school, among the reasons for the charter revocation. The charter school is said to have shifted more than a dozen low-performing students to a “private” school on the same property in an attempt to keep them  from taking standardized tests and put the school at risk of getting a failing grade again, which would be cause for losing its charter. The school’s chief executive doesn’t deny the shift, but denies its alleged motive.

The revocation would be an extraordinary measure against the charter school, but not an unprecedented one in Flagler: in 2012, the district yanked the charter from Heritage Academy, the county’s very first charter school, after the K-12 school repeatedly failed to perform at minimally acceptable standards. Janet Valentine was the superintendent at the time. Heritage was ultimately abandoned by its own leaders. Palm Harbor, a smaller operation, is led by Gillard Glover and a six-member board of directors chaired by Glover. (County commissioner Don O’Brien is a member.)

But Palm Harbor’s demise, if it comes to that, would mean that three of the four charter schools that have operated in Flagler County have failed. Global Outreach Academy operated less than five months when it abruptly closed at the end of 2012, upending school plans for 122 students and their families. Singed by the Heritage and Outreach experiences, the Flagler school board took an explicitly vigilant line toward subsequent charter applicants, turning back some applicants and likely discouraging others from applying. Only one charter school has been successful: Imagine School at Town Center, which is part of an extensive network of schools in the country.

“I am making a recommendation for a ninety (90) day notice of termination to the Board, as the Sponsor of the charter school contract between the School Board of Flagler County, Florida and Palm Harbor Academy for Good Cause,” Superintendent Jim Tager wrote Taylor Croot on May 7. Croot is Palm Harbor’s principal. “The reasons are articulated in writing and serve as the basis for termination, representing violations of the charter school contract approved by the Board on September 16, 2014 and renewed on December 19, 2017.”

Charter schools are funded with tax dollars out of the district’s treasury, but are privately run. They are approved by the local school district, though that may change next year: a proposed constitutional amendment would, if approved by 60 percent or more of voters in November, establish a state board that oversees applications, by-passing local boards. For now, local school boards maintain oversight authority over and above the charter school’s own board of directors with regards to finances and certain accountability measures.

The district through Tager’s letter claims Palm Harbor failed to maintain proper health records, current and past student records. It failed to follow through with instructional programs it pledged to develop in its latest application renewals.  It failed to meet standards set out in its School Improvement Plan. More seriously, it “failed to ensure all student participation in state-required assessment programs,” Tager’s letter states, implying a form of academic fraud to avoid depressing test scores. It also allegedly “withdrew and/or transferred an otherwise qualified student from attendance.” Finally, it did not submit transportation documents in a timely way.

Notably, Tager’s May 7 letter was sent four days after Glover had written an eight-page defense of the school against district claims. (A reporter visiting the school today was told Glover was “in a meeting.” Glover did not call the rest of the day.)

Specifically, the district had raised concerns about the withdrawal of 31 students from Palm Harbor between April 2 and April 9–what would amount to close to a third of the school’s population. Glover said 14 students withdrew “because they enrolled in schools outside Flagler County,” and their records were simply late in reflecting the fact. Glover blamed parents for the late notices.

And 17 students enrolled in the so-called Academy of Excellence of North Florida, the “private school” established on the same grounds as Palm Harbor, and whose students eat in the same cafeteria and share the same common areas as the charter school’s students.

Rev. Gilliard Glover.

Rev. Gillard Glover. (Facebook)

Academy of Excellence is headed by the very same board that heads the charter school, and is owned by Glover.

“It has been suggested that certain parents were induced by Palm Harbor employees or representatives to enroll their students at the Private School,” Glover wrote, “especially students that were at risk of failing the Florida Standards Assessment (‘FSA’). “This was simply not the case. The parents that withdrew their students from Palm Harbor and enrolled them at the Private School did so on their own volition. Many of these parents expressed to Principal Taylor Croot that they wanted to enroll their students in the Private School because they felt like it was a better fit for their student.”

Glover added, again shifting responsibility for the change or its implications regarding the test away from himself and onto parents: “Some of these parents also expressed concern that these students may not pass the FSA and were interested in the Private School because teachers there do not have to teach to the standardized test.”

It’s not clear how many “teachers” are in the private school, whether those teachers are different from those on the charter school’s payroll–if they’re not, the private school would be underwriting their cost with public dollars–what the tuition is for the private school, and how parents are affording tuition: the Palm Harbor community draws from parents who tend not to be rich.

“It has also been suggested that certain students were involuntarily transferred to the Private School without the permission of the parents,” Glover went on. “No student was ever withdrawn from Palm Harbor or enrolled at the private school absent the express authorization and direction of the parents. In fact, parents completed an online registration for the private school, which they were required to sign.”

Glover says Palm Harbor hired its own investigator to look into the issue, finding that no parents interviewed “so far” have spoken of feeling pressured.

Glover noted that among third grade students who remained at Palm Harbor, as opposed to being shifted to the private school, half were below grade level in reading and 72 percent were below grade level in math as of January. But Glover with that statement essentially revealed the severity of the students’ under-performance: if parents of those who were shifted to the private school were worried that they’d fail the FSA, then their performances were also poor, and the overall performance of students at Palm Harbor would be even more suspect, raising questions about the school’s viability.

Palm Harbor Academy is a K-6 school that opened in 2011 “to create an environment in which students can become exceptional learners committed and equipped to improve their community,” according to its mission statement. One of its signature differences with traditional schools is its extended school day, which is an hour longer than in traditional schools–at least on paper: the district claims the school was not living up to that promise. (Glover countered that a technical glitch showed the wrong bell schedule, and that a seven-hour day is provided for.)

The charter school has struggled more often than not. The school had 103 students in 2011-12, a level it hasn’t reached since. It received an F that year.  It had just 61 students the following year, when it received no grade, and 78 students in 2015-16, when it got another F. Last year, it scored a D. (Palm Harbor got an A and a B in the intervening years.)

Palm Harbor Academy operates at 95 Old Kings Road North out of a 12,000 square foot facility located on the grounds of–and leased from–AME Church of Palm Coast at 91 Old Kings Road North. The church is owned by Glover, as is the school. Glover’s school, in other words, leases its space from Glover’s church, for $216,000 a year. It’s legal–according to the rules set up by the Florida Legislature–and none of the capital investments into facilities with public dollars accrue to the public. The school’s budget is just under $1.3 million, all of it from federal, state and local government sources, with $457,000 of that earmarked for instruction.

The school pays its teachers from $18,500 a year to $36,000. It has seven classrooms spread between a 6,000 square foot building and portable classrooms. According to its latest contract renewal, the school planned to expand to 140 students this year, 180 students next year, and 220 students the year after that, rising to 300 in subsequent years. It has never neared its ambitions.


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23 Responses for “School Board May Revoke Palm Harbor Academy’s Charter as Serious Irregularities Surface”

  1. Brian Smith says:

    Is this school run by Democrats?

  2. Flats says:

    Appears to me that the school which gets it funding from tax dollars is keeping the church afloat and the Pastor in nice new clothes.. Like all charter schools, this one should be shut down for good..

  3. Anonymous says:

    My daughter never had issues when she attended that school and her teachers were great!! However, whenever you wanted to talk to the Principal no matter what time of day, she was never on campus to speak with.

  4. knightwatch says:

    This is absurd. This school is taking our tax dollars and funneling an outrageous amount to the owner, Gilliard Glover. The school is an abject failure and needs to be closed.

    Now, think of the radical FL Republican legislation taking even limited oversight out of the purview of local school boards. If this egregious “constitutional amendment” passes, the Republican legislature is open to bribes from charter school owners to stay in business, sucking up our tax dollars and making a mockery of home rule.

    This has got to be stopped, dead, on November 6th. Vote NO. Keep our local school board in charge. Stop the Republican assault on home rule and on good public education.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Question. How do you go from teaching for only a year to being a Principal the next? I thought you had to have more experience than that to become a Principal

  6. anonymous says:

    I have a lot of knowledge about this situation and I am overjoyed to see this finally happening. This school has not only broken ethical rules, but I believe actual laws, they have tried to cover up thier failures and shortcomings by bringing in students from other counties to cover up their numbers(there is a lot more to do with this than what i just said) they have underpaid thier staff and broken contracts with teachers to pay them what a person at Mcdonalds would make. While all along the Rev. is recieving hundreds of thousands of dollars for what? a broken school that he is only using as a cash cow. Mr. Glover needs to face some serious consequences for his actions. I feel bad for the students and most the teachers… I don’t feel bad for the principle who i believe fully knew and particiapted in all these actions. Taylor was nothing but a lying, sneaky, and decitful person. I could keep on going with my disqust for this establisments “management” but i won’t waste my time any longer. Look into the Rev, look into the school, and help the children..thats I all hope for.

  7. MJ says:

    Several years ago I substituted at this school. I did not have a good feeling how the school was run. There were no electives and recess was one hour—much too long. Also, there were children who were very behind, but had no IEPs. I remember helping a child who could barely read in the fourth grade and was frustrated that he was not getting more help or pulled out as done in the regular schools. I was surprised that there is a private school lurking behind their regular school for what sounds as bogus reasons. I guarantee that the parents are given a story of why this is happening. So I was happy to read above that their charter may be revoked.

  8. Pogo says:

    @trump can save the day

    Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits

    By Danielle Ivory, Erica L. Green and Steve Eder

    May 13, 2018

    “WASHINGTON — Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

    The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

    During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

    The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor…”

    trump, Floriduh, crooked bidness people, crooked preachers – let’s get to work with “new Republicans” and see how big a swamp can be.

  9. Sherry says:

    Pogo- Brillant post!

    Capitalism should NOT control our schools or our government. When any entity becomes “for profit”, by definition, it does NOT serve the “public good” period!

  10. Edith Campins says:

    No, @Brian smith, the school is run by Republican evangelicals.

  11. Sherry says:

    It makes NO difference whether the leaders of the school are Democrats or Republicans! As a Democrat myself, I certainly agree that it should be closed!

  12. r&r says:

    Why do people keep bringing up politics and/or racism into every news letter?

  13. Tax payor and child advocate says:

    Outrageous is right!! The true fact is that the public school system has failed to support these children and meet their social and educational needs. This school exists because no one wants to step up to the plate and invest in these children. The principle i am certain is doing her best to manage the operations of the school. I am sure this is no easy task given the constant harassment and lack of support from the Flagler County school board. Most of the challenges that this school faces are a direct result of the school boards lack of support. Most all of these children have health, learning, social and behavioral obstacles and need small class sizes and more opportunities for one on one time with the teachers. Flagler county schools has not provided that support and ultimately it is their responsibility to these children. They deserve every opportunity to be treated equally to all other students. I personally want to thank Rev. Glover for opening his heart and giving these students a place to go. I can not believe that Flagler county schools has nothing better to do than to harass this school. The energy should be spent on cleaning up their own messes instead of trying to deflect by making false vicious allegations. Remember for every finger you point at someone else there are theee pointing at you !

  14. Jeremy plaza says:

    I worked for this school and it has been a terrible school from the beginning. Taking a church Van to and from Daytona to pick up kids that were “recruited”. This man Glover does not care about his students the way he should. He is a sneaking back stabbing and greedy man that should be ashamed of himself. This school should not have even opened its doors.

  15. Concerned res says:

    Something wrong is going on here. Let the school board get to the bottom of it. Sounds like the students at this school were not being educated properly. And tax dollars were being wasted.

  16. BLM(bikers-lives-matter) says:

    Charter schools are just run for the shear idea of making money.

  17. NoNameNeeded says:

    There are some great people working there who will lose their jobs because of decisions made by others. They work with some students who were struggling in a large school setting as well. These kids need additional support and help they will not get in traditional school settings. It Tager really wants to do something great for those kids, get rid of the principal and close ties with the church, move in one of your eager employees that went into Education Leadership to become principal. Fix the problem do not scrap the school.

  18. Tax payor and child advocate says:

    I don’t believe the principle is the problem. She is educated and has the leadership Education.
    The problem is a lack of support, communication from Flagler county. Let’s face it if as much effort was put in to save the school as was put in to sabotage it we would be in this situation. People should get their facts straight and actually know what they are saying.

  19. wow says:

    18K for a teacher? Yikes.

  20. RickG says:

    The proposed Constitutional Amendment is rich… Changing approval for charter schools from local school boards to a “state board” should be a red flag to all those interested in our children’s education. Who will be appointing these “state boards?” Oh yeah Mr Senator want to be Gov Scott and his sycophants .

  21. Ann marie Marszalek says:

    As soon as I questioned the principles credentials my son was suspended. Out of school just shy of 30 days. I could have sued for what the bus driver did to him. My son was supposed to have an IEP didn’t find out until 2 months later that Miss Droit was the new principle. I requested a meeting with Pastor Glover and was told he didn’t take meetings. When Mrs. Hamilton was principle the school was great then she retired. Mrs. Blake was a great teacher then she moved after that the school went down hill. My son strives at his new school. I wonder if the teachers actually had their credentials seeing what they were paid Pastor Glover made more charging rent per year then the teachers made combined. They all need to be held accountable how many children suffered or were left back do to the incompetence of the faculty at Palm Harbor Academy. To charge $100.00 a ticket each year for a fundraiser for the school yet nothing was ever sent home. What a joke I never had a problem volunteering or being involved with my sons education. I did have a problem being called everyday and being told my son had a problem. Enough with my rant, parents get your children out of there while you can.

  22. It's about time. says:

    Last year my son attended this school. He was promised many different activities. But nothing. In the 1st few months of school he had 3 different teachers. The kids learned nothing. Very sad. Plus the teachers they did get were not that good. Also, 1 teacher state my son hit him but later found out from 2 other employees that he hit my son during recess. Next teacher in that class if she didn’t like someone she removed them from the class and sent them to the all purpose room for the day. Some of the kids never even stayed in the class just sat in the all purpose room. Never learning. Some teachers were very good. But most are not happy there. The principle and others are more worried about money. .

  23. YankeeExPat says:

    Pon·zi scheme
    ˈpänzē ˌskēm/Submit
    a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a nonexistent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors.

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