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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.”

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

  1. Donna Bunn Lightsey via Facebook says:

    It’s about time! Way past due, actually.

    • Anonymous says:

      We CANNOT allow our future generations to be in the midst of false educational scandalous educational settings, like stated above, “Way Past Due” – Shut em down

  2. Jim N says:

    1,24 million dollars divided by 180 students is a gross expenditure of 6,888.00 per student @ Heritage Academy plus what ever else the school takes in.

    How much does Flagler spend per student?
    According to Flagler Lives Article of June 1st, 2011 the amount has dropped to 4,031.00 per student as significant lesser amount yet none of Flagler’s Public Schools are F Schools. The message is clear, Heritage is to expensive, and is failing to achieve it’s even basic goals.

  3. elaygee says:

    Way past due for a complete failure of a school


  5. palmcoaster says:

    These charters do not work, even when they are only abiding by much more relaxed rules than our traditional public schools. “They are for profit” and we the usual overtaxed taxpayers, are forced to sustain their revenue, while taking away and undermining the quality and services of the education of rest of our students in our traditional schools. I do not pay school taxes so some very few can profit from it. I pay school taxes for our children to be educated.
    Privatization of the services that we pay for with our taxes and are to be rendered….will never work and lead to rampant fraud and abuse!
    Education, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Armed Forces, Coast Guard, Management of our Ports of Entry, Our Government Administration Employees and Postal Services….among others, should not be privatized.

  6. Anita says:

    CEO Doug Jackson has had nine years to make corrections and improve the performance of Charter schools and the law is clear. Two failing grades within a four year period earns a school a failing grade, so what is there to “negotiate”? The students have, in effect, lost a year of potential academic progress even though they’re described as, “…a segment of the school population that can prove difficult to serve in the traditional public school settings”. Does that mean these kids are ‘undeserving” of an education? They certainly would have been better served if Mr. Jackson and Ms Richards had concentrated those promised “improvements” to reading, math and science.

    Thank goodness for School Board oversight, and I would urge Ms. Valentine to move forward with her plans to shut this scam enterprise down before Gov. Scott’s initiative to give these freebooters more autonomy to suck up our taxes without accountability.

  7. Maureen Vidal via Facebook says:

    ^^^Wow…I don’t even know what to say. ^^^

  8. LUCY says:


  9. Bus Driver there once says:

    I have no childrens thar……………..SIGH!! ….a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  10. Nikita says:

    All of you need to take your heads out of your butts for atleast to seconds and see how many amazing children and teachers you would be hurting by closing this school. Our school may not be very big at all but we are not like fpc or any of the other schools and I for one am proud of that. At heritage we are a family and nobody gets left behind! We don’t just sweap the kids that don’t do so well under the rug and let them fail like at the big schools. If you would just think about the difficuties that our school goes threw and the fact that we shouldn’t be held up to the same scores as the other schools, we have less children and don’t have the 4 and 5’s on the fcat’s that fpc has which balances everyone out to a happy three. So of course our scores are going to be lower, BUT that in absolutely no way makes us a bad school. If the school board has a heart they would not close our school because that would mean losing alot of great kids into the failing school system that is in flagler county. The public schools just want to suck our kids back into there school system because all the other families in flagler came and left because flagler sucks!

    • Anita says:

      I don’t know where you park YOUR head when you’re not fumbling with spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, but your post renders your argument unconvincing. Your kids DESERVE the best education MY taxes can provide, and I don’t mind paying for that. But, I resent throwing my money away on your child’s meaningless grade advancement in order to watch your kid flounder in the workplace after graduation. Current low standards demean the founders of this country who were ALL very well educated men. Even the standards of the 1800s demanded greater intellectual rigor than what is provided in the school system today. I am sick of mewling and puking excuses and whose feelings get hurt because they didn’t pass math. We need longer school days, summer school and tutoring for all kids who need it.

  11. PJ says:

    IT’s Management, they hire low paid people and don’t educate to the standard. Fire the head folks or close it.

  12. Craig says:

    I have two children going their currently. Both of my kids love this school. The teachers foster out of the box tactics and instill confidence in my children. When my son went to Rymfire, he was constantly bullied and his teachers refused to tutor him in Math, even when my son volunteered to miss recess and even lunch to get extra one on one help. This is the first school my children have gone to where we could tell that our children are actually cared about. Before you judge the “F” grade, take a look at what the grade is based upon. When you base it on class graduatuation % and realize how small the class sizes are and that a lot of “at risk” students that the regular public schools push out are attending Heritage, well, then you can see how the grade could be considered biased. In other words, if you take several troubled children and filter them out of the Rymfires, BelleTerre’s, Wadsworth’s, FPCHS, and send them to Heritage, don’t be surprised if Heritage’s scores suffer and the other schools scores get better. Also, where do you send a child who is constantly picked on or treated poorly by teachers and other children at the larger public schools…you send them to Heritage where they are treated like human beings and not like numbers. For now, I’ll go home and console my son who was crying last night at the thought of having to deal with going to Buddy Taylor or even Flagler Palm Coast High School which are both rampant with fighting, bullying, and drug sales and a good supply of teachers and administrators who could care less about it. I am sure these other facilities have some great teachers who are currently powerless to help. I am also sure that the administrators of these schools are very happy that there is a place like Heritage to hide at risk children at so that they don’t have to deal with them.
    Before we start judging peoples grammar or socio-economical class, let’s try to use logic and reasoning and try being human. Not all of us have had the same opportunities in life.

    • Anita says:

      The problem I have with your argument Craig is that as a community we may have to come together to “fix” an ailing school system. How? By putting the Board, the Principals of each school on notice that while you appreciate their problems, you are going to hold them to the highest standards; By working with them to make certain that YOUR child is prepared to go to school to LEARN each day; By making sure your child respects his/her teacher and is respected in return (most teachers respond well to a respectful kid); By getting involved in whatever PTA association exists at best and at worst, by never, ever missing parent-teacher conferences, even if you have to drag your exhausted-after-work, half-dead body to it. It is the only way to size up your child’s teacher and let the teacher know you exist, are there for your child and you are willing to go the distance for that child. If you child is crying because he’s got to go to BTMS, tell him to dry his tears, hold his head high and do the one thing he’s there to do~ Learn. I went to Public Schools in one of NYC’s toughest neighborhoods and believe me, a kid will learn to cope.

  13. bonita fisher says:

    way to go Creig we totally agree with all you had to say, we had the same stuffs with Bunnell elm and FPC 2 years ago so we moved our kids to Heirtage.after we moved them we received a letter of recamendation to send our kids to a charter school from Bunnell elm we still have the letter.

  14. Craig says:

    Thank you Bonita. Keep the faith. Hopefully Heritage will survive and my kids will continue to get an excellent education there. Sometimes it is prudent to look beyond numbers and dollar signs. I hope that our school board and our superintendent take this into account when making their evaluations. It’s easy to work off a number or a figure but much harder to take special circumstances into account and look into your heart when making administrative decisions. I respect that fact and ask that the administrators making these decisions respect the emotions involved as well.

  15. Ms. C says:

    I love Jim M’s comparison on ‘how much’ it costs to educate a child. I am uncertain of his accuracy, but it is not likely he would have posted the numbers if his calculation were not at least in the ballpark. Heritage / AOE have been in the media and under question since they opened in 2004 and it seems the story remains consistent. Former parents of students who left the school state how far behind they were when reentering the public school. Current parents of students who attend the school state it suits a need in the community and they are satisfied with the education. The educators, the educated and the taxpayers (many of whom have never even visited the school) state it is a total waste of taxpayer money and that it is a shame to allow the school to put students at an educational disadvantage. I believe like all media each of these perspectives are true. And due to the once published high employee and student turnover rate, none of these issues are a result of anything other than the upper management.

    The main idea of this article is to question why are the administration costs so close to the cost of educating the students. “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.”

    Bonita and Craig your children have a right in this state for school choice. Unfortunately it seems there is somebody stealing too many cookies from the cookie jar and sacrificing the quality of education your children receive in doing so.

    • Scott says:

      The real problem lies in the lack of support for the educators there. Many teachers put in mandated long hours and their own personal monies to set up their classroom. In return, the teachers requests are ignored and they are ridiculed for the lack of structure around campus. The teachers care about education and so do the parents and many of the students. Yet they are the ones blamed when the scores don’t match state expectations. My son attended there as a high school student, and one night when I asked him where his homework was he said “We don’t even have enough books in the classroom, the teachers are not about to send us home with them.”

      My boy was enrolled at FPC within a week.If I wanted him to sit around all day and stare at the walls, I would keep him home.

    • Scott says:

      The categories of people you describe Ms. C sound like an episode of The good, the bad and the clueless to me. :-)

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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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