The Christmas decorations right from the entrance announce nothing but cheer, the poinsettias’ reds still sparkling almost as much as the fresh paint on the walls, the blues and yellows there less than five months. The Children’s faces beam from bulletin boards—the ballet kids, the violin kids—and classrooms this evening had the feel of a place ready to get busy again after the two-week break, but for a few telltale signs that it won’t: closets have been emptied, a few desks cleared. This very evening some teachers had been by to pack up their stuff, and one parent had removed a child’s portrait from a bulletin board.
Open less than five months, Global Outreach Academy, the charter school at the Flagler County Airport, won’t open its doors when school resumes Wednesday morning. The school is short of money, and is behind on its rent due Flagler County government, which owns the building it’s occupying.
Tuesday afternoon—on New Year’s Day—school officials sent word to Superintendent Janet Valentine that they would not reopen, and that 122 students and their parents would, come Wednesday morning, have to make alternative plans for the rest of the year. Between one and two dozen people are losing their job.
“I have been informed that Global Outreach Charter Academy of Palm Coast will be closing its doors effective immediately due to severe financial constraints brought on by high rent and additional construction costs,” Global Outreach Principal Kathy Stow said in an electronic message distributed to the school community this afternoon. Aside from not making rent, the school was required to build additional bathrooms and refurbish a hangar for school use, if it intended to use it.
The school’s teachers also got word only today that they were out of a job, though they were aware that the school was in trouble when teachers accepted a 20 percent pay cut in November. Stow called some of the teachers personally to announce the closure.
For the Global Outreach’s parents and students, the sudden closure, even before the end of a grading period, is a shock on many levels. Many of the K-8 school’s children will not understanjd why they cannot return to their classrooms Wednesday. Parents are being told to take their children to the public school for which they are zoned, where they would then be immediately enrolled, Valentine said this afternoon. Parents have the option of enrolling their children in a school of their choice, but if the school is out of their zone, the district will not provide transportation.
Principal Kathy Stow’s Jan. 1 Message to the Global Outreach Community[media id=313 width=250 height=200]
For the school district, the change will require quick adjustment, because “122 students is a lot of students at one time to get them transitioned in and make sure we are meeting class-size” requirements, Valentine said. The change may require the hiring of a few teachers. Parents can also take their children to one of the county’s two remaining charter schools, or to home-school them.
For the county, the loss of Global Outreach is yet another setback in what has been a series of ill-fated contracts with companies and schools the county lured to the airport, only to see the companies and schools either go out of business, abandon their contract or, in one case (involving the building Global Outreach was occupying) buying out the remainder of their lease, but also leaving the building empty as a result.
“I’ve been on the phone all afternoon calling parents,” said Jolene Rosamonda, who taught several subjects at Global Outreach. “I felt we needed to be more personal so I’ve been trying to get in touch with the middle school students.” She said teachers were not entirely surprised since the time when they were asked to accept a pay cut, but that pay cut had been accepted with some assurance that the school would operate through the end of the school year.
Tuesday evening, after some teachers had packed some of their belongings and left, only one staffer remained at the school–its IT director, among other things–who still held out hope that a last-minute deal might be possible, if investors looked favorably on the school. He later sent a text telling the story of a father who’d brought two of his children from Europe to enroll in the school, with Wednesday supposed to be their first day, “but here’s the news that wasn’t expected by this parent.”
Early Signs of Trouble
The signs were there for the school district and the county that Global Outreach may have been somewhat of a risky bet.
Jacksonville-based Global Outreach’s arrival at the county’s airport facility was preceded by months of harried hunting for a location that at one time or another had included the old Food Lion in Flagler Beach, the old Heritage Academy building in Bunnell, and Roma Court in Palm Coast.
The county, eager to have a viable business occupy its vacant buildings at the airport (on which it’s paying sizeable debt after previous businesses or organizations for which it built them bailed), went out of its way to accommodate Global Outreach as the school was scrambling. Global Outreach actually missed the deadline set by the school board to have a lease in place, but the school board, too, was accommodating.
In July, the county approved a lease that would have charged Global Outreach $1,000 a month for three months, then $13,500 a month after that. On Dec. 3, aware of its financial difficulties, the county agreed to amend its lease with Global Outreach. It would raise the rent to $13,500 only for the month of November. But from December through July 2013, it would lower the rent considerably, to $8,000 a month. The monthly rent would then rise to $15,500 a month beginning in August 2013. That way, and despite the break for 2013, at the end of the three-year lease, the charter school would have ended up paying $4,000 more than it would have under the lease’s original terms.
On Dec. 3, Sally Sherman, the deputy county administrator, described the “insurmountable amount of work” that went into accommodating Global Outreach, including securing the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, because of the school’s location—literally, adjacent to an airport runway. The FAA gave its approval only for three years.
At the time, the county’s renegotiation of the lease was conducted under the impression that Global Outreach would make it. But the school still had safety improvements to make. And it had failed to secure a $250,000 one-time start-up grant from the Florida Department of Education that charter schools are eligible for.
Flagler County’s Plagued Airport Deals
County commissioners were not happy about the deal. They accepted it grudgingly, but noted the difficulty of having contracts changing along the way. Commissioner George Hanns, burned frequently over previous airport contracts, even raised a question about what the county would do if, “let’s say a year from now, they’re still not where they’d like to be, and would like to back out.” Hanns softened the hypothetical question by suggesting that Global Outreach might look for a different location. “How are we protected at all?”
“Basically,” Sherman said, “what we can do is we can go after them for the full amount of the lease, if we choose to, and as you know we’ve done that before when we had the vacant facility come up.” The county did that with that very building, but couldn’t do so with a larger building, once occupied by the Ginn Corporation (the developer), which went out of business and left the county holding the entire bag—a $2 million obligation. Sherman said Global Outreach’s assets were limited. “Staff’s position has been at the end of the day that building has sat vacant for three years and this was an opportunity to get something in there,” she said.
“Should they not succeed as a business, close up shop and open up under another name, there would be nothing to go after,” County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin said.
That appears to be the case now.
Newly minted commissioner Frank Meeker was also only reluctantly accepting of the contract, but saw its limitations. “I understand the value of having a revenue-producing entity at the airport in a vacant building,” he said. “I have a hard time in my own mind thinking that a school at that location is a great idea for a long-term use on a highly valuable piece of property.”
The School District’s Charter Bets
The school district hasn’t had a good track record, either, with the schools it has itself chartered. Charter schools are run with taxpayer dollars, but by private concerns. The local school board is responsible for providing oversight, but under great pressure from the state Department of Education to approve charters. That places the local district in the often untenable position of getting none of the reward for a charter’s success—which usually goes to the charter school itself—but all of the blame for its failure, as was the case when Heritage Academy closed last year, after accumulating two successive F’s from the state: the school’s staff and parents turned their wrath on the school board, which revoked the charter, as is its responsibility when a school fails.
The district has had better luck with Imagine School at Town Center, the only local charter school with a steady record of success. Palm Harbor Academy, the only other school still in operation locally, is struggling after earning an F last year.
Nevertheless, it remains the school district’s responsibility to ensure that a charter school’s business plan is viable when submitted for approval to the school board. There were questions about Global Outreach when it submitted its plan, though the district went ahead and approved it.
“We just need to make sure that when we’re taking a look at their application,” Valentine said this afternoon, “that we see they have the up-front money, that they have good reason to believe they’d have the planning money from the Department of Education, or that they have some organization backing them with the dollars.”
That had not been the case with Global Outreach, though the company “had other schools in Florida that had been successful,” Valentine said—namely, one school in Jacksonville. “We did not anticipate their application not being funded,” she added, referring to the $250,000 grant.
The school board has taken an appreciably harder line when faced with charter applications. Four such applications were submitted last year. Three withdrew before appearing before the school board. The fourth was forced to withdraw under tough questioning from School Board members Colleen Conklin and Andy Dance during an October meeting, even though the district administration had recommended approval.
Flagler Charter Academy of Excellence—a front for the Leona Group, a Phoenix-based for-profit corporation that runs some 60 charter schools in Arizona, Ohio, Michigan and Florida—had made an unconvincing case to the board, especially since its officials had secured no local involvement. The official said they would return to the board with a modified application later in the year. They didn’t, pushing their return to later this year.
That means there will be no new charter schools in Flagler County opening next year.
All politics and business leases aside, it still leaves a group of 122 children and their teachers shocked out of a place to be Wednesday.
“We had a great group of kids,” Rosamonda , the teacher, said. “I would say probably the best group of kids that I’d seen in a long time, and the parent support was phenomenal. They’re at a loss, when I talk to the parents, they just don’t know what to think.”
Samuel Smith says
“Succes” sums it up, I guess.
“Suck-cess” is more like it. How much more evidence will it take to convince the citizenry that from the time Holy Jeb implemented it over a decade ago, charter schools were a scam. They were designed as nothing more than another way to funnel public funds to rich Republicans who either started their own schools or made money by sitting on the Boards or “Consulting” for them. All with the added benefit of depriving public schools and their union teachers of the little funding they had. This would cause their performance to drop off, proving the need for more Charters obviously.
So I guess this politically well connected nationwide organization decided they had squeezed all the blood out of the Palm Coast turnip and absconded with what they could. I’m so surprised.
P.S. Where do you think the Florida teachers fall on the right-wing rating scale? Are they the Saintly Connecticut teachers who throw their bodies in front of their beloved students to catch the bullets or are they the Wisconsin type? You know, Union thugs who don’t give a damn about the student bodies as long as they get their oversize pensions and graft for the Union bosses at our expense?
It doesn’t matter if you realize the Right Wing mantra,”If you are stupid, consistency is the least of your worries”.
Sue Dickinson says
It is so sad that yet another Charter school has failed. I would hope that our State Legislation would wake up to the fact that they are providing tax payers dollars to these organizations that think they can provide the necessary education that our children deserve. I as a school board member am open to any group or organization that is capable of opening a school that provides the quality of education that we expect for Flagler County Students. I am certain that where ever these parents choose to place their student that their education will not be hindered by this unpredicted change.
Merrill Shapiro says
So the School Board is ” under great pressure from the state Department of Education to approve charters?” Then it is up to the rest of us to pressure the School Board and the state Department of Education to give up on this foolish idea of Charter schools. The Imagine School at Town Center,may be the only local charter school with a steady record of success, but it is not ranked as effective as Belle Terre and Old Kings Elementary Schools and Indian Trails Middle School. Let’s give up on these Charter Schools and devote all of our time,effort, energy, attention and other resources on creating the finest possible public schools–the same public schools that are run effectively enough to be ready to absorb 122 students from the Global Academy on a moment’s notice. School Board members Conklin and Dance have the right ideas!
One more costly county goof!
Sure there was plenty of costly man power, permitting, etc. thrown out the window with this charter lease.
Not enough that we all funded the 2 million Ginn hangar and we are all paying for it now, after he flew the coop and left us holding the bag.?
I would like the county to clarify to us all county tax payers, that so called “self sufficient county airport Enterprise funding” because is a large hard pill to swallow. Where the half million from “County Economic Development Funds” comes if not from our pockets for a new airport access in this hard economic times for us all and as described in the county newsletter?:
“Airport Projects. The south entrance road:
The road is being constructed from Belle Terre Boulevard on to Airport property. The project is construction of a 5,600 ft access road to serve the southeast side of the Flagler County Airport. It will provide access to approximately 120 acres of property for industrial and airport development. The
contractor for this project is S.E. Cline Construction. The cost for this project is $1,526,258 (state DOT will provide $1,005,373, Economic Development Fund $500,000, Airport Enterprise Fund $20,939). This project is expected to be completed by Spring of 2013”.
What about using some DOT funds to build walkways aka bike paths along our busy accident prone parkways leading to Town Center where some of our young and old residents have already lost their lives? What about going after Global Outreach for uncompliance of contract…? Because I guess the county airport aka BOCC, had them sign a contract… hope so! Can’t imagine the frustration of those 122 students being scattered allover now after they started in that charter. Naaahhh they are just kids right?
Our private small aircraft airport maybe the second busiest in our country as is said, but also we are the highest unemployment rate county in Fl and probably the nation and sure can’t afford half a million right now. Can the BOCC understand that equation? To me is having the unemployed paying for a new airport access that benefits the wealthy small aircraft owners. If the airport was so proficient in economic industrial development we would not have this unemployment distinguish high rate. Bet that MA Junior Senator and Banking Committee Member, Elizabeth Warren, agrees with me.
More money wasted on the charter school experiment. I wish the government would stop wasting taxpayers money on these charter schools that continue to fail.
For those families looking to keep their kids out of the public schools—Christ The King Preschool and School may have some openings both for this semester and for the coming year. Ages 1-8th Grade! On US 1 just South of Palm Coast Parkway. CTKPalmCoast.com. 386-447-7979
This charter school was a public school. As a parent of a child there I was not trying to keep my child out of the public schools and your comment seems like something akin to a vulture circling. I am proud of the work done by Flagler County Schools. I would think the purpose of a Christian school would be to glorify Christ and not to be an escape valve from public schools.
Glorify Him with your own money.
My son was a student there, and the teachers were amazing. We are heartbroken. My take away from reading this article is that the county was more interested in getting more revenue than in helping start a new successful charter school. This is my favorite quote from Mr. Meeker: “I have a hard time in my own mind thinking that a school at that location is a great idea for a long-term use on a highly valuable piece of property.”
Highly valuable? Pursuing educational excellence and providing new and alternative means of education is an excellent use of county land, and would be the sorts of things that would make Palm Coast more livable and desirable.
The county tried to utilize excess capacity -dealing in good faith with this “unusual” start-up—With an accent on attracting certain types of students, bilingual, internationally focused ??? types may be a small piece of the market to ensure sustainability– Surely, the lack of Private money backing is revealing and simply the basis for closure. The county appears to have tried its best and hoped for a better outcome. Charters are Not necessarily a Panacea to the limitations of our school districts, however, the national trend refutes the experience in Flagler County for some unknown reason(s)
Here is my post from July, when the school was struggling to find teachers and students:
July 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm
Russian required as a second language? That’s dumb.
What about Fl Rep. John Mica…if still in DC as Chairman of the Transportation Committee; instead of asking so many grants for the airport, should request grants for our public roads to improve infrastructure and prevent the tragic end of our resident lives.
Always millions “improving the airport” and sure does not help at all our economic development or finances, as our unemployment rate is stuck in the high numbers. Why is that these fly boys always manage to grab a hold of our taxpayers funds for their private enjoyment. They want another mile of road entrance… then have the rich aircraft owners pay for it! Simply because when we need to fly anywhere we have to drive to Daytona,Orlando or Jacksonville. When our elected ones in this county, will stop funding the rich while denying the middle class taxpayers their services “due to budget constrains?” Can Commissioners McLauging, Revels, Hanns, Meeker and Ericksen answer my question? …and please do not tell us, that was a decision made by others long time ago….
Confidential, while I am inclined to agree with your statement, currently “the rich” are the only people spending money in Palm Coast. They bring in $$$$$$$ and jobs. Last time I looked, unemployed poor people didn’t contribute anything to an economy.
Why was rent so freakin high? If the city/government was so desperate to find tenants why jack up the costs with funky rent spikes and hikes? Plus, the administrators of the school underbudgeted or may be didn’t budget at all. It almost sounds like they were set up to take a fall. It’s the airports fault!! they don’t give new businesses a chance ever since ERAU moved out. Pretty soon the only tenants will be Highjackers and the fire dept but I never go to High Jackers.
Marie-Claire Moreau says
Like when choosing home education, some families choose charters because of dissatisfaction with other area options. I believe it is important for readers to understand that parents at charters are expressing a desire for something innovative, different, providing an alternate perspective or a response to their children not available anywhere else. Let’s not cheer and blame when education fails. How about solving education for everyone?
Could someone please explain to me why we took God out of our school system; but yet we let churches hold services in our schools?
Witchy Mama says
What does this have anything to do with this story? ‘God’ is not in our schools because not every child believes in the same ‘God’ they preach about on Sunday morning. Why force something that in no way benefits their education, on them? Besides, I can guarantee that they do not rent out their facilities for church services for any sort of spiritual reasons. They do it to pay the bills!
johnny taxpayer says
This is sad for the teachers and the students involved. But why do so many write off ALL charter schools based on the very few that fail, yet a great many “traditional” schools fail all the time, and they’re not all lumped in to the same pot? There are a great many very well run and highly effective charter schools in Florida, don’t paint them all with the same brush.
@DW Ferguson. The “national trend refuted” by the Flagler County charters failing performance, is on the eye of the beholder….and will take some statistics research to be proven realistic:
.United States Department of Education study;
In its Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program: Final Report released in 2003, the U.S. Department of Education found that, in the five case study states, charter schools were out-performed by traditional public schools in meeting state performance standards, but noted: “It is impossible to know from this study whether that is because of the performance of the schools, the prior achievement of the students, or some other factor.”
Another failure for Flagler County…Instead of opening Pizza places, banks, liguor stores, and fast food places how about they do something that has positive effects for children. Schools arent big enough so they have portable units, and other schools close down, yet they say the population of Flagler County is growing rapidly. I moved to Palm Coast 6 years ago and I wish I never had. Anything I need is either in Jacksonville, St Augustine or Daytona. This place lacks plenty.
I think county comissioner is responsible for this deals in county.
And they don care obaut kids in county
Monica Campana says
“unemployed poor people didn’t contribute anything to an economy” says so much about our schools too. Public schools work so hard to change the lives of all children including those from impoverished homes and give them all a chance to succeed. Flagler staff works so very hard to make every school a safe learning environment where every kid has a shot at success despite losing funding in paychecks (via pension payments used to fund the state budget deficit) to cutting programs that keep kids engaged in school (like buses for after school programs). Our local school population averages over 60% that qualify for free lunch. I hope our community appreciates the miracle Flagler performs in attaining A’s and B’s in our schools. Scores correlate precisely with the % of free lunch students. Take a look at the state data; consistently 90% free lunch = F and 10% or less free lunch = A. 60% and you should have D schools. Flagler Public schools perform miracles every day. I hope some of those who lost their jobs will be hired soon and that the students and parents are pleasantly surprised by the quality of our public schools. Thanks to all who work for our future.
Public schools vs. Charters–Interesting debate–Why not include Teach for America influences and KIPP–The trend is to augment the public school system with alternatives to the current Union dominated system—There are studies on both sides of the debate–Not willing to concede one over the other- I do know that our schools are woefully unable to bridge the achievement gap that exists across the country…and the students are short changed as they fall behind the more advanced countries of the world !!!
Monica Campana says
Australia’s schools were performing well until testing companies convinced them to adopt US “reforms”. The schools that are performing well globally are 1. only testing their best students or 2. not teaching to tests or 3. have homogeneous populations that pay for mothers or fathers to stay home with babies for the first two years of life. What a nice head start that must be! Compare apples to apples (US students in top 10% income level attending public schools) and US scores are higher in every subject than anyone else’s in the world including those kids in private US schools! Miracles, I tell you. Miracles.
I was a teacher at GOCA, who was let go months ago, I feel for the families and children. Great people. <3
JC ~ I believe you were a great teacher at one of the public schools before GOAC. Best wishes to you. Any school would be lucky to have you!
Thank you Amanda! ;)
$369,569 of our school taxes doled to Global Outreach and out the window, within 5 months!
How come our school board and administration approved such slinky deal for those students. Are we getting those funds back, from this for profit corporation in Jacksonville?
Samuel Smith says
Honestly, that’s not much. How much did facilities cost monthly? How many faculty did they have? What was the monthly expenditure for student supplies, e.g. books and other items? How modern were the classrooms? People forget that education costs real money. Infrastructure and maintenance is expensive, and you have to pay to keep quality teachers. That’s one of the most asinine things about “busting” teacher’s unions using salary as an excuse, by all means bust them over ridiculous demands and the inability to fire crappy teachers but not over money.
If someone paid you 50% of what you were worth you would quickly be looking for another job, so don’t expect them to stick around and work 60 hour weeks at a stressful job for crap pay over some misguided belief that the reward of teaching is enough.
@Witchy Mama, guess I hit a nerve. Your right “God” has nothing to do with this article. But as I remember God wasn’t taught on Sunday morning when I went to school; matter of fact there was no school on Sunday morning. I guess I’m just speaking from a homeowners point of view; in the 40 years that I have been a property owner I have paid over $16,000 to the school system in taxes and I don’t have any children. Back in the day when I went to school, if one misbehaved (right through High School) they were called to the deans office for a spanking. (Whacks) they were called. What happened to all the money that the lottery was supposed to bring to the school system? That was the purpose of starting the lottery in this state. The funds were supposed to go to the school system.Thats back when there was just one drawing every Saturday night. Now there all are kinds of lottery drawings weekly, not to mention the 40 scratch off tickets sold all over the state. Where is all that Money going? Guess I’m just tired of my Tax money going for the school system that isn’t and hasn’t been run properly in decades. Now I’m paying for “free” breakfast and lunches, computers, I-Pads, and soon to be bullet-proof backpacks and armed guards at every school. My wife taught 1st and 2nd grade for 28 years before she passed away, so I am fully aware of how the school system should be run. Charter schools are a waste of taxpayers money., and I don’t believe that Churches should be able to rent our public schools to teach about ANY spiritual values, IF they are paying rent to the school system, the money is going to pay the fines levied by the state for overcrowded classrooms $116,000.00 in Flagler county
be mad at the city says
All I have heard from all you winers is complaints about the charter schools and lumping them all together. I work for both and let me tell you I picked the charter school for my kids. They are not just a number but the teachers really care about the students. Charter schools are not a waste of money and people who say that need to go back to school and learn about them before they open their mouths and spit out stupid things. You people need to focus on the real problem. This school should not have started it started having problems before it was approved. The city in its greed needed someone to rent that spot. 13,500 a month! give me a break. Stop blaming charter schools blame the idiots that approved it and the citys greed
Witchy Mamma says
I’d respond but I think ‘Be Mad At The City’ says it all!!!
@ be mad…is not the city that approved Global Outreach charter but the Flagler County School Board and administrators. Its lease was approved and contracted with Flagler County and Airport. No city had anything to do with it! And we “the whiners” are the tax payers forced funding all these failures including charters. Are you a taxpayer in this county?
Unfortunately, my child goes to a private school in town that is suddenly crying poor…I hope they are not next as well. You know something is wrong when you get frequent emails that tell you they may not make payroll next week unless you pay tuition immediately. They keep pushing for growth, adding staff, classes etc but they need to make cuts, not increase tuition and continue to add on. It looks like public school may be an only option soon.
loved goga it was the best if u guys get the money u need please open back up I loved the teachers they were the best and ms stow u were the best Principal.
Mel Bronson says
“brought on by high rent and additional construction costs” ?????
These allegedly educated people licensed to teach obviously are seriously IGNORANT of the simplest obvious calculation of monthly costs. Rent and “construction” costs (to an existing prime condition building) were well known and could be most easily forseen.
I posit that this entire operation was based on some flimsy operation scheme that was supposed to lead to much more money being donated or funneled to them. Interesting that the so wise and knowledgeable Palm Coast council did not verify the financial soundness of this school before they gave them sweetheart leases.
Guess Palm Coast will have to install many more traffic light cameras to make up for another bone headed financial blunder. More estranged shoppers will result as people avoid Palm Coast.
Oh! But there is a problem. Palm Coast already has erected cameras on every major intersection already!!! What a shame for the poor vampires that occupy the PC council.
Mel Bronson says
More taxpayer money down the toilet. If the government is involved, you know it is going to fail and cost big time.
The most feared words in America:
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”