By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
The school board approved two charter schools' plans to improve their performance at the board's regular meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 23.
"Essentially, there was new legislation that went into effect in August that requires charter schools that received an F the year before to do an action plan," Dr. Alicia Parker, assistant director, program accountability, said in an interview after the meeting.
The Florida Department of Education gave Fs to Boston Avenue Charter School, DeLand, and Burns Science and Technology Charter School, Oak Hill. They were the only two Volusia County schools to receive the state's failing grade. It was mostly due to poor performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. This is Boston Avenue's second F. In 2011, the state gave it a D. The year before it had an F. This is Burns' first year of state grading.
Earlier this year, the school board refused to renew Boston Avenue's charter. The school and district are in litigation as it fights to stay open.
At the last meeting, Judy Conte, school board chair, said she disliked Boston Avenue's chosen corrective actions, but voted to accept them. Ms. Conte said she was particularly skeptical about the school's new director, Nichole Richards, who recently ran a school that got Fs from the state.
"I'm confused - hiring a director from a school that got two Fs," Ms. Conte said at the meeting. "Maybe you can help me with the logic?"
Until recently, Ms. Richards was principal at Heritage Academy in Bunnell. The Flagler County School Board closed it earlier this year, because of failing state grades. School Management Solutions ran that school and it runs Boston Avenue.
Ms. Parker said hiring a new director was one of four corrective actions the school could take under the new state laws. She said the school board couldn't decide how good the choice was; it could only acknowledge the corrective action was done.
"Our school board doesn't have the authority to approve or deny the actions," she said. "They could only reject them if they didn't meet the nine requirements, or four corrective actions."
Burns' improvement requirements were less severe, because it only has one F. The principal, Jan McGee, attributed the school's low FCAT scores to teachers' unfamiliarity with the test.
"We got the game," she told school board members. "We're going to make sure the kids pass it - even though that test will be obsolete soon," she said at the meeting.
In the interview after the meeting, Ms. Parker said Burns and Boston Avenue are implementing more teacher-training, which may include tapping into the district's training programs.
Additionally, Ms. Parker said she believes both understand and are responding to the responsibility added by the schools' low state grades.
"I think both schools understand the stakes are high, our district is watching, and there's accountability," she said.
Neither school responded to requests for interviews by press time.