09-08-2009 Regular School Board Meeting
Agenda Item #36


Title
Somerset Academy - Palm Bay Charter Application

Discussion

In accordance to S.1002.33(6), Florida Statutes, a Sponsor shall by majority vote approve or deny an application no later than 60 calendar days after the application to the Office of School Choice on August 3, 2009.

Copies of the Somerset Academy - Palm Bay charter application were distributed to the Charter Application Review Team for evaluation.  The Charter Application Review Team met on August 14, 2009 to discuss the application.  On August 18, 2009, the Charter Application Review Team interviewed representatives from Somerset Academy - Palm Bay and Academica, the Education Services Provider (ESP).  The interview provided the Charter Application Review Team with the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification regarding concerns identified in the application.  The Charter Application Review Team met again on August 21, 2009 and determined that the Somerset Academy - Palm Bay application should not be recommended to the Board for approval.

The attached documentation reflects an extensive review of the Somerset Academy - Palm Bay charter application.  It is recommended that the charter application be denied for the following statutory reasons:

  1. Failure to provide adequate goals and objectives for improving student learning and measuring improvement in accordance to S.1002.33(6)(a)(3), Florida Statutes.
  2. Failure to provide an adequate annual financial plan for each year requested by the charter for operation of the school for up to 5 years.  The proposed budgetary plan must contain anticipated fund balances based on revenue projections, a spending plan based on projected revenues and expenses, and a description of the controls that will safeguard finances and projected enrollment trends in accordance to S.1002.33(6)(a)(5), Florida Statutes.  Pursuant to S.1002.33(6)(b)(2), Florida Statutes, an application for a charter school shall include a full accounting of expected assets, a projection of expected sources and amounts of income, including income derived from projected student enrollments and from community support, and an expense projection that includes full accounting of  the costs of operation, including start-up costs in order to ensure fiscal responsibility.
  3. Failure to comply with S.1002.33(10)(b), Florida Statutes, which stipulates that a charter school shall enroll an eligible student who submits a timely application, unless the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or building.  In such case, all applications shall have an equal chance of being admitted through a random selection process.  Somerset Academy - Palm Bay requires parents to sign a Parent Involvement Contract upon admission to the school, which requires parents to provide transportation for their children.  This stipulation prohibits a fair and equitable admissions policy that is in compliance with statutes pertaining to civil rights, including S.1000.05, Florida Statutes.  In addition, the parental stipulation is in violation of S.1002.33(20)(c), Florida Statutes that mandates that transportation of charter school students shall be provided by the charter school consistent with the requirements of subpart I.E of Chapter 1006 and S.1012.45, Florida Statutes.  Transportation may not be a barrier to equal access for all students residing within a reasonable distance (2 to 4 miles) of the charter school.
  4. Failure to meet applicable laws regarding civil rights in accordance to S.1002.33(9)(e), Florida Statutes.  The applicant states that students who receive three (3) Out-of-School Suspensions (OSS) will meet with the School Board of Directors for possible withdrawal from school.  In accordance to the charter contract for Brevard Public Schools, a charter school may not arbitrarily dismiss students.  The applicant may dismiss a student during the school year by recommending expulsion to the School Board of Brevard County.
  5. Failure to demonstrate how the governing body shall continuing oversight of Somerset Academy - Palm Bay in accordance to S.1002.33(9)(i), Florida Statutes.  The Somerset Academy, Inc., governing entity, will conduct quarterly meetings in south Florida.  The applicant states on Page 84 of the application that the last step in resolving disputes between parents and the School is for the parent to state concerns at a scheduled Governing Board meeting.  The issue is two-fold:  1) the parent must travel to south Florida to voice such a concern and 2) due to the fact that the Governing Board schedules quarterly meetings, the parent would be unable to resolve the conflict in a timely manner.  The Application Review Team received contradicting information at the interview conducted on August 18, 2009 from representatives of Somerset Academy, Inc. and Academica, the Education Services Provider (ESP).  The application specifies that Somerset Academy, Inc. (Miami) is the legal governing entity of the charter school.  The representatives stated that the parents could share their concerns with the School Advisory Council, which would serve as the local governing board.  In return, the ESP coordinator would share identified issues with Somerset Academy, Inc. (Miami).  The issue is two-fold:  1) The School Advisory Council duties are not defined to serve as a local governing board for a charter school and 2) it would be difficult for the Somerset Academy, Inc. to resolve identified concerns in this manner by operating in the "Sunshine" since it meets quarterly by definition of its bylaws.  The applicant's conflicting information in defining the governing structure for Somerset Academy - Palm Bay demonstrates the lack of Somerset Academy, Inc. to exercise continuing oversight of the charter school.

For the reasons stated above and the specific concerns identified in the supporting charter application evaluation document, the Somerset Academy - Palm Bay Charter application is not being recommended for approval.



Recommendation
The recommendation is to deny the approval of the charter application for Somerset Academy - Palm Bay.

Meeting Date(s)
Information - 9/8/2009
Consent after Information9/22/2009

Authority for Action
1002.33(6), Florida Statutes

Involves Expenditure of Funds Directly in the Classroom
No

Source of Funding
Agenda Item will not Require the Expenditure of Funds

FY
Amount
Budgeted
Fund
Cost Center
Project
Function
Object
Program

Contact

Vicki Mace, Director of School Choice - x395




Attachment:  Overall Summary.pdf
Attachment:  I AcademicDesign Somerset Academy - Palm Bay.pdf
Attachment:  II Organizational Plan Somerset Academy - Palm Bay.pdf
Attachment:  III Business Plan - Facilities Secured.pdf