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Manatee School Board Approves Collegiate Charter School


MANATEE -- A charter school that allows students to graduate with both a high school diploma and a college associate's degree -- the first in Manatee County -- is scheduled to open this fall.

In a meeting Monday, Manatee County school board members approved a five- year contract with the State College of Florida, the last legal piece in allowing the sixth- to 12th-grade charter school to operate. The SCF Collegiate School's application, however, was approved in January. The board voted 4-0 for the contract; School Board Member Walter Miller was absent.

The new school would give enrollment preference to children of SCF employees, and consideration to students who would be the first in their family to attend college, officials said.

The school has already enrolled 132 students for the 2010-11 school year, said Linda Benware, SCF Collegiate School's head of school. 64 percent of the students are first in their families to attend college and 33 percent are minority students. Seven of those students are children of SCF employees. The school will start by offering sixth and seventh-grade classes.

"We have more applicants than spaces," she said. Excess students are placed on a "random" list.

Teachers of the new school would be hired by SCF, said Verdya Bradley, Manatee school's supervisor of innovative programs. The school will be funded through the district, like other public K-12 schools.
The SCF Collegiate School will be the district's 10th charter school. The district has eight this school year, and officials have approved contracts for two more to start in the fall.

Board members also agreed to participate in Florida's application to the federal Race to the Top grant, which is a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If the application is successful, Florida public schools would receive between $350 million to $700 million over four years. Manatee's estimated portion is between $2.5 to $5 million over four years.

Some board members were wary that some provisions in the grant may end up costing more than what the district will receive. Two Manatee residents urged board members to vote against it, as they think it will whittle the board's local authority.

Superintendent Tim McGonegal assured board members that the provisions of the contract allow the district to back out at any time.

"If you have concerns about moving forward, we can have an item on agenda now from 120 days," he said. "We can always say no later. If we say no now, we can't jump in later."

During the meeting, the school board also:

  • Set a public hearing to discuss changes to the district's code of student conduct -- a document that lists student rights, dress code and other policies governing student behavior -- on June 28. The school board updates the document each year. In the past, such changes have drawn heated debates among students, parents and community civic groups. For the 2010-11 school year, school district officials added dress code guidelines for girls and a section on "school bus discipline." The proposed changes listed the disciplinary meaures students would face if they misbehave on a school bus. Elementary students would be kicked off the bus for the rest of the school year if they committed more than six offences and secondary students after the fifth offence.
  • Renewed multi-year contracts with the Manatee County Girls Club, Inc., the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch, Inc. and the Palmetto Charter School, Inc.

The meeting's complete agenda could be viewed at the Manatee County school board's website.


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