BRADENTON – At Monday's meeting, the Manatee County School Board was given an update on the status of the troubled Rogers Garden Elementary School. The board heard from citizens who encouraged them to resist closing the nearly brand-new school, despite the poor performance grades it has received from the Florida Department of Education the past two school years.
Opened in 2009, Rogers Garden is ranked among the 100 worst-performing elementary schools in the state, and received an "F" grade for the 2009-2010 school year and a "D" grade for 2011-2012. The school has a high number of minority students, many of whom come from poverty-stricken homes. Rogers Garden has strugged with low enrollment and has had difficulty recruting students from more affluent backgrounds, partly due to its performance grades. It also suffered a mini public-image crisis when an investigation into a derogatory comment posted by a teacher about a student on Facebook was made public.
A presentation on the school's status and the options available under the regulations of the state's education system was given at Monday's meeting by Dr. Pamela Craig, Regional Executive Director of the Florida Department of Education.
Dr. Craig explained that since the school recently moved from an "F" to a "D" school, it is actually ranked a "triple D" school, which means it is tilting on the verge of needing a "Turnaround Option," which would go into effect if Rogers did not raise its performance grade for the current school year.
If such is the case, one of five Turnaround Option plans would go into effect: (1) reassigning students to another school and monitoring their progress; (2) converting the school to a district-managed turnaround school; (3) close and reopen as a charter or multiple charters; (4) contract with an outside entity to operate the school; or a hybrid option, which Dr. Craig said would entail a very structured plan on how the district would change instruction at the school in order to ensure students success.
In Novermber, the board identified converting Rogers to a district-managed turnaround school as its preferred option, which Dr. Craig called the least invasive of the five options. However, the board still has time to change its mind due a new supertintendent taking charge in March.
"But you need to be working toward (your current plan) in the meantime, because what we do know is that you can't wait for school grades to come out at the end of June, and then expect to implement an entire structural change for a school by August 1st," said Dr. Craig, who added that all plans require significant changes in administrative and instructional staffing.
A host of citizens came forward during public comments to address their concerns about the school, with many calling on the board to stay on course with the proposed option, instead of choosing an option that would close the school as it currently exists.
"It's unacceptable to close this school out," one concerned citizen said, adding that he felt the board had not done enough to notify the community of its plans for the school, and that a community meeting was needed to address that issue.
Longtime school board watchdog Linda Schaich also commented on the issue, taking the position that the school ought to be closed due to its low enrollment and the high amount of funding it receives from the district.
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