Published On: Fri, Apr 9th, 2010

School District may squelch Boca High conversion plan, says consultant

 

By Dale M. King

BOCA RATON – If a plan to convert Boca Raton Community High School to a charter school passes muster with local officials, parents and the teachers union, it may be killed by the Palm Beach County School District.

 

Fred Schwartz, chairman of a feasibility committee

That’s the opinion of Fred Schwartz, chairman of a feasibility committee that has been studying the concept. He recently told the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations that “the district is opposed to it.  The district will probably find a reason not to approve it.”

But he did say an appeals process exists, and noted that every legitimate charter appeal made to date has been approved.

The proposal to turn Boca High and, eventually, all 10 of Boca Raton schools, into charter schools, has met with mixed reaction even within the city limits.  Schwartz said teachers are concerned about things like wages, seniority, tenure and other benefits.  The School District is dead set against it because it would funnel all state aid money to each charter school rather than that split it with the district.

Even the Federation could not reach consensus on whether to support the plan, which has already gotten the OK from a School Advisory Committee and the City Council.

Schwartz explained that the School District “has been telling teachers to worry about salaries and pensions, health benefits and seniority.”

The consultant said he recently had breakfast with Schools Superintendent Dr. Art Johnson. “I asked him if he would support it and he said no,” said Schwartz. “He said if all the schools in Boca concert, the district would lose $25 million in administration money. He said it cause a domino effect.”

Schwartz said the schools chief “is trying to use money and power to stop it.”

He also said the Classroom Teachers Association also fears the impact of switching to charter schools. But he emphasized said teachers will not lose seniority, pensions or health insurance.  In fact, he added, teacher salaries should rise, but they cannot be reduced.

The conversion of Boca High would be more of a fiscal and administrative change than one affecting the physical plant.  Charter schools are financed by taxpayers, but are free from most district oversight.

He said the school would operate under the jurisdiction of a volunteer, appointed committee. Teachers and educational staff would decide what and how to teach rather than have it imposed by the district.

Members of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Association listen intently to a talk about converting Boca Raton High School to a charter school.

Schwartz said the SAC has decided to draft a preliminary application to convert the educational center into a charter school.

A 501c3 nonprofit has already been created, Schwartz said. “That will be the entity that the SAC will utilize for the charter conversion.”

It must be approved by a simple majority of teachers and the union before it goes to the district for its vote.  He said Boca’s School Board representative, Frank Barbieri, endorses the proposal, but apparently some other members don’t.

Parents of Boca students began moving in the direction of a charter conversion months ago after an abortive attempt by the School District to impose what they called “one size fits all” educational initiatives on Boca’s A-rated schools.  The mandates would have included the removal of traditional one-teacher classrooms and imposition of new homework rules in elementary schools.

In reaction to the rancor, the Council established a committee to study the possibility of charter school conversions and see if they would make sense from education and financial points of view.

Even though the district dumped its plans for new educational initiatives back in January, Boca officials have moved ahead with the charter plan.

Among others backing the proposal are Mayor Susan Whelchel, House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and Boca High Principal Geoff McKee.

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  1. boca spin doctor says:

    Half of this is truth and half fiction. If Boca lets their charge by people who are only partially informed and operating in ignorance, they will fall flat on their face. This should be interesting.

  2. Silvia Hall says:

    boca spin doctor:

    Could you be more specific? I am trying to find answers but I feel that we are not being told the whole story. Thanks,

  3. it's obvious says:

    The community in Boca wants to pull their education out ahead of what the District prescribes for them. They want to be free of the dictates that are required for 100, 000 students when they only have 3000. I think this will be a step forward for our kids, and yes it will create a domino effect, when parents see how great it is , and teachers love going to work, and get paid more to boot Of course Dr. Johnson is against it, it takes money, power and numbers away from him. It makes him look bad, to lose the highest performing hs in his District. The teachers have nothing to lose, bc as it stands now, they have a contract that is completely ignored by the District.

  4. Mike T. says:

    I recently heard Board Member Barberi speak at Boca High and he said that he had not made a decision on whether he supports the charter conversion. He said the most important factor is whether it will benefit the students. Isn’t that the only factor? Barberi is right. Ask for all the data. If it will benefit the kids, then the question is answered. If it won’t, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

  5. Michael McCurdy says:

    Anyone thought to take a minute and study the success (or lack thereof) of other charters in this District? If Boca believes this is the answer, it has missed the question. Charters still must make progression as defined by Florida Standards and Benchmarks. Teachers are not as free as some think to determine curriculum as long as State or Federal monies are a part of the school’s budget. What about the mega expenses generated by ESE, At-Risk and other special populations? Do you really think the money, expertise and willingness to serve those children will be there? Take a deep breath Boca and think this though carefully. And, have a look at the other charters. You might not like what you find.