PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. – The future of Legacy Academy Charter School in Port St. John is uncertain after the Brevard County School Board voted to issue a letter of termination to the school.
Legacy Academy, which opened this past fall and enrolls more than 200 students, will have to close in 90 days unless the school challenges the decision or can prove that all of the problems have been fixed. The school has 14 days to file appeal to discuss the allegations at a formal hearing.
Leaders of Legacy Academy said they are addressing the district's concerns now and hope to avoid escalating the situation to a formal hearing, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
A large group of parents attended Tuesday night's School Board meeting and begged board members to give the school another chance. They brought their children who were still wearing their dark-purple uniform Polo shirts with the Legacy symbol embroidered on the chest.
Bryan Freeman told the board how his two boys struggled at the district's traditional schools. They used to get D's and F's on their report cards, got in trouble for being disruptive and needed tutors to keep up with the rest of the class, he said. At Legacy, they're excelling, he added.
"If we lose this ... I would be forced to home-school," Freeman told the board.
Board members unanimously decided to issue a letter of termination to Legacy Academy after the school district complied hundreds of pages detailing problems at the school. The district alleges that Legacy Academy, a school for grades kindergarten through sixth, has employed non-certified teachers, does not have the necessary supports for special-needs students, has been operating without basic curriculum materials and because of poor money management is in a "financial emergency."
Leaders from Legacy Academy argue all of the problems have been corrected or are in the process of being fixed, and that many of the allegations against the school are not true. They presented their own letter to the School Board prior to Tuesday's meeting, although it was not clear if they board had reviewed it, refuting all of the district's accusations.
According to the school's attorneys and governing board, the school is now projecting a surplus, only employs certified teachers and has in place the curriculum and special-needs program legally required. The school included photocopies of all of the teacher's certificates.
The school has also decided to search for a new principal, at the recommendation of the current principal who helped open the school, Charlene Montford.
"I can tell you that our first year has been a significant challenge for us," admitted Napoleon Carroll, chairman of the school's governing board, adding, "All we ask is that you give us a chance."
Nevertheless, the School Board issued the letter of termination, not with intentions to close the school, but as "part of the governance process to get a plan of action in front of us," School Board chair John Craig said.
"I don’t believe there's anyone up here that wants to close Legacy," board member Misty Belford, who represents North Brevard, said. "I want to assure you that regardless of what happens here tonight, I don’t want you all to walk out of here tonight, as teachers or as parents, and assume that your school will be closed in 90 days."
Superintendent Desmond Blackburn apologized to the families who he said have been put in the position of fighting for their school, but added, "the deficiencies that have been identified have been significant."
He said if Legacy Academy leaders are correct in their argument that all of the issues have been fixed or are going to be fixed, "we shouldn’t ever, ever be here again."
Legacy Academy has faced closure once before. Prior to the start of the school year when the school planned on opening, the school district raised concerns after the school still did not have a certificate of occupancy, proper health insurance and had not passed required health inspections. Just 10 days before children were set to start school, parents panicked that Legacy Academy may not be able to open.
The school was able to fix everything and opened on time.