BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Frustrated Legacy Academy parents filed out of a Brevard County School Board meeting Tuesday night following the board’s decision to begin the process of closing the embattled Titusville charter school, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.
The move came on the heels of an Oct. 21 report by School District auditors RSM US alleging a number of problems at the school, including evidence of financial mismanagement, declining student performance and violations of federal education standards and laws regulating charter school governance.
Legacy officials have disputed the findings, calling much of the report “lies” and painting it as the latest in a string of biased attempts by the district to shut down the school.
The board expressed grave concerns about the school Tuesday, voting unanimously to issue a required 90-day notice it planned to terminate Legacy’s charter with the School District.
In particular, board members pointed to testing data showing a drop in state-mandated proficiencies between 2017 and 2018, with a majority of students failing basic standards in reading, math and science.
Legacy currently enrolls about 260 students between kindergarten and sixth grade.
“I have no doubt there are children in that school and employees in that school that love the environment ... but those numbers are astonishingly drastic,” Tina Descovich said.
"There's no great service, long-term, going on for the children in that school," she added.
Misty Belford, who represents Legacy's district on the board, said she was concerned the school's board of directors had failed to take responsibility for a host of recurring problems since the school opened in 2017, including failures to document the use of public funds and to meet federal education standards for students with disabilities.
“As much as I am probably the most anti-school closure person,” Belford said. “At this point I can no longer advocate for continuing to allow this to go on.”
The move dismayed some parents, about two dozen of whom showed up in support of the school.
Andres Berrio, who has four boys in the school, said he was pleased with their teachers and worried about the impact the potential closure could have on his kids.
“One of my children specifically deals with attention deficit disorder,” Berrio said. “So uprooting and moving him over is just causing more challenges that we have to encounter.”
Berrio expressed concerns about the accuracy and wording of the RSM report, which he said seemed calculated to present the school in the worst possible light.
“It almost seems like their conclusion was drawn before the report was even prepared,” he told board members.
The sentiment echoed prior statements from Legacy board members.
Flanked by the school's counsel, Miami Beach attorney Jonathan Clark, Legacy's interim principal and co-founder Charlene Montford said she was "disappointed, but not surprised" by the board's decision.
“This is Brevard County(.) ... They have a history of this kind of behavior,” Montford said outside the meeting.
On Clark's advice, Montford declined to elaborate, though Legacy directors have accused the district of unfair treatment and said they were the target of biased attempts to shut down the school.
"There's been all kind of innuendo about they're going to close us down," Legacy vice chair Napoleon Carroll previously told FLORIDA TODAY.
"We had a principal that's no longer with us. They specifically told her she needed to go find another job because they weren't going to quit until they close us down."
Carroll and other board members characterized many of the RSM findings as "lies."
“This environment, they can just say whatever they want to say and there’s no repercussions,” Carroll said. “If we really had the kind of problems they say we have, we’d have been closed down long before now.”
Parents are scrambling after Legacy Charter School in Titusville failed city and county health inspections. The school board is now considering terminating the school's charter. WKMG
Legacy has been issued termination notices twice before, once before the school opened in 2017 after failing to obtain necessary documentation and again in April 2018 for financial troubles and problems implementing its special needs programs. Both were eventually rescinded.
Legacy officials have 14 days following the issue of the termination notice to file an appeal, which would be held in a formal hearing presided over by an impartial administrative law judge.
Montford said it was her intent to challenge the decision.
"We're talking with our attorneys about an aggressive defense," she said, adding she was confident they could meet all of the district's complaints.
Should the school eventually close, the School District will have to decide whether to take over direct management of the facility or send students back to public schools in their home districts.