Monday, October 29, 2012

Orlando Charter School Scandal

Controversy is brewing in Orlando with a charter school principal who received a huge payout after the district closed the school for poor performance. Here is an excerpt from the Orlando Sentinel article:

The principal of a failed Orange County charter school took home a check for more than $500,000 as the school closed down in June and is still being paid thousands of dollars a month to wrap up the school's affairs. 
The check for $519,453.36 in taxpayer money was cut to Kelly Young, principal of NorthStar High School, two days after the Orange County School Board accepted the school's plan to close in lieu of being shut down for poor performance. 
The payment, which was authorized by the charter school's independent board, appears to be legal.
But Orange County School Board chairman Bill Sublette is outraged at the payout, calling it "a shameful abuse of public tax dollars" and "immoral." 
State Sen. David Simmons called for a thorough investigation. "There's no room for abuse by charter or traditional schools," Simmons said. "All it does is hurt children."

Leftover money from a charter school that shuts down, minus grant and capital dollars, are supposed to go back to school districts upon closure. 
NorthStar, which had a balance of $717,293 at the end of the 2011 school year, has not turned over any money to Orange County Public Schools. 
A statement provided to the district by the charter school showed a balance of less than $10,000 on June 29. 
Young's payout was based on a contract that called for her to be paid about $305,000 per year through 2014, even though the school's contract was up for renewal in 2012. She was paid 85 percent of her remaining contract. 
Her yearly pay and bonuses to run the school, which served about 180 largely at-risk students in east Orange County, was higher than that of Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of the 181,000-student Orange County Public Schools. 
The highest-paid principal at a traditional Orange school this year made $116,565.
I know I should not use this story to paint all charter schools with a big brush, but reformers and others who hate public schools don't seem to play by those rules. This seems to be a trend amongst many charter schools. This school has 180 students, yet the principal was contracted to make $305,000 per year through 2014. The superintendent (whose receives criticism over her salary) oversees 181,000 students and makes about $230,000 per year. High school principals in the area who oversee anywhere from 2,000 - 4,000 students max out at $116,000. This is absolutely ridiculous, and it is a shame that school districts are not able to reign in on these abuses before they spin out of control. 

The really sad thing about this story is that it will most likely remain a local news story. If this were a traditional public school, it would be all over the national news. It will be up to bloggers and commenters on the internet to spread stories such as these to inform the public of what is really going on in this evolving world of education reform. 

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