A West Palm Beach charter school that the Palm Beach School District is trying to close has appealed, arguing the school district has no right to shut its doors because the district didn’t do enough to help the school.
“Charter School Students are Public School Students like everyone else, and Palm Beach Public Schools has an obligation to them, no less than to any other student,” wrote Christopher Norwood, consultant for the Excel Leadership Academy in an e-mail detailing Excel’s appeals arguments to fend off its closing. “They are responsible for providing, operating, controlling and supervising all free public schools within its boundaries.”
The school board voted 5-1 on March 6 to close Excel starting next school year. A district report recommending the closure cited 13 alleged failures by the school to comply with state rules and its charter contract with the school district. The alleged Excel failures ranged from academic problems such as not having all the required core subjects for a reading program to having “deteriorating financial conditions,” with a $38,000 deficit found by auditors.
Excel filed its appeal on Friday stating that it disputed the facts of each of the alleged failures cited by the district “in whole or in part.” The appeal also argued that the school district is obligated to provide support and services to charter schools under state law and additional support to low performing charter schools under the district’s own policies.
The appeal also argues that the school district is not properly utilizing the fee of 5 percent of its state funding that Excel and other charter schools pay to the district for certain administrative and educational support. It asks a state administrative law judge to issue an order recommending the school district keep Excel open and pay its legal fees for the appeal.
“Not only do we dispute the grounds the School District asserts for non-renewal. We also dispute the District’s process for review,” Norwood said. “It was done in haste, under conditions where the District is clearly either misinformed or negligent in its understanding of its statutory role in providing administrative and support services.”
District Senior Counsel Bruce Harris said the district does not comment on pending litigation. He said the state would set a date for the appeal hearing within 60 days.