City officials, dismayed by low test scores at West Palm Beach schools, are trying to establish a city-run charter school.
Commissioners held a workshop Wednesday to lay out the parameters for the school.
The city must apply to the Palm Beach County School District by Aug. 1. There is a 19-step application process and the school district must approve it if the city meets all the guidelines.
The plan is for an elementary school that would open in the fall of 2014 beginning with Kindergarten through 3rd grade while adding a 4th grade in 2015 and a 5th grade in 2016.
“When you look at these reading scores, 3rd grade reading scores, 8th grade reading and math scores, they’re totally unacceptable,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said. “That’s why we want do a charter school.”
Only a handful of cities in the state run their own charter school.
City-run charter schools enroll students based upon a lottery, reflecting the racial and ethnic balance of public schools in the same school district.
Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell has spent years advocating for one in West Palm Beach. While it’s undetermined yet whether the school would be in a new building or an existing facility, Mitchell said no money would come out of the city’s general fund.
“It’s just the city stepping up to take responsibility, leadership,” Mitchell said. “What we will be able to do once it’s established is reach out and get support from the community, from the private sector.”
Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson, who attended Wednesday’s workshop, said she’s happy about the proposed charter school and agreed with Muoio that reading scores need to improve. “I’m excited there’s someone else looking at the data and saying although we’re an A-rated school district, we’re not good enough,” she said.
But Robinson, who said she’s offered Muoio help, said there’s a lot of work to be done to successfully open and run a charter school. “I think that maybe the city commission thinks it’s easier than what it is,” she said.
Mitchell said the city would have an open bidding process to select an operator to run the school. The city is working with consultant Mike Levinson, a former city manager in Coral Springs who helped bring a charter school there in the 1990s, on the application and eventual bidding process.
“It’ll be a city run charter school but we will bring in outside management, private sector management, to run it on behalf of the city,” she said.