During the April 27th Leon County School Board (LCSB) meeting, Superintendent Rocky Hanna added an item to the agenda related to the review of the Red Hills Academy Charter School Application.
After extensive deliberation, the Board voted against the review team recommendation for approval and sided with Superintendent Hanna’s recommendation to deny the application.
The vote was 3-2. LCSB members Alva Striplin, Daryl Jones & Rosanne Wood voted for denial and members Joy Bowen and Dee Dee Rasmussen voted to accept the application.
School Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen, who supported the application, contended the application had been in the Board’s possession since February 1st and the first time it had been presented to the Board was April 26, 2021. The timing only allowed for a 24-hour period for the Board to decide the fate of the application and provided no time to discus any possible changes with the applicant. Rasmussen argued that the Board should have considered the application a month ago.
The Red Hills Academy Charter School is a not-for-profit corporation, created to serve grades K-5. The proposed location of the charter school is 3551 Austin Davis Boulevard, near Mahan Dr. and Capital Circle N.E.
The Red Hills Board members plan to offer a small school atmosphere with only three classrooms in each grade level, with less than 200 students during the first year. Their plan is to allow for a more intimate setting for students and teachers to engage in a more frequent one-on-one instruction and learning.
A primary focus of the school and faculty is a second language course of study, to prepare the students for communicating in a second language and discovering and understanding other cultures.
Red Hills projected student body is expected to include “approximately 64% Minority Students, approximately 44% Eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRL) Program, approximately 2.8% English Language Learners (ELLs), and approximately 17% Exceptional Student Education (ESEs). These numbers are based on a student population within 3.5 miles of the school’s location.
On February 1, 2021, the Board received the application by the Red Hills Academy Charter School. The Board had 90 days to review the application and discus any issues.
According to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michelle Gayle, the application was distributed to the review team members by February 5, 2021. The team reviewed the laws/statutes for charter schools using the Florida Charter School Application Evaluation Instrument and were responsible for evaluating the application in its entirety.
The review team held two meetings to discuss the application on March 5 and March 11, 2021. On March 24, 2021, a final meeting was held, where the Red Hills Academy board members were also present. The committee members had formulated over 100 questions and concluded the final meeting with an approval recommendation with conditions. Out of the 19 members, 11 voted for approval of the charter school and eight voted to deny the application.
According to the Board members on Tuesday night, there was an extensive conversation during the Monday night School Board Agenda Review meeting, where many concerns about Red Hills were discussed.
Rosanne Wood, a School Board member, pointed out her concerns about the school’s inadequate budget, the length of the student waiting list, and if the school will be able to meet the requirement for a 64% minority student body population. Furthermore, Wood noted the school is unable to provide transportation, thus limiting access to potential students.
Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen disagreed with denying the application. She felt strongly that if it is denied and the application is appealed the Board will look “ridiculous, with the underlying record upon which it looks like we didn’t do our job.”