Charter Schools boosting police presence

Connecticut’s Sandy Hook tragedy is prompting schools to rethink security procedures.

Charter School administrators across the state are rethinking security procedures and protocols resulting from an added emphasis on child safety following Conneticut’s Sandy Hook tragedy.
Although charter schools receive state or federal funds passed through local districts, in many cases, the charter schools operate in leased facilities owned by private interests or have built on non-district owned land.  As such, many local policy agency may not be required to regularly patrol school facilities.
The Palm Beach post recently reported on the diverse approaches area charter schools are implementing to boost security and increase policy presence in charter schools.


“I’m changing a lot of things at my school,” Onori said at the small, charter elementary. She ran a “code red” emergency drill with students and Boynton Beach police officers Tuesday in response to the shooting that killed 26 students and school employees in Newtown, Conn.

While the Palm Beach County School District police department touted its increased security at district-run schools last week, officials running the district’s 40 charter schools — which are responsible for providing their own security — said they’re also reviewing how they keep their students safe.

Ann Levene-Eisenberg, executive director of the Palm Beach School for Autism charter in suburban Lantana, said the Newtown shooting led her to add an intercom system to the lock and buzzer to get into the main office at her new campus. That way, she said, the front office receptionist can talk to whoever wants to enter the campus, and can hit a panic button to alert police in an emergency.

Charter schools receive taxpayer money, but School District Police Chief Lawrence Leon said his officers do not patrol at most of the schools because many are not on district-owned property. Inlet Grove and South Tech high schools are the only charters that pay the school district to provide police officers.

At Quantum High School in Boynton Beach, Principal Joy Hicks said her school pays to have its own security guards and uses metal detectors — a feature not seen at any district-run schools….

More at District’s charter schools taking varied approaches to reviewing, upgrading … – Palm Beach Post

Choosing the Right Type of School for Your Child

An increasing trend finds more and more parents are seeking alternatives to the long standing tradition of a public school education for their children.  Over crowding.  Reduced funding.  Poor academic standards.  It’s no wonder that parents are reconsidering their neighborhood public school. In fact,  many parents now report that location is secondary to quality, programs and academic standards when choosing the right school for their children.  There are now 7 common alternatives to public schools.  In this guest post by Brandy Stoner, we explore the 8 common academic institutions charged with educating our nations young.


Choosing the Right Type of School for Your Child
By Brandy Stoner

There are many important decisions a parent must make about the lives of their children, not the least of which is choosing the right kind of school for them to attend for their elementary and secondary education.  There are many different types of schools available to children these days, including public, private, religious, magnet, and charter schools, as well as military academies. Home-schooling or Alternative Schools may also be an option for you.

When trying to determine which school is best for the educational and social needs of the child, there are a few factors parents should consider in order to make their final decision the best one.

Public Schools

A public school education is one which takes some criticism now and again.  However, there are a large number of excellent public schools available to kids these days and the true nature of a public school should be judged on an individual basis and not as a whole.  When determining if public school is the right place for one’s child, a few factors should be considered.

Some of these factors include student/teacher ratio, total number of students, condition of the facilities, location of the school, test scores, graduation rate, and more.  By looking into these aforementioned factors, parents will get a good glimpse at the school as a whole and be better able to determine if a particular public school is right for their child.

Private Schools

For those parents who are considering private school for their children, these types of schools must also be reviewed. Some things to look at with regard to potential private schools include tuition amount, student/teacher ratio, donation requirements, test scores, location of the school, and activities available to the students.  Although some may think that all private schools provide children with an excellent education, this is not always the case, and private schools should be reviewed just as carefully as public schools are considered.

Religious Schools

Although most private schools have a religious affiliation, there is a difference between a school that is religious in nature and a parochial private school. There are schools that are accredited that are run through Protestant, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches, and perhaps others, that are offered to members of the church or denomination.

They might require donations instead of tuition, per se. Because not all the teachers are certified – many are educated church members or those with a heart for children but no post-secondary education – these schools are a bit like group home-schooling.

If you would like to keep the focus of your child’s education on lessons that are in relation to the doctrine or theology of your church or denomination, a small school with a religious focus may be just the type of school to meet your needs.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are part of the public school system. According to recent Supreme Court legislation, they are no longer allowed to base admission decisions even partially on racial quotas. A magnet school has an application and selection process, usually by a board that consists of various administrators and department heads. Students that are exceptional in their studies, active in the community, especially talented at athletics, etc., are most likely to be accepted and be successful at a magnet school.

It also helps if your student wishes to pursue a course of study (and shows some promise in it) that can only be found in your district at that particular magnet school. Many magnet schools have a particular “magnet” focus, such as languages, the arts, or sciences. Students are required to maintain minimum grade point averages and behavior standards in order to continue enrollment in a magnet school environment. Many public schools that consider themselves to be college preparatory academies have taken their schedules and structure from the magnet school model.

Charter Schools

Parents may also consider sending kids to a charter school in the area.  Charter schools are ones which operate on a charter established by a granting body and outside group.  This type of tax-supported school is favored by some, as it can teach kids with a varying curriculum in mind.  In other words, the curriculum does not have to follow the same type of program as that which is carried out by private school and public school teachers.

Charter schools operate in a way so that they can further various goals which they feel to be important to the students but that do are not necessarily in keeping with what the local and state governments require of other schools as far as outcome-based programs and initiatives.

Some of the things which parents should consider as they look into charter schools include curriculum set up by the school, student/teacher ratio and test scores.  Charter schools are extremely specialized ones, which means they may be perfect for one student but not at all a good fit for another

Home Schools or Home Tutoring

There are two types of home-schooling options: Actual home-schooling, which is often a situation in which the parent is her children’s teacher, or in which several parents cooperatively teach each other’s children, and home tutoring, which is something that is set up within the public school system, usually for children or teens with physical or mental disabilities or severe behavioral issues.

Whereas home tutoring usually requires the recommendation of a doctor, home-schooling is an option that is open to anyone who is approved by a home-schooling association and can afford the fees and curriculum (which in some cases, can cost as much as a low-cost private school). If there is a teacher in the family or a gifted child that will greatly benefit from one-on-one attention and “real-life” learning in their area of interest, home-school may be the right choice.

One benefit of the choice of home-schooling is that the social pressures of out-of-home schooling are greatly reduced through home-schooling.

Alternative Schools

Although alternative schools tend to get a “bad rap” as day care for the drug addicts, delinquents, and pregnant teens of the high school spectrum, there are certain advantages to alternative schools that are often overlooked.

Firstly, if your teenager is “causing trouble” at the school that he or she regularly attends, or is pregnant and needing to get a high school diploma in the next 36 to 40 weeks, consider that the social environment at the school in your district may not be a positive one. Alternative schools provide an environment of discipline, encouragement, and personal responsibility.

Secondly, alternative schools are also an option for students who are overachievers, or simply bored with how long it takes to receive a high school diploma at most public schools. Students who attend alternative schools are often able to accelerate the pace at which they can complete the credits required for high school graduation, and begin their journey through college around the time they start to drive.

Military Schools

There was a time when many military schools or boarding schools were somewhere that parents sent misbehaving children who would benefit from the structure and discipline. Still others were only for the wealthy. Many military academies will no longer accept students who are struggling in school due to behavioral issues or drug abuse. Many of them are not interested in students who are not enrolling of their own free will, and will expel students who are defiant.

Today, military schools are a great option for students who are planning military careers. They are also viable options for students who enjoy structure, discipline, and the rigor of physical training.

One more consideration for military schools (which may also be available in other types of schools) is that they are often same-sex environments, which can be greatly beneficial to the level of academic focus on self-esteem that your child is able to maintain through the adolescent years.

The Final Decision

When making the final decision with regard to type of school, the parents should consider which school will bring out the best in their children, both educationally and socially.  Although money may be an issue, the end result is to choose an educational facility which will allow the children to express themselves and to be immersed in a learning experience that is appropriate and exciting for them.

Florida Virtual Academy expands to Duval County, FL

Florida Virtual Academy expands reach with new Duval offering.  In a December 5th press release, Duval County Public school officials announced the approval of public school charter open to Duval families.  Beginning next year, the new FLVA public school will begin serving students in grades K-8.

FLVA at Duval County is governed by the Northeast Florida Virtual Charter School Board, an independent, nonprofit board of directors.

Charlene Sprague, a resident of Duval County and member of the Northeast Florida Virtual Charter School Board, said, “Our board is excited that our school has been approved and will have the opportunity to serve children in Duval County.  We believe FLVA at Duval will be an excellent option for families in our community.  We are grateful to Duval County Public Schools for approving our charter and look forward to working with them on behalf of students.

FLVA schools are designed as individualized academic experiences ranging from advanced programs to students with special needs.  They are known for their use of technology connecting schools with teachers irregardless of location.  The FLVA Duval school will have Florida certified teachers providing instruction and support, who will also be responsible for organizing field trips, school activities/clubs and events for families.

Read more here:

Charter school backers push for independence

The 16th gathering of the Florida Charter Schools Conference, recently held in Orlando, brought together industry backers and charter school operators for it’s annual two day meeting.  The highlight of the meeting was a panel discussion anchoring a town hall styled meeting where consensus gathered around core issues of a more streamlined application, sanctions against districts dragging out appeals and instituting an independent authorizer of charter schools.

Instituting a statewide authorizer may be difficult given the current legal and political environment.  In 2006 Florida established it’s Schools of Excellence Commission in 2006 only to to see the First District Court of Appeal strike down the Commission as unconstitutional just 2 years later.

Despite Florida mixed results in operating an independent authorizer, many states have such boards.  The Center for Education Reform, a Washington, D.C. based advocate for education reform cites Florida’s lack of an independent authorizer is a shortcoming in its charter school laws.

Industry watcher Dean Dipaolo said “There is clearly friction between some school districts and charter schools as they competing for funding and students.  Since the districts are participants in the debate it is obvious a more independent arbiter needs to be established”.  Dipaolo’s firm ACH Financial Services is an accounting firm offering Florida charter schools redbook accounting, annual reports and auditing services.  “Timing of approvals is another big complaint we hear from our clients” he said as approvals often come too late in the year to appropriately plan curriculum, find a location and contract with educators.

Read more about Florida Charter School Conference and a review of the panel discussion here.

Gov. Scott supports expansion of charter schools, lifting caps

In a state board of education meeting held on Monday, November 5, 2012, Florida State Governor Rick Scott said he believes competition helps education and cites this as one reason for supporting an expansion of charter schools.  Policy measures could include lifting enrollment caps that school districts use to limit charters.

A sun Sentinel report finds that Charter schools have been growing rapidly, particularly in South Florida. The article states that “in Palm Beach County, enrollment this year is 11,424, up 14 percent from last year. In Broward County, it’s 33,279, up 13 percent”.  Rapid growth in charter school development has Broward County considering opening its own charter school to compete.

Read more about Gov. Scott’s comments and the full article here.