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Although the majority of those present at the April 18 school board meeting seemed relieved, hopeful and even happy that the charter contract signing had been approved, long-time Jefferson County resident C.P. Miller reminded everyone afterward that was not the case.
“I want to re-iterate that this process has taken less than three months to complete,” said Miller. “I came to y’all early (with my concerns) that you had skipped over parts of the education code…you should have slowed it down a bit.”
At a previous meeting, Miller had submitted a letter on behalf of a group of parents who believe that the board did not follow the law in getting 51 percent of the teachers and parents to approve conversion to a charter school. School Board Attorney Tom Reeves, after reading over the letter, stated that Jefferson County’s situation wasn’t the same kind of conversion that the Florida Statutes were referring to in laying out the “51 percent requirement,” thus the statute did not apply.
“This letter has no merit,” Reeves said at the time, an opinion he has maintained at subsequent board meetings.
“This board has been making decision about students for years and it’s been a failure,” Miller stated. “You just made another one tonight. Think about it.”
With that, he introduced Dale Landry, Vice President of the Florida Conference of the NAACP, who explained that the organization was opposed to charter schools, so much so that that national board had declared a state of emergency and passed a resolution in October of 2016 to call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools and better oversight on those already in existence.
Landry listed as concerns, charter companies that target predominantly African-American communities, and a situation discovered in Louisiana, where minority students at a charter school were being beaten. Conceding that not all charter schools were bad, he nevertheless added that it was difficult to tell the good from the bad. “We’re not so much against charter schools and as for public schools…go ahead and work with Somerset, we’re here to draw the line.”
“Why come just now?” asked school board member Bill Brumfield. “When we’re finally doing something good for the kids?”
“What are you going to do when you come back?” asked board member Shirley Washington.
Landry said that he couldn’t speak for what the national board might vote to do, but hinted at protests and possible litigation.
“We are concerned…we are coming…we represent the families who feel left out.” The organization’s issue, he said, was not with DOE, but with the district board itself.
“Well, I support the charter school wholeheartedly,” Brumfield replied.