Collier School Board delays decision on Marco Academy charter school

— Green didn’t mean go for proponents of a Marco Island charter high school at Thursday’s Collier County School Board meeting.

Collier County School Board members decided they needed more time to review an updated charter application submitted to them earlier this week. School officials asked lead proponent for the school, parent Jane Watt, more than three times over the course of about one hour if she would agree to delay a vote. Watt declined each time until just before push came to shove and a decision was once again demanded of her before the board voted.

“That was a democratic disgrace,” said Marco Island resident Jeff Hewson after the board agreed to review the charter application again within four weeks.

“It was a farce. They led her by the nose. They should have said ‘you didn’t present the facts on time,’ voted and then let the state decide (when appealed),” said Hewson, who opposed the school.

Donning green shirts to show their numbers, about 75 Marco Island residents supporting the creation of the school, named Marco Island Academy, made up the vast majority of public speakers Thursday.

The Marco Island Discovery Center, a nonprofit led by Watt, applied for the charter after about two years of organizational work.

The Collier County Public School’s Charter School Committee recommended the board deny the charter application, citing several “areas of significant concern” including in the educational program design, curriculum, facilities and budget.

Watt said their assessment was not based on “competent, substantial evidence.”

School Board member Steven Donovan was inclined to agree with Watt.

“I initially wasn’t in support of a charter high school on Marco. I thought it was driven on the wrong type of agenda,” said Donovan.

The school’s proposal sparked controversy at the outset due to beliefs of racism and elitism being the motivation for the school.

However, after reviewing the application, Donovan said he supported it.

Earlier in the evening, the board had unanimously approved a charter high school application from Edison State College to be in Ave Maria at a future Jackson Laboratories site without much ado, Donovan said.

“It seemed like they were pulling this apart, nitpicking comparatively,” he said. “The Marco Island charter definitely had to meet a higher standard.”

School board members Pat Carroll, Julie Sprague and Kathleen Curatolo said they would be inclined to reconsider the application but needed more time.

Watt declined to agree to a Nov. 4 meeting.

Carroll voted against the charter application “based on the status of the application not on the merits of the school.”

School Board member Roy Terry also voted ‘no,’ citing the same reasons.

Martha Hayes, Collier County School District’s chief instructional officer, said staff would work with the proponents and also suggested they agree to delay the vote.

Donovan called the situation political and suggested Watt and the Discovery Center board accept to set up a special-meeting in November.

Many people, including Marco Island and other Collier County residents, continue to voice concerns about dollars that currently go to Lely High School being lost to the new school because the tax dollars follow the students to whatever school they attend.

Also, the opponents said, the school will come with additional costs to taxpayers and parents.

The numbers of supporters present at the meeting were in the majority, despite non-scientific polls and a survey by the Marco Island Civic Association showing there wasn’t a clear majority of Marco Island supporters.

Citing state law, the committee called the education program and curriculum unclear and incoherent. Further, the members said the facilities, which were to be 13 temporary trailers were inadequate and underpriced by their estimates. Current cash assets of less than $30,000, lack of funding for athletics and band, as well as insufficient contingencies and reserves were also concerns.

A last-minute pledge of $250,000, by an unnamed source, was announced by Watt. However, that last minute information and updates to the curriculum to address the committee’s concerns were too late for several board members.

Just before an official order of the board was announced, Watt was given one more opportunity to accept a delay. She hemmed and hawed and then agreed.

A future meeting is yet to be scheduled.

A special-called meeting to reconsider the charter application is tentatively scheduled 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at the administration building.

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Comments » 17

freedomofspeech1 writes:

The entire process was a FARCE! The board "begged" her to allow them time to review the updated information. This begging was totally innapropriate and unprofessional. She turned them down 3 times and then the head of the review commitee begged her again! It was apparent that there was insufficient support for this by all members except lame duck donovan!
Why is it she is allowed to submit additional info in response of the findings of the review board? It is clear that they did not meet the guidelines and all they were doing was tailoring their response to gain approval. WHY IS THIS BOARD GOING OUT OF THEIR WAY TO ACCOMODATE THIS UNNECESARY SCHOOL? THE DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL WAS DUMB ENOUGH TO TURN THEIR REQUEST DOWN 3 TIMES DESPITE BEING TOLD THAT SHE ONLY HAD 1 VOTE!

RayPray writes:

Isn't the only reason this thuggish group demand we all fund their Marco Apartheid Academy is to shield the delicate and willowy youth of the island from the robust African and Hispanic diversity amply available at Lely High?

muchwizernow writes:

in response to freedomofspeech1:

The entire process was a FARCE! The board "begged" her to allow them time to review the updated information. This begging was totally innapropriate and unprofessional. She turned them down 3 times and then the head of the review commitee begged her again! It was apparent that there was insufficient support for this by all members except lame duck donovan!
Why is it she is allowed to submit additional info in response of the findings of the review board? It is clear that they did not meet the guidelines and all they were doing was tailoring their response to gain approval. WHY IS THIS BOARD GOING OUT OF THEIR WAY TO ACCOMODATE THIS UNNECESARY SCHOOL? THE DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL WAS DUMB ENOUGH TO TURN THEIR REQUEST DOWN 3 TIMES DESPITE BEING TOLD THAT SHE ONLY HAD 1 VOTE!

I too am speechless - what the heck went on there??? That was a complete farce - I am embarrassed for both sides - the fact that the board lowered themselves to literally begging and for watt for being so moronic as to not jump when they offered her the golden seal-the-deal - but she rather tried to BULLY the board which ultimately caved... what is going on???

u2cane writes:

Is it that what you want?
I do not want it yesterday, not today and never tomorrow. This is not even a joke. This opinion is just sick. Go and see a doctor. Your brain is damaged. This kind of opinion is not acceptable for an American.

You are right Klab, it is unacceptable. That is why this school is unacceptable (this elitist academy). We need to keep the diversity and quality education already offered by Lely and fully support it. We don't need an Academy that is being started because of a parent who doesn't want to expose her child to diversity.

extra234 (Inactive) writes:

Since when is racial diversity a prerequisite to high school education? Do inner city blacks have diversity in their schools? Do heartland whites have diversity in their schools?

I'm not sure why I even addressed your ridiculous argument since it is a straw man fallacy. How do you know the Marco high school will be nothing but whites when we have "diversity" in both the elementary and middle schools here on the island?

lauralbi1 writes:

An anonymous pledge for $250,000. Give is a break. How unprogessional and childish are the applicants getting to resort to such ridiculous submittals.
It is really a shame that this issue is not on the ballot in the form of a Referendum on the concept of a High School on Marco. Then we would all have a scientific result to quote.
Ed Issler

extra234 (Inactive) writes:

Why would it matter if the high school issue was on the ballot? I see no reason why if there is no tax implications for the citizens.

waverunner writes:

in response to RayPray:

Isn't the only reason this thuggish group demand we all fund their Marco Apartheid Academy is to shield the delicate and willowy youth of the island from the robust African and Hispanic diversity amply available at Lely High?

AH, the "self-appointed liaison" to all that is right has spoken, kneel before him!

comment writes:

Is the School Board getting a backbone. Finally, Mrs. Watt has been put in her place. Let her go back to her million dollar condo and send her kids to private school - you can afford to drive them on and off the island. If you do not want to drive - hire a chauffeur.

Mrs. Watt is acting like a "children" by refusing after being asked by the Board "more than three times over the course of about one hour if she would agree to delay a vote. Watt declined each time until just before push came to shove and a decision was once again demanded of her before the board voted." Is this the example she wants to set for the community or her own children. If I do not get my own way I will stomp my feet.

Get a grip Mrs. Watt - it is time to take your elitist attitude and go away.

I would suggest that you take the $30,000 you have in your coffers and give it back to the community to assist those children that need assistance at Lely.

captnjimbo writes:

I was there and it was an interesting showdown. Watt wanted a vote perhaps thinking she would get a majority but perhaps not unanimous. In the end each member told her how they would vote and my take was that the majority would favour the plan...but that they had not had the time to read the ammended plan. With the outrage over the US Congress voting for the health bill without reading it, what would have been the reaction to them approving this application without reading it? Earlier Donnovan said he had read it and it was good but that he could "also read the tea leaves". The board could not pass it without proper study. I think Watt did the right thing to push for a vote, at the time, but after they laid out their individual issue about not having studied it, Watt, who basically had to make the decision on the spot reversed herself and it was a good thing. I did not like the outcome, but the last thing I would call it is "farce". It is a process. The people that are pushing this are passionate and perhaps impatient but quite frankly I thought the board wanted to make sure they were fully informed and that given the situation the process played out properly. If it could be done over the board should have had more time to study the amended document and in the end that is what they got.

captnjimbo writes:

And by the way, the reporter here did an excellent job and stayed with the facts. Nuances are hard to report but there were some things that were not said. Except for one supporter that came in at the end not one of the speaking attendees had a negative word on Lely High School and a few even said what a nice job they do. Almost all opposed focused on the negative impact on Lely because they get paid by the seats. The not in my backyard issue was not really out there. Also there was absolute sincerity in the issues families are having when they have a child at Lely and also a child in the middle school and/or the elementary school.

One other nuance...two of the supporters that spoke in favor were Grandpa's. Most of the supporters were people that feel the need. Almost all of the opposition were old. Some of the opposition did not even come, they sent surrogates and for the most part money seemed to be their underlying concern...not fact...feeling.

freedomofspeech1 writes:

Enough of all this talk...lets see how many children actually register for this joke of a school...I am willing to bet they dont get 100!
They will fail on their own...especially when a parent finds out that their kid will miss out on a true high school experience. Give them the rope... they will surely hang themselves!

GBR writes:

I liked the part where she threatened them that it had to be voted on before the election so her people knew who to vote for. That was classy.

I also enjoyed her arrogance when she kept saying no to the extension even after they pointed out that it would be defeated in its present form.

You just can't make this kind of stuff up!!!

;-)

liberator100 writes:

There will be NO Charter High School on Marco Island. Never!

freedomofspeech1 writes:

GIVE US THE NAMES OF THE STUDENTS THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN 8TH AND 9TH GRADE THAT ARE DEFINATELY REGISTERING FOR THIS SCHOOL...MOST IF NOT ALL OF THE 9TH GRADERS ARE NOT CHANGING SCHOOLS AND THE 8TH GRADERS WILL SEE THE LIGHT WHEN THEY GO FROM A PERMANENT BUILDING TO TRAILERS AND REALIZE THEY WILL NOT BE A PART OF A SCHOOL THAT OFFERS FOOTBALL,BAND AND MANY EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITES...THEY WILL BE ABLE TO GO FISHING WITH JACQUES COUSTEAU! HAHAHAH!

Tigertail writes:

This school board meeting was a Farce! It was an absolute waste of tax payers money, and everyone else’s time who attended this meeting. Plus why sit thru a 4 hour meeting when the board had no intention to vote on the matter in the first place? The board chair women begged Mrs. Watt numerous times for an extension, which Mrs. Watt refused several times. Then the board came to vote, each council member exposed their vote, and then the chair women said, this is the last time I am going to ask you for an extension. Surprising, Mrs. Watt now changed her mind and granted them the extension after she knew the votes were 4 NO's and 1 YES (by Steve Donovan who is retiring this year).
That, is a Farce, regardless if the you are for, or against the Charter school, the process was a complete failure. The Collier County School Board members are elected officials and they have a duty to follow proper procedures and guidelines, to make the vote binding, once they decided to go to a vote! Especially after Mrs. Watt confirmed that they proceed with the vote after turning down the extension requests 3 or 4 times prior!

freedomofspeech1 writes:

in response to Tigertail:

This school board meeting was a Farce! It was an absolute waste of tax payers money, and everyone else’s time who attended this meeting. Plus why sit thru a 4 hour meeting when the board had no intention to vote on the matter in the first place? The board chair women begged Mrs. Watt numerous times for an extension, which Mrs. Watt refused several times. Then the board came to vote, each council member exposed their vote, and then the chair women said, this is the last time I am going to ask you for an extension. Surprising, Mrs. Watt now changed her mind and granted them the extension after she knew the votes were 4 NO's and 1 YES (by Steve Donovan who is retiring this year).
That, is a Farce, regardless if the you are for, or against the Charter school, the process was a complete failure. The Collier County School Board members are elected officials and they have a duty to follow proper procedures and guidelines, to make the vote binding, once they decided to go to a vote! Especially after Mrs. Watt confirmed that they proceed with the vote after turning down the extension requests 3 or 4 times prior!

couldnt have said it better myself!

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