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The Collier County School Board voted on Tuesday to approve charter school Mason Classical Academy’s contract with the school district.
Stephanie Lucarelli, Erick Carter, Roy Terry and Erika Donalds voted to approve it, while School Board member Kelly Lichter, who founded Mason and also sits on its board, accepted a request to recuse herself from the vote to avoid a conflict of interest.
The Naples Daily News published an article online Monday exposing a decision Lichter made that could cost Mason $1.1 million after Lichter rejected a request to resign from Mason's board.
In the contract negotiations, the district included provisions that would have required Mason to increase its three-person School Board to a minimum of five. However, Mason Classical’s attorney Shawn Arnold rejected the provision, according to emails obtained through a records request.
“The bylaws that were included in the School’s application contains a number of directors between 3-9 and the School does not consent to a mandatory amendment of its bylaws,” Arnold wrote. “We desire to have the number remain the same as in the model contract: 3.”
Before voting on the item at Tuesday’s meeting, Lucarelli asked the district's attorney Jon Fishbane why the provision wasn’t included in the contract. Carter also had questions about the extent of the school board’s power when it comes to overseeing charter schools.
Fishbane explained the state’s contract template requires charter schools to maintain a minimum of three board members.
“We thought (increasing the minimum to five) was a rational approach based on other (boards) in the area; however, they have a right to say no,” he said.
Mason also rejected an item that would have required the board to meet once per month, to which Mason's attorney wrote: “Requiring a volunteer board to meet 12 times a year is unduly burdensome.”
A third item the district requested Mason adopt involved securing external accreditation within five years of adopting the contract.
Arnold also rejected this item, writing,: “As a Hillsdale school, the school has strict and detailed levels of achievement required, otherwise they lose their accreditation.”
Mason Classical was the highest scoring school in Collier County in nine categories for the 2017 Florida State Assessment exams.