Is Bay Haven Charter Academy Discriminating?

By: Matt de Nesnera Email
By: Matt de Nesnera Email

Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt is questioning if Bay Haven Charter Academy is accessible to all students.

"By the way some of their charter was written and the way they do some of the things, they are discriminating," explained Husfelt. "It's not intentional, we really don't think it's intentional, and that's why we want to have this discussion."

These concerns have led to Thursday's meeting between Bay Haven's Board of Directors, Husfelt and school board chairwoman Ginger Littleton.

"We don't want any student to be denied because they're ESE, or because of the color of their skin, or because they can't get transportation. It's that simple," said Husfelt.

Husfelt worries Bay Haven is not representative of Bay County, since only 5% of Bay Haven students are African-American. Bay Haven officials say they are open, and exceed the statutory requirement for racial and ethnic balance.

They select students based on a random lottery, and any parent in Bay County can fill out an application.

"To say that we're out there skimming, there's no way for us to do that," said Scotti Haney, president of Bay Haven Charter Academy, Inc. "Not only is [the lottery] how we're doing that and it's all done publicly, we're also audited."

Husfelt says the transportation policy could exclude some parents from even filling out one of those forms. Bay Haven currently only buses students who live between five and ten miles away.

"I think a lot more parents, if they didn't have to transport their kids there, would be willing to try to get into Bay Haven. That's what we hear," said Husfelt.

Bay Haven officials counter the transportation policy was written by Bay District schools. They think the board is just trying to restrict its flexibility, which they say is guaranteed by Florida statute.

"Our idea was to come in and put a model in place that we thought would deliver a fantastic edcucation for kids, and I think that's what we've done," said Haney.

Husfelt says it's now up to Bay Haven's Board of Directors to make the necessary changes to the charter.

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