Bay District School Holds Workshop on Charter School Concerns

By: Kavontae Smalls Email
By: Kavontae Smalls Email
Bay District School officials are gearing up for what may be a busy open enrollment session.  With charter schools in the spotlight, many educators are giving them a second look.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Ashley King works on a drafting exercise on technology in the classroom during Cathy Seguin’s language arts class at Osborne Middle School on Thursday. The exercise is in preparation for the upcoming state writing assessment that all eighth-graders must take. Last year, Osborne Middle had the highest writing scores on the assessment.

Panama City -- With open enrollment around the corner, Bay District School officials planned a workshop to share information about its charter schools compared to its public counterparts.

“We said we'd have a workshop and get all the numbers out. If you noticed the presentation it was just the raw numbers, we weren't trying to make a decision, we weren't trying to play anybody down or up, we just showed the facts" said Bill Husfelt, Bay District Schools Superintendent.

Under fire were schools like Bay Haven Charter Academy, whose lottery system has drawn criticism. Some people who attended the workshop say the school selects higher performing students while leaving others behind in public schools.

“They say it’s a lottery, but when you look at Bay Haven and you see the percentage of low socioeconomic children and black students going to that school, it’s hardly non-existent” said Mary Bruck, Panama City resident.

Bay Haven officials took this workshop as an opportunity to dispel those rumors such as the school having zero tuition for its students and on its lottery system.

“Another myth would be that we don’t have a fair and open lottery and we do and the district has been there to make sure that it’s fair and equitable” said Dr. Timothy Kitts, Chief Education Officer at Bay Haven Charter Academy.

Charter schools are governed under a different set of laws compared to public schools, which gives them more freedom in how they run their schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools are run by private board of directors so they do not have to operate under the same regulations. Charter schools also receive state funding for each student enrolled, money that would normally go to the school district. The battle for students has been a source of friction amongst public and charter schools since the state first legalized charter schools.

“That is the frustration, but that again is not a Bay Haven, a North Bay Haven or a Newpoint issue, that is a state statute issue, a legislative issue” said Husfelt.

Bay Haven Charter Academy can increase its elementary and middle school enrollment by 15% each year, without the school board's approval.

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