A Broward County charter school that received two F grades in a row must close, the State Board of Education decided Tuesday, leaving parents of 249 children scrambling to find a new school.
The Kathleen C. Wright Leadership Academy, a two-year-old school in Tamarac, appealed a state law that requires charter schools to be automatically closed after a second consecutive F. Schools can ask the state to stay open if they can show student achievement is better than other schools in the area.
School chairman Anthony Wright said that while K.C. Wright's achievement was below nearby Tamarac schools, most of its students come from Fort Lauderdale. And 79 percent of those students would be attending a D- or F-rated school.
His school showed more improvement than other schools, even though it wasn't enough to raise it above an F, Wright said. He said the school would have gotten a D had three more students been proficient.
"Our staff has worked tirelessly to create an education environment where our students have a real opportunity for educational success," he said.
Some members of the Board of Education questioned why the school was still open, given that officials knew in July it had received a second F. Wright said he felt the school had strong grounds for appeal.
The school doesn't have to close immediately. State law requires the local school district give charter schools a 90-day termination notice. District officials said they were waiting for the state appeal to be decided before taking action.
Broward County charter schools are a popular alternative to traditional schools but many have struggled in recent years with academic and financial problems. Eight closed last year, and a state report found 17 of 73 charter schools operating in 2011-12 were in the red.
No specific assignments have been made for K.C. Wright students yet, district officials said.
"The district will welcome these students and work with parents in determining the appropriate educational placement for their child," district spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said.
In other business, the state board hired Pam Stewart as the new state education commissioner. She's twice held the position on an interim basis, including since July 20 when Tony Bennett resigned after less than eight months on the job.
Stewart will oversee a department criticized in recent years for the complicated school grading system that even members of the Board of Education say is flawed. The state plans to overhaul the system by 2015, when schools have fully switched to a nationwide curriculum known as Common Core.
"This is a new day," Stewart said. "It's time to move forward, and I'm prepared to provide the leadership," she said.
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