Florida charter school feud lands in court — again

Tampa Bay Times | By Jeffrey S. Solochek | May 28, 2024

The big story: Plato Academy has a long history of serving children as one of the Tampa Bay area’s largest charter school groups.

It’s grown to nine campuses in three counties, and long had ambitions of expanding its footprint even further.

A series of disputes with its former management company, which now runs early education and child care programs on the campuses, forced Plato to scale back its goals a few years back. It appeared the sides had settled their differences in 2023, but their disagreements flared again this spring.

Now they’re in the middle of three lawsuits, with more likely to come. What’s going on?

K-12 hot topics

Classroom technology: Orange County schools began providing a laptop or other handheld device to every student back in 2013. Officials now question how much longer they can afford that practice, Associated Press reports.

Library books: Alachua County school district officials say dealing with book challenges has become increasingly more time consuming, WUFT reports. • The St. Johns County school board is set to consider whether to keep four books on its shelves, WJXT reports.

New schools: The Polk County school district will receive $115 million in impact fees to support construction of a new school in the fast growing Poinciana area, the Ledger reports.

School closures: Several large Florida school districts are preparing to shutter under-used campuses as Florida expands its taxpayer funded private and homeschool opportunities, Politico Florida reports. • Hillsborough County parents lament the loss of five community schools set to close this year, WUSF reports. • Niblack Elementary in Lake City will close and merge with a nearby campus while its buildings are razed and rebuilt, WCJB reports.

Security: Duval County’s new superintendent is facing questions about his decision while leading Lee County schools to allow non-instructional staff members to serve as armed guardians, WJXT reports. • Manatee County high schools will begin screening all students daily in the fall with a new weapons detection system, WWSB reports.

Superintendents: Broward County schools have had six superintendents over the past three years. Howard Hepburn, the latest to hold the job, says he’s in it for the long haul, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The superintendent of Florida State University Schools stepped down to take a job with Charter Schools USA, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Teacher pay: Hillsborough County teachers are asking for a 6% raise as they head to contract talks, Bay News 9 reports.

From the police blotter … A Highlands County school bus driver was arrested on accusations of driving drunk with students on board, WTVT reports.

In higher ed

Campus police: Florida International University placed its campus police chief on leave amid accusations of inappropriate behavior, the Miami Herald reports.

Graduation rates: St. Petersburg College is working to improve its graduation rate for Black male students, Bay News 9 reports.

Landscaping: New College of Florida has come under criticism from neighbors and alumni over its removal of cabbage palms and other plants on its campus, in preparation for installing grass sports fields and sand volleyball courts, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Research scam: The University of Florida has banned a student accused by the Justice Department of involvement in a multimillion-dollar scheme to divert dangerous biological materials from a campus lab to China, Fresh Take Florida reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to Friday’s roundup.

Before you go … Thought ‘We Are Lady Parts’ was a one-off, six-episode series? Think again. Season two of the show about the all-Muslim girl punk rock group begins Thursday on Peacock.

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