Lee school board moves to terminate newly opened charter school in Fort Myers

Fort Myers News-Press |Pamela McCabe | September 16, 2020

The website for the Collegiate School of Fort Myers boasts of offering a “rigorous research-based college preparatory” experience where every child in the K-8 charter school would get its own iPad and learn in a “sanitary and safe environment.”

But that’s not what district officials found on recent site visits that left them feeling uneasy, disturbed and heartbroken.

“I served as a school-based administrator for approximately 18 years, and I will tell you, walking into the learning environment, it was one of the most disturbing that I’ve seen,” said Denise Carlin, executive director of school development for elementary schools.

Carlin was among three district staff members to offer testimony that led to the Lee school board terminating the school’s charter contract Wednesday, signaling that the school district will take over the operations of the school. 

The employees spoke of filthy classrooms, a kitchen where food was left out to spoil and a teacher, doubling as acting principal, who had to stand in a hallway to supervise two classrooms of students because there weren’t enough adults to go around.

Representatives of the Collegiate School of Fort Myers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Teri Cannady, who oversees the district’s 24 charter schools, explained that the Collegiate School of Fort Myers was one of three new charters set to open this fall. Although the other two delayed their openings due to COVID-19, Collegiate Academic Enterprises of Fort Myers Corp. forged ahead with its plans.

But deadlines kept getting missed during the summer, Cannady said.

“Multiple district staff were attempting to provide assistance” to help the school open, she said, but emails and phone calls went unanswered and points of contacts kept changing at the school.

It was only when she threatened to hold back a check for student enrollment that tasks seemed to get done, like adding information to the website, completing insurance paperwork and submitting a COVID-related opening plan to the district.

“They started, and they got a lot of things done, but they didn’t get everything done,” Cannady said. “And, today, we still don’t know who is on their governing board.”

The contacts listed in the school’s charter application do not match the names on the school’s website. In addition to trying to open a school in Lee County, the governing board reported on its application that it was also applying to open three other schools in the state:

  • “The Collegiate School” in Palm Beach County
  • “Universal Academy” in Pinellas County
  • “The Collegiate School” in Broward County

It is unclear where these other schools stand.

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