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Charter school proposal raises concerns for Sarasota School Board

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Despite concerns raised by Sarasota County School Board members regarding a new charter school application, the board could still be required to reach a decision on the proposal by March 5.

As the board reviewed a proposal for Sarasota Classical Preparatory Academy, board members voiced a range of concerns that included what they said was a lack of detail and set plans, and the lack of an acquired physical location.

The school would be centered on classical education, with accelerated coursework available in math and science and would be managed by Charter Schools USA on behalf of the Florida Charter Education Foundation.

“Our core education model will remain,” said Jessica Verdier, deputy director of academics for Charter Schools USA. “What we plan to do is take some of those key tenets of the classical model and embed them within our education model, so specifically you will see in the application, we focused on the beacons of virtue, and the trivium.”

Staff plan for the school to take the location of the private school The Classical Academy of Sarasota on Fruitville Road, which had preexisting plans to move to a site on Bee Ridge Road.

Board member Tom Edwards said he was concerned as he was not given the time to assess factors, which included the finances of the submitters. He said the proposal lacked distinctiveness, stating, “Classical curriculum, quite frankly, looks like from my seat the curriculum de jour.”

Board member Bridget Ziegler expressed interest in the concept of the school but joined other board members in calling for more details.

“The timeframe is fast-tracked. I do agree it is what it is,” Ziegler said, also stating demand for the school existed in the area, with a 700-plus waiting list at Classical Academy of Sarasota, which her daughters attend.

Board member Tim Enos criticized the lack of a presentation on the school, which he said was not in accordance with best practices.

Board member Robyn Marinelli inquired about matters including whether the school offered extensive enough programming or sufficient local representation.

Superintendent Terry Connor said he wanted to see proven success for the concept before the school is established in Sarasota.

“Right now, we don’t even have 100 kindergarteners in that 6-mile radius,” he said, noting the school could fill a niche for high schools, which that area lacks.

Rita Weaver, senior director of the board of governance of Charter Schools USA, responded to Edwards to dispute his description of the plans.

“I don’t want the characterization that we are not ready, this is just kind of like here’s what we might do. We are very clear and intentional on what this model is going to be and what we are going to do, and how we address the students that come to us,” she said.

The school district had already requested an extension, which was denied by the applicant. Weaver said she highly doubted the group’s legal team would allow for an extension.

November vote on property tax extension approved

The school board unanimously approved a resolution allowing the public to vote on a property tax extension during the November elections. 

Although a millage referendum had been passed in March of 2022, Connor said the item was brought forward due to legislation prohibiting the district from holding referendums during special elections.

The referendum would determine whether to extend the 1 mill per year ad valorem millage from July 1, 2026, to June 30, 2030. The tax revenue would support recruitment and retention of teachers, the arts, special programming and more.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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