State Charter Schools Conference wrap up


FLORIDA – November 25, 2013 – The 17th annual State Charter Schools Conference took place in Orlando last week. The three-day conference kicked off with a Town Hall meeting hosted by the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS), the state’s leading charter school advocacy group.

At the Town Hall meeting on November 19, panelists representing the charter school movement, districts and the Florida Department of Education discussed state and federal education issues impacting charter schools. The group also discussed the need for collaboration between districts and charter schools. “We’ve met with representatives from Polk County to talk about things we can do to work together. There is no way to be successful on your own,” explained Jesse Jackson, Superintendent, Lake Wales Charter School System. “Our common ground is children,” said Jenna Hodgens with the school District of Hillsborough County. “Whether you’re a district school or charter school the goal is to best serve the children.”

Earlier this year, FCPCS launched an initiative to bring districts and charter schools together. At the first FCPCS Quality Charter School Authorizer Task Force meeting in September, representative from charter schools and districts sat together and discussed common ground issues, and ways to develop a platform for sharing their best practices. The meeting was chaired by State Representative Janet Adkins and Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Town hall panelists: State Representative Erik Fresen, R-114; Adam Miller, Executive Director, Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice / Florida Department of Education; Jesse Jackson, Superintendent, Lake Wales Charter School System; Jody Perry with Broward County Public Schools; Jenna Hodgens with the school District of Hillsborough County; Collette Papa, general counsel, Academica; Jeffrey Wood, attorney with May, Meacham & Davell, P.A.; Richard Moreno with Building Hope; and Henry Rose with Parents for Charter Schools.

On Wednesday evening – November 20 - FCPCS hosted the 2nd Annual Champions for Charter Schools award ceremony. The event recognized an extraordinary group of thoughtful, committed individuals who work tirelessly within the charter school movement to provide the children they serve with a high quality education.

2013 award recipients:

Champion Legislator: Senator Kelli Stargel, District 15 (includes parts of Orange, Osceola, and Polk Counties). A strong supporter of a high quality education for Florida’s children, Senator Stargel serves as a member of the Senate’s Education Committee and is also Chair of the Committee on Regulated Industries.

Champion Superintendent: Robert Runcie - Broward County Public Schools - Superintendent Runcie has been a breath of fresh air for Broward charter schools. He has been open to working with charter schools as partners in improving education for the county’s students. As co-chair of the Florida Consortium’s Quality Charter School Authorizing Task Force, Mr. Runcie has brought an innovative perspective and new ideas as to how charter schools can work collaboratively with their school districts.

Champion Principals: Elisa Jannes, Sigsbee Charter School, Monroe County - During the last three years, Ms. Jannes has led Sigsbee Charter School from its beginnings, with just over 100 elementary students, to a comprehensive K-8 school with more than 500 students from all over the world. The school has received a grade of “A” each year and students of all ages and abilities have demonstrated consistent learning gains.

Judith Marty, Mater Academy Middle & High School and Mater Academy Performing Arts And Entertainment Academy, Miami Dade County – Ms. Marty has led Mater Academy to become one of the highest performing charter high schools in the nation, with a 98% graduation rate, and phenomenal academic success among the low-income Hispanic students served. The school has been recognized by the College Board, and is ranked one of the Nation’s top high schools by U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek.

Devarn Flowers, City of Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School West, Broward County - Under Ms. Flowers’ leadership, Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School West has achieved superior academic results for more than ten years as part of one of the most successful municipal charter school systems in the state. Ms. Flowers has also served as a gracious leader and mentor to others in the state charter school movement.

Champion Teachers: Monica Brock, Passport Charter School, Orange County - A Kindergarten teacher and lead teacher for the school’s elementary team, Ms. Brock is loved by all of her students and their parents, and is usually the first to arrive and last to leave the campus. Last year, her students showed remarkable academic success with 100% probability of Reading Success and 100% math proficiency.

Sarah Mead, Brooks Debartolo Collegiate High School, Hillsborough County - Ms. Mead teaches Psychology, World History and AP Psychology and devotes time after school to tutoring students. Her efforts have helped to raise the school’s reading proficiency scores, and her students had the top scores among those who took Advanced Placement exams at the school. She also started a Student Success Committee to promote school-wide positive behavior interventions, which has had a great impact on grades, attendance and discipline.

Champion Governing Board Members: Elizabeth “Scotti” Haney, Bay Haven Charter Academy, Bay County - Ms. Haney was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the first charter school in Bay County, Bay Haven Charter Academy. Described as a “remarkably humble and selfless,” Ms. Haney has volunteered countless hours to promote and design the new school. She was Chair of the school’s Governing Board for 10 years and has advocated for all charter school students before the state legislature and through membership on the K-12 Public School Facility Funding Task Force.

Alex Veloudos, Athenian Academy Charter School, Pinellas County - Since 2006, Alex Veloudos has served as chair of the governing board of The Athenian Academy Charter School, the first Greek immersion school in the country, and the only public school that teaches children from age 5 two foreign languages, Greek and Spanish. Under Mr. Veloudos’ leadership, Athenian Academy has tripled in enrollment, had an outstanding academic record, and will soon be expanding with new campuses.

Champion Preferred Partner: Office Depot has been a long-time supporter of teachers and was one of the Florida Consortium’s first Preferred Partners, offering special pricing to our member schools. We are very pleased to give Office Depot this special recognition for the

Champion Pioneers: Crystal Yoakum, Founder of Hope Charter School and Legacy High School in Ocoee, Orange County - The founder of Hope Charter School and Legacy High School, Mrs. Yoakum saw a desperate need for a quality public educational program for students with autism. She opened Hope Charter School in 2001 for these students and has since helped hundreds succeed academically and socially. In 2005, she spearheaded the opening Legacy Charter High School to continue serving students through high school.

Dr. Tim Kitts, Founding Principal of Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City, Bay County – In 2001, Dr. Tim Kitts became the founding principal of Bay Haven Charter Academy, the first charter school in Bay County. The K-8 grew rapidly and had incredible academic success -- its FCAT scores place it in the top 10% of all Florida schools. In 2010, North Bay Haven Academy was opened to serve students in Kindergarten through grade 9. Dr. Kitts is an active participant in the state charter school movement, chairing advocacy efforts and helping charter schools and districts find common ground.

“Great teachers, principals, governing board members, District representatives, legislators, reading coaches, parents are the true force behind the success of charter schools and the reason our children are making academic strides,” said Robert Haag, FCPCS President. “There are thousands of amazing individuals working on behalf of children in our state. We are honored to recognize a few at the Champions for Charter Schools awards ceremony, and encourage everyone to continue to raise the bar on public education.”

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