MAREADY DEFENDS MCKEEL'S POLICIES; MCKEEL CHARTER SUPERINTENDENT DEFENDS POLICIES AND PRACTICES, October 1, 2010, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)
LAKELAND | McKeel Charter School System has no control over which students are admitted to its three schools, its superintendent said, but it does control who gets to stay.
Students who apply for McKeel are entered into a computerized lottery system required by state law, said Harold Maready, superintendent of McKeel.
But McKeel has a specific, and very defined, policy on reasons for dismissal, including behavior, attendance and academic performance problems.
Maready said McKeel students and parents sign contracts stating they understand the schools' rules as well as participation requirements for parents.
Failure to meet the requirements results in dismissal.
"The teachers spend so much one-on-one with kids," he said. "It's not that we just boot them out."
On Tuesday, School Board member Frank O'Reilly raised concerns about McKeel's dismissal rate.
He requested that district officials start tracking the number of students transferred from charter schools to public schools because of their grades, socioeconomic status or behavioral issues.
O'Reilly said McKeel's philosophy is to "dump" students back to public schools if they don't achieve academic success.
He read a letter during the School Board's meeting about a third-grader who was dismissed because he failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
"The intent of charter schools was to help those students not served in the public schools," O'Reilly said. "(Public schools) don't say we can't work with you because you're dumb or stupid."
Third-graders who do not pass the FCAT are automatically retained, according to state law.
Maready acknowledges students are dismissed for failing the test…
O'Reilly also criticized McKeel school officials for not having enough students who are on free or reduced-price lunch…
If it wasn't for the waiting list and the high standards charter schools need to maintain to get good grades on the state's annual report card, Maready said he wouldn't dismiss students for academic failure…
Keeping a student who can't perform to standards jeopardizes the school's charter status, Maready said…
Fines are assessed when rules are broken, such as neglecting homework or dressing inappropriately.
Students who accumulate $3,000 in fines can be dismissed and transferred to a home-zoned school…