Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rowlett Fans Bullish on Charter Conversion

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rowlett Fans Bullish on Charter Conversion

Article excerpt

CHARTER CONVERSION: Plans for budget, curriculum and evaluation developing

MANATEE COUNTY

Parents set on converting Rowlett Elementary to a charter operation say their proposed budget shows the magnet school will not only be viable, but capable of bringing in extra money for fine arts programs many want to preserve.

And though polls don't close until Friday for parents, a majority of whom must vote for the conversion before the school can even apply, the Rowlett community seems poised for the conversion.

Twenty teachers have formed a committee, developing curriculum and a teacher evaluation process to be included in Rowlett's August charter school application. Already, a majority of parents have submitted ballots and all teacher votes are in. The school is taking applications for an advisory board made up of parents and community members that would govern the school as a charter.

To be considered for charter conversion, 51 percent of teachers and 51 percent of parents must vote for the change before the school can apply to be the first public school to do so in Manatee.

A crucial part of the application will be the charter's budget, which a school advisory board would be completely responsible for. Based on Rowlett's current expenses, projected state funding next year and services contracted out by local charters like Visible Men Academy and Manatee School of the Arts, parents and staff estimate a surplus of $110,000 to $216,000.

Not included in their most basic projection: all leftover fundraising created by the Rowlett Family Association, more than $200,000 in internal accounts and thousands generated by Rowlie's Nest, an after-school program.

The school will also likely be eligible for state funding in several areas, such as food service, but cannot obtain figures yet.

While parents have cited the ability to continue expanding the signature performing arts and communication programs that have come to define Rowlett Elementary as motivation for conversion, the decision also is an effort to protect a tight-knit school community from a district that many parents say has lost their trust.

Earlier this year the district took $45,000 from Rowlett when it dipped into school internal accounts to boost reserves and froze more than $100,000 of budgeted money for textbooks and instructional materials, a decision that angered a dedicated parent group.

"We will be able to continue the excellence, the programs, the tone, that Rowlett already has," said parent Glorianne Flint, who already has voted in favor of the conversion. "What is the School Board going to do to continue the wonderful programs that Rowlett has? …

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