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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2018 1 year ago

Palm Harbor Academy to shut down at the end of October

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Also: Board votes down proposed $2.5 million sale of Corporate 1 land.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

The Palm Harbor Academy charter school will shut down down on Oct. 31, and the school district is preparing to send notices out to students' families advising them of other educational options.

The Flagler County school district and the school, which is operated by First AME Church pastor the Rev. Gillard Glover, reached a settlement agreement to have the school close.

The shutdown follows a dispute between the school and the school district after 18 students transferred out of Palm Harbor and into a private school called the Academy of Excellence, also run by Glover on the same campus, immediately before Florida Standards Assessments.

The transfer meant that those children — who were at least one grade behind grade level — did not have to take the tests and therefore could not affect Palm Harbor's school grade.

Because the school had gotten a “D” the previous year, a failing grade would have required the closure of the school, according to the district’s understanding of the law.

District officials saw the transfers as an attempt by Glover to undercut the school grade process, and warned him in a May 15 meeting that it was preparing to push for the school’s closure.

School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin told board members at a June 19 workshop that the district had reached an agreement the previous day with Palm Harbor for the school’s closure.

"We believe that this was a fair compromise, since school grades have not come out yet and will not come out until July," she said. "That created a little conundrum for us, of not knowing what their school grade is going to be. ... this gives us a definitive end point where we are moving towards a closure of the school by Oct. 31."

The private school on the same campus will remain open, she said, and Palm Harbor had hoped to transfer some of its students into the private school. 

Palm Harbor, she said, had initially wanted to remain open for a full year. But the district's conducted a preliminary review of its test scores, and pushed back.

"Because we do anticipate they could be earning an 'F,' we didn't believe that that was in the (students') best interest to continue the school to be open for the full year," she said. "We thought that the October end date was most beneficial to everyone, because the first three to four weeks are a review, typically, of the year prior, and so then if students need to be remediated, there's less information that needs to be remediated."

The school district, she said, plans to notify its principals about Palm Harbor students that are zoned for their schools, and have the principals reach out to the parents and let them know the district is available to help them transfer their child back to the local public school. 

Board rejects developer's offer for vacant Corporate 1 Plaza land

Flagler Schools will not sell the vacant Corporate 1 Plaza land off Palm Coast Parkway to Michael Collard Properties for $2.5 million, even though appraisals came in significantly lower than Collard's offer.

The board rejected the sale 3-2, with Trevor Tucker and Andy Dance dissenting.

Dance suggested the board sell the land and use the money for capital improvements, and Tucker said that the fact that the offer was half a million over appraisals made selling look like a good option. 

But board member Colleen Conklin said she wasn't sure where the market was going and whether it was the right time to sell.

And board member Janet McDonald said that she believed the two appraisals — performed by Cooksey & Associates, which appraised the 7.44 acres at $1.75 million, and by Heffington and Associates, which appraised it for $2 million — used inappropriate comparables that weren't in the current market. 

"If you projected those figures right now, they would be higher," she said. "The other properties on Palm Coast Parkway are valued much higher, and they are closing at a much higher rate."

She also thought it ill-advised to use proceeds from a land sale for "consumables" such as new school buses, one potential use floated by Dance, who'd mentioned the district's aging fleet and need for replacements as one reason to go ahead and sell.

"I think we’re undervaluing the property," McDonald said. "That will be a highly valued corner; it’s a highly valued commercial property right now."

She also had concerns about the way the land was advertised, saying it should not have been offered for sale while appraisals were underway, and that most realtors didn't seem to know it was available.

The vote initially appeared to be 2-2, with board member Maria Barbosa, who was absent but had joined the meeting by phone, not seeming to respond or register a vote. She stated later during the meeting that she had in fact voted against the the sale. An issue with the audio connection had not made that clear to the other board members at the time the vote was held.

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