Jefferson County Schools Propose Charter District

Jefferson County Schools Takes Charter Proposal to State Officials
Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 18:22:37-05

MONTICELLO, FL (WTXL) -- The Jefferson County School District is on the verge of becoming the first in the state to be run by a charter organization.

The district will make its case before the state board of education Thursday.

For Jefferson County's 700 students, that decision could change the course of their education.

The school board voted last week to turn the district over to a charter school operator.

"I just want Jefferson County to improve, and I'm sure the company selected will have good people," said Bill Brumfield, a Jefferson County school board member and former superintendent. "That's the least of my worries."

If the State Board of Education approves the plan, Jefferson County Schools would have its day-to-day operations run by an out-of-town organization.

"They'll select the principals, they'll select the teachers, and then they have their own board which works with the company," Brumfield said.

A drastic move for a district left with few options, including a complete shutdown of the district.

"We've had a school district in Jefferson County since 1828," Brumsfield asserted, "and there's no way that we would've closed it."

For years, the district has struggled with low academic performance and for elementary school students, the latest scores from the Florida Standards Assessment are proof.

Less than one-third of students are proficient in English, less than one-half are proficient in math, and less than one-fifth are proficient in science.

Brumfield said he hopes a charter school operator will help turn things around.

"We've had four that have already contacted us, and we're going to meet with them and drill them good and talk to them," he said. "I'm just hoping and praying that we will be able to get it going well."

The board also voted to shut down Jefferson Elementary School, which had been open for about 60 years.

The district will close it at the end of this school year and move all students, staff and resources to the site of the combined middle-high school.

The Florida Department of Education provided WTXL with the following statement:

"The prior plans were not strong enough to improve the schools; they were heavily dependent upon district involvement, which had not worked in the past for years and years. 

Given the history of the district – it is the lowest performing in the state; it has been years since any school in the district earned a C or above, and it is in a financial, as well as an educational emergency, more extensive measures are needed. This means that a charter school, or some other external provider, will be brought in by the district to improve the schools."

Superintendent Marianne Arbulu was in Gainesville Wednesday and was unavailable for comment. The State Board of Education will meet Thursday morning in Gainesville.

Arbulu will be joined by at least three school board members to make the district's proposal to state education officials.

The State Board of Education has already denied the district's plans three previous times.