State Steps In On Lincoln, Manatee Schools Dispute

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY JUL 18, 2019

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has stepped in regarding a dispute between Manatee County school leaders and a Palmetto charter school. He supported district taking action to force Lincoln Memorial Academy to remove Eddie Hundley as head of school. 

Corcoran said Hundley had failed to protect the health, welfare and safety of students.  

“The Department of Education took swift action against Mr. Hundley’s teacher certificate with the expectations that he would no longer be in a position to put Florida students in harm’s way,” wrote Corcoran.

As the state steps into a dispute between Manatee schools and the publicly funded charter school, it’s putting a spotlight on the role districts play in oversight of taxpayer-funded schools being independently run. The board for Lincoln Memorial Academy has kept Hundley in place at the school.

An administrative judge and the state Education Practices Commission recommended Hundley’s education credentials be suspended. That stems from the fact Hundley recommended a teacher for a job in Sarasota despite accusations the instructor had been inappropriate with students at Lincoln. After the teacher was hired by Sarasota, he was arrested for possessing child pornography.

Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler applauded Corcoran for stepping in. On social media, she thanked the commissioner for “protecting these students and holding this school’s governing board accountable.”

Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes said he anticipated the state stepping in after months of dispute between the district and charter school.

“I’m hopeful the Lincoln board will act to be ready for school to start in a few weeks, but a series of communications with DOE over the past few weeks has not resulted in their board taking definitive action,” Hopes said.

But Hundley at a town hall meeting earlier this month said the governing board for the school will make decisions based on its own assessment of the situation.

“If Manatee County Schools is interested in the best thing for these kids, they should find out what that is from the people who voted and take care of those kids,” Hundley said at the meeting. “That’s what they need to do, and that is exclusive of me.”

Corcoran has generally been regarded as a champion of charter schools. Hopes said he counts himself a supporter of school choice as well. But this case shows the limits of autonomy, he said, and why charter schools must cooperate with the local education authority .

Hopes noted that amid the scandal, recent school grades show Lincoln has fallen in state assessments to a D.

“The big issue is that they have a principal, a head of the company, who is not allowed to be employed in public education in Florida and to be around children,” he said.

Certificate requirements on administrators differ, however, from teachers. And Lincoln leaders have remained steadfast about working on their own schedule. 

Photo courtesy Lincoln Memorial Academy: CEO Eddie Hundley.

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