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Duval School Board Denies Seaside Charter Application For Northside Campus

kids pointing to tree
Seaside Charter School via Medium
Seaside Charter kindergartners learn outdoors in this photo from 2018.

A divided Duval County School Board voted Tuesday night to deny an application for a proposed charter school that sparked concern from Superintendent Diana Greene, who said its diversity plan would segregate students.

Greene recommended the board reject the application from Seaside School Consortium Inc., which wants to open a new school — Seaside Charter North Campus — in the 2100 block of Dunn Avenue on the Northside. Seaside already operates two charters in Duval — Seaside Charter Beaches and Seaside Charter San Jose.

The board voting 4-3 upheld Greene’s recommendation to deny the application, which included a much-debated diversity plan, and fell short of complying with all 22 required sections of state standards.

Board Chairwoman Lori Hershey, Vice Chairman Warren Jones, and members Elizabeth Anderson and Cheryl Grymes supported Greene’s recommendation.

“I’m really concerned about the diversity. The concern is that we have a plan but is there a real commitment to diversity. Or is the school locating on the Northside a way to increase that diversity,” Jones said. “I for one, as one board member, feel concern with our diversity and whether this school is really committed to that or is this just an effort to — ‘We have a school on the Northside that is going to attract more minority students so we can say we have diversity in the student body.’”

Jones said he also was concerned by inconsistencies and contradictions contained in the charter’s application and letter of intent Seaside submitted to the district.

Anderson said “because of the mistakes in the application and an inadequate explanation of relevant details, only nine of the 22 sections [of the application] meet the standard established by the evaluation used to review all charter schools.”

“Perhaps the errors we have seen in the applications over the past year or so are a symptom of being distracted by expansion rather than a focus on success,” said Anderson, who advised Seaside to take more time and thoroughly go over any future applications before submitting them.

Board members Charlotte Joyce, Ashley Smith Juarez and Darryl Willie supported Seaside’s application and voted against Greene’s recommendation.

Joyce said she would vote to approve Seaside’s application because of its “track record for generating improved student performance.”

“My concern is, given this applicant’s record of achievement, is that a denial of the application on technical grounds is likely to result in an appeal that will cost the district tens of thousands of dollars to defend and is likely to end with a reversal of this board’s decision,” Joyce said.

Smith Juarez said the apparent deficiencies and inconsistencies in Seaside’s application could have been corrected as its charter application moved forward in the process toward a contract.

Seaside had said it would appeal to the Florida State Board of Education if the Duval board denied its application.

Ronald J. Harnek, president of Seaside’s governing board, in an email sent to the Florida Times-Union, accused Greene of abusing her power, misrepresenting the charter’s intention and confusing the School Board with misinformation.

Harnek also accused district staff of changing its report “to match negative comments” Greene made about the charter’s diversity plan — as reported by the Times-Union and other news media — after she discussed her concerns with the School Board during a recent workshop.

Read the rest of this story from our partner The Florida Times-Union.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075