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Teachers approve converting to charter school

Lakeland, Florida -- In a 73 to 25 vote, Lakeland High School teachers vote to convert their school into a charter school. One teacher abstained.

The votes were sealed in a white envelope, dropped in a locked box and counted at the end of the school day in front of a group of teachers.

As a charter school, Lakeland High would become an independent public school. A charter has more flexibility in teaching style and curriculum and are overseen by its own governing board not the school district's school board.

"Obviously what's great about charters, administrations are given more control of the campus to run," says Jessica Hall, who teaches TV Production.

But Hall says that autonomy is as much a negative as it is a positive feature.

"A con is the administration being able to operate freely."

The Lakeland High School charter application originally included the Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts Center, but the parents at Harrison voted that they want their own separate charter school.

Lakeland High School has earned a "B" grade from the state the last 3 years and teachers say even if the school converts to a charter what makes the school a "B" won't change.

"We have a lot of good teachers on campus who are invested in student education," Hall says.

The independence a charter brings also makes charter schools more accountable than a traditional school. The $6,215 the state gives school districts to fund each student's education is given directly to a charter, at least 95% of it.  State education officials say up to 5% goes to the school district for administrative costs.

Next, Lakeland High School parents have until May 23 to vote by mail. The charter school application deadline statewide is Aug. 1. It will be up to the Polk County School Board to approve the school's charter status.

The district's decision should come down by October. If approved, Lakeland High School would join the 517 charter schools in Florida.


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