tampabay.com

Investigation includes closed Tampa school

By Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG

A closed Tampa Christian academy is among five private schools being investigated by the Florida Department of Financial Services in connection with scholarship funds for poor and disabled children.

The department's ongoing probe led to the recent arrest of Marva Dennard, 68, the former principal of Bishop Academy II in St. Petersburg, on charges of grand theft and aggravated white-collar crime.

The schools being investigated include Harvest Christian Academy, which was at 3800 N Nebraska Ave.

The former principal of the Tampa school, Michael Wayne Lewis, was sent to federal prison on unrelated charges. In 2004, Lewis, a bishop at Harvest Fellowship Bible Church, and two aides were indicted by federal prosecutors on charges that they defrauded banks out of nearly $2-million.

TAMPA

School officials asked to examine transfers

Hillsborough School Board member Candy Olson asked school officials Thursday to examine ways to make the school choice system more transparent, following questions involving a high-profile special assignment for the son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

Olson would like to see community members contribute to a committee that looks at how the district allows students to transfer into nonneighborhood schools. She hopes to address concerns regarding school choice, special assignment and transfers of student athletes.

"People need to know: Here are the guidelines. If a school's at 100-something percent of capacity, abandon hope. If it's at this level, here's what we will consider," she said. "I just want to step back and look at the whole thing carefully and clearly."

CRYSTAL RIVER

100 attend hearing on manatee protection

More than 100 people flocked to a public forum at the National Guard armory Wednesday night to suggest steps ranging from year-round manatee sanctuaries and lower boat speed limits to a strict no-touch rule.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will collect comments over the next 30 days to help develop a comprehensive conservation plan for the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. After a draft is written, more comments will be taken, and a final plan should be implemented by September 2010.

Widely circulated videos of people riding, feeding and chasing manatees have spurred calls for more regulations. Conservation groups want limited contact with the manatees, preferring passive observation.

Dive shop operators suggested a guide certification program that would provide a code of conduct for tour operators.

TAMPA

Runway shift okayed for Peter O. Knight

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority unanimously approved plans to shift a runway closer to homes and add hangars at Davis Islands' Peter O. Knight Airport on Thursday.

The six-person board, which includes Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, voted to allow the changes despite some residents' protests.

They worry that the closer runway will pose noise and safety problems and the added hangars will block views.

The $1.8-million plans call for moving the largest runway 175 feet inland, away from the Seddon Channel, to comply with federal safety standards.

The board also wants to add three hangars by 2011, and possibly more in the future.

Times staff