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School Board leaves technical institute as is

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2000


INVERNESS -- After months of wrangling over its fate, the School Board on Tuesday voted to keep the Withlacoochee Technical Institute as it is by rejecting plans to turn the school into a charter technical career center.

The formal rejection, a blow to Superintendent Pete Kelly, who pushed strenuously for the charter, came after a lengthy workshop discussion Monday attended by the School Board, members of the Central Florida Community College Board of Trustees and other school and college officials.

The three School Board members who opposed the plan, Sandra "Sam" Himmel, Carl Hansen and Mark Stone, had argued that there were too many unanswered questions to approve the concept. They also said they didn't know why a charter school was needed to create the kind of program that Kelly and local business leaders had been pitching for months.

The vote against the plan marks the second time in just a few weeks that the board has resoundingly defeated a Kelly recommendation. In April the board rejected a new administrative organizational structure Kelly had proposed.

The charter vote sends hopes for a better career-preparation program for Citrus students back into the hands of Kelly and the WTI leadership team, which has not yet been appointed.

Kelly left the WTI administrative team blank on the form where he recommended other school administrators be reappointed for the 2000-01 school year, also on Tuesday's School Board agenda.

He said he would make a recommendation on the school's administrators in the next several weeks. He noted that the board had to complete action on the charter contract before he could do that. Longtime WTI director Steve Kinard has been one of the most vocal opponents of the charter technical school idea and has said that he expects Kelly will recommend him for reappointment.

When the charter contract issue was taken up by the board Tuesday, School Board attorney Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick said that the board would have to give a reason for rejecting the contract.

Hansen suggested pointing out that the sponsoring entity for the charter had never actually been created. The charter was to have been sponsored by a joint group made up of the school district, WTI and CFCC. Hansen said he didn't expect there to be any benefit from repeating all the other discussion from the Monday meeting.

"I do feel like this is a lost opportunity for kids in this district," said board member Pat Deutschman, who supported the charter option.

She said she believed that the problem with the charter was the timing of releasing the details to the board.

"The information came to us too late," she said. "A lot of questions and concerns that we had could have been answered months ago."

Board member Patience Nave also favored the charter.

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