A.T. Jones Academy in Carrollwood Faces Closure

The charter school at 4903 Ehrlich Road has been recommended to shut its doors by Hillsborough County officials.

A Carrollwood charter school may be forced to close its doors a month before school starts after Hillsborough school officials learned of a financial deficit and allegations that teachers' insurance was suspended after they continued to pay for it.

Meanwhile, two members of the six-member governing board for A.T. Jones Math, Science and Technology Academy resigned as of Thursday morning, said Jenna Hodgens, the school district's supervisor of charter schools.

It was recommended this spring by MaryEllen Elia, superintendent of schools for Hillsborough county, that the academy close. The school is named after the Rev. Arthur T. Jones, pastor of Bible-Based Fellowship Church, and is located on the same campus as the church on Ehrlich Road.

"They have some outstanding bills they have not paid, and they were in a financial deficit at the end of last year," said Hodgens. "They continued to create a deficit."

Allegations also surfaced that teachers are paying for insurance out of their paychecks even after their insurance was suspended in March of this year, Hodgens said.

Now, officials at the academy face a formal hearing before school district officials at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 30, at the Raymond O. Shelton School Administration Center to determine its fate.

"Since nothing changed, there's a hearing," Hodgens said. "Anytime a charter school doesn't meet standards, the superintendent has authority to make recommendations to the school board regarding the school."

The Carrollwood academy - one of five schools in Hillsborough county that have faced possible termination - , which was up from the 'F' it received from the school district last year, Hodgens said. The academy didn't have enough students with previous year's test scores to garner a state grade for years prior to last, Hodgens said.

About 160 kids are enrolled for the 2012-13 school year, Hodgens said, which starts on Aug. 21. That's down from over 200 students that were enrolled last school year, she said.

Hodgens said parents have expressed their concerns to her about issues at the school, which didn't have an operable website on Thursday evening.

"I had a very vocal parent with a group behind him who wanted to keep the school," said Hodgens. "This week, that same parent and group of parents sent out an email saying they wanted everyone to withdraw. At this point, they're so disgruntled with how the board is managing and governing the school, the sway is now against the school rather than for it."

This isn't the first time the former private school has closed.

In early 2009, the school closed due to decreasing enrollment and money problems, reopening its doors as a charter school in 2010, according to a story in the Tampa Bay Times.

What do you think about the potential closing? Do you think the school should be forced to close? Tell us in the comments.

Lisa S. July 24, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Well said Mary. My son is gifted and he not only grew, he THRIVED within this learning environment. To say that I am sad is an understatement because I know there is nothing like this out there, not in public gifted, not even in the majority of private schools. Only the astronomically priced schools even come close.
Lisa S. July 24, 2012 at 07:20 AM
All the car washes and lemonade stands in the world would not have been enough to undo what had already been done. We were kept in the dark for a significant amount of time. And believe me, we TRIED everything we could to keep the school open.
Lisa S. July 24, 2012 at 07:23 AM
The reason you can't understand why is because it isn't TRUE. They are blaming the parents' afterschool debt on the reason for the financial issues to deflect the blame from themselves for mismanagement. There is OVER $100 K in debt.
Tanya Vodnansky Grable July 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM
The Kids did learn, and the teachers did a great job. But the school did receive an "F" and now a "C". That's not very promising. I had a teacher at the beginign of the year that would not challenge my child because she had to wait until all students we on the same level. With the thought of no child left behind, what about the kids that are being held back. Some children could not thrive b/c they sat there waiting for the other children to "catch up" while he was bored. Anyway that's neither here nor there. The school was good, kids learned. I agree, the board needed to be more invoved, but it is VOLUNTARY and the ADMIN needed more help and should not have made promises and drop the ball. There was NO effort to get the fundraising going until the last couple months when we started the year needing and waiting to fundraise. It's all a mess and it's done now. We need to move on. I do wonder how all of these aprents that are not "in the know" are going to be informed.
Tampa Parent July 25, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I'm not sure which ADMIN any of you are talking about, but the young lady in the office these past few months was a breath of fresh air! She worked very hard, and she and Mrs. Kearse made a great team. I was led to believe she was able to clean up the after care system and put a solid number on the debt in that area. I also know parents and teachers helped out in the office, because it became a fun place to be. We were all like family. We made it work. My question: What does the administration have to do with $100,000 of debt or lack of communication and follow thru from the board?


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