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Manatee School Board cancels contract with Richard Milburn Academy

Published: Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:12 p.m. last Modified: Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.

MANATEE COUNTY – About 70 students, including some who were previously expelled from schools and some with arrest records, will be transferred into Manatee County alternative schools after the School Board Monday night canceled the district’s contract with Richard Milburn Academy charter school.

Facts IN OTHER ACTION

In other Manatee School District news:• Problems continue to plague the district’s new 0,000 computer system for grades and attendance.The system, called Focus, on Monday could not handle the volume of teachers entering student grades on a day when school is out and roughly 2,700 teachers are required to record grades for report cards.District officials sent out an emergency note extending the deadline for grades to be entered until Thursday. it also ordered elementary school teachers to wait until Wednesday afternoon before using the system.Teachers complained earlier in the year that Focus often crashes or freezes and that grades that they enter are lost.

The vote, which effectively closes the Bradenton school, came after an investigation found the school awarded students credits and diplomas they had not earned.

The majority of the students will be assigned to Horizons Academy, the school where students arrested on charges of violent crimes or students thought to be a risk to other children are sent. Some Milburn students will be transferred to Central High School, an alternative school for students who struggle academically in traditional high schools.

“Some of the kids, just because they’re so behind in their credits, would not fit into a traditional school,” said Verdya Bradley, district associate director of innovative programs.

Manatee school officials recommended the closure of Milburn after an investigation found that only 26 of 54 students who graduated in June had met district graduation requirements.

Children at the school were sometimes excused from assignments and tests, and the grading system was amended so that F grades did not drag down student grade-point averages, the report states.

The academy, a charter school since about 1999, tries to turnaround troubled and struggling students. it has smaller class sizes than traditional schools and offers flexible schedules for students juggling outside jobs or caring for children.

Some of its students are adults over 18 working toward high school diplomas.

Those students will be allowed to enroll at Manatee Technical Institute, where adults and high school students take classes in job skills like web design, car maintenance and cosmetology.

Milburn employed six teachers and three administrators, according to Donna Eldridge, vice president of Richard Milburn Academy’s high school division in Virginia. Their last day of work will be Monday.

School staff are preparing an inventory of all equipment at the school, located on 17th Avenue West in Bradenton.

More than 3,500 students attend other Richard Milburn Academies in Florida and Texas. The U.S Department of Education awarded the school parent company a .5 million grant in September to open six new schools in Texas.

“There were students who otherwise would have not have been in school and would not have received their diplomas,” Eldridge said. “To me, that is the most important piece of what Richard Milburn has done in Bradenton.”

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