Fort Pierce – The St.Lucie County School Board met at Fort Pierce High School to vote on whether to accept an application from Somerset Academy to go ahead with their proposed career training school.
But while the meeting was expected to be a contentious one because the school board did not appear to support the project, the meeting ended without altercation.
The vote came down and charter schools and their proponents won, as the board voted unanimously in favor of conditionally approving the Somerset career training academy application.
It seemed as if everyone who spoke at the meeting was pro-Somerset. Everyone from City Councilman John Carvelli, Vice Mayor Shannon Martin, and local business owners, all gave glowing remarks in favor of the charter school, their past track record, and the promise of building the one-of-a-kind career training center.
School Superintendent Wayne Gent recommended that the board approve the academy’s application, but several of the members, specifically Carol A. Hilson and Kathryn Hensley, both voiced their reservations before voting in favor of the measure.
Board Member Troy Ingersoll told the Floridian that he “was going to personally support” the proposed training center, but had a few reservations.
Ingersoll said that Somerset was” going to get their school one way or another.”
The most contentious moment of the meeting was when an individual stood up and railed against the board for allegedly being in the pocket of Big Union, and were pushing back against Somerset because they were beholden to the union lobby.
Somerset Academy President Erica Rains remarked that her school received the school board’s conditional recommendation “with less than 18 hours to review the conditions,” adding that their school “finds itself in a very uncomfortable position.
After the meeting Rains addressed the conditions set forth by the school board. Rains said that the first three conditions are “easy” to come to terms with, but the fourth one there will have to negotiate.
“They have listed programs that we must offer and maintain, certain program you can only maintain a program if you have students enrolled in the programs,” said Rains.
“Charter schools in Florida exist for one reason. They exist because a parent choose every day to send their child, said Ralph Arza, government relations rep for Florida Charter Schools Alliance.”They don’t have to do that. Just because you approve this, doesn’t mean that the school will open.
Arza challenged Superintendent Gent’s remarks, bringing up politics, but only after Gent said that the current issue at hand was about politics.
Arza noted that pro-Charter school gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (D) defeated anti-Charter School candidate Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2016 gubernatorial sweepstakes.
“The winner was Gov. DeSantis, who supports charters schools, supports career technical education, and this is the law of the land.”
Superintendent Gent’s opening comments can he watched here:
Rep. Brian Mast (R) recently stated his support for charter schools, in particularly Somerset Academy. Mast toured the school just last week.