Hillsborough County School Board threatened to shut down charter school

Parents questioned fees at school

RIVERVIEW, Fla. - By definition, charter schools are free to be more innovative, yet held accountable for student achievement by the same state statutes that govern traditional public schools.

Kids Community College, with elementary and middle school campuses in Riverview, performs well academically, earning a "B" the last school year.

Despite a satisfactory academic performance, School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia sent a letter to KCC leaders.  In that letter, she would recommend the board terminate the schools charter. 

Among the reasons? The school sought additional fees from students and their families.

Amanda Twigg filed one of nearly a dozen complaints with the school board over hundreds of dollars in supply fees, memberships and donations KCC requested of each student.

The I-Team pulled the district's file on KCC. We found parents who questioned the required 180 dollar supply fee and complaints over donations that felt more like demands.

KCC Board President Kenneth Scarborough defended the fees as standard and comparable to the cost of any public school supply list, but those weren't the only fees questioned by parents.

The I-Team has the list of complaints and the papers that outline the fees. Documents reveal KCC also asked families for an enhancement donation of hundreds of dollars.

In multiple letters, district officials questioned whether KCC's enhancement fee and requests to purchase memberships to the Committee for Academic Excellence violated the state statue governing public schools and fees.

So what is CAE? Scarborough likens it to the PTA saying it is a non profit group that works to enrich charter school curriculum.

KCC insists the memberships are voluntary. School leaders feel the district went overboard in threatening to close the campus over items unrelated to student performance.  The threat spurred a mass email campaign to the school board from supportive parents.

Leslie Schillig who has two children enrolled at KCC was among them.  Schillig says KCC is the best she's found from an academic standpoint.

Just weeks ago, the school board changed course. In a letter from July 2, Superintendent Elia said KCC addressed the district's concerns. The school board will continue to monitor the school's operations.

For its part KCC said it's changed some of its literature to reflect the fact that all donations are voluntary.

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