Polk County Schools recommend private operator for six struggling schools

BARTOW, Fla. — Polk County Schools are one step close to turning six struggling schools over to a private operator.

RELATED: Six Polk County schools who graded D or F could turn private if 2017-18 grades do not improve

Tuesday morning the superintendent, Jacqueline Byrd, recommended an experienced consulting firm, Educational Directions, to take over the schools if they do not reach a ‘C’ grade or higher this summer.

The decision was based upon many qualifications like cost, flexibility, contract length and collaboration. 

A special panel had narrowed down external operators to only three selections, but ultimately decided on the most affordable option.

Educational Directions is offering a contract that would last about 2-3 years at $325,000-350,000 per school for the first year and up to $250,000 per school each year after that

“If they don’t make the ‘C’ they are also willing to work with us and collaborate with us more as a partnership versus coming in and saying we are taking over and it’s this way,” Jacqueline Byrd said.

The six struggling schools are Bartow Middle, Kathleen Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Lake Alfred Polytech, and Lake Marion Creek Middle.

If the schools make a ‘C’ grade or higher after that, Educational Directions has agreed to release their control and give the reigns back to the Polk County School Board.

Some parents say this could be a positive for their children’s futures.

“Get somebody in here that can control what’s going on it would be a great thing,” Jannice Lockley, a mother of a Bartow Middle Schooler, said.

Despite the recommendation, some school board members say the price is being pulled straight from Polk County students.

“You are going to be hurt no matter where you are, because that’s money we can’t spend on teachers, that’s money we can’t spend on enrichment for kids,” Billy Townsend said.

Tuesday he will be voting against any decision to outsource the six struggling schools.

“I’m not going to actively vote to hurt kids,” Townsend said.

The final vote to decide which operator will run the schools will be made Feb. 27.

If the schools listed achieve a ‘C’ grade or higher this year, there will not be any changes made.

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