With the first day of school less than two weeks away, New Millennium Charter School Director Dr. Jerri Haynes appeared before the school board during the public input segment of the Aug. 5 meeting to ask why the monthly FTE funds meant for the school had not yet been released. The question became such a involved matter that the board amended to agenda to include the New Millennium FTE money so board member could try to sort the matter out and vote on it it need be.
FTEs, or Full Time Equivalents, are funds received from the state department of education, based on student population counts taken periodically throughout the school year, as well as the number of students receiving ESE services for disabilities and other special needs. ESE needs are taken into account and translate into extra FTEs. New Millennium was receiving FTEs for 23 K – 3rd grade students, based on their most recent student count, plus an extra 4.5 FTEs for students receiving ESE services. New Millennium had received its monthly allotment through June of 2014; Haynes was inquiring about the payment for the month of July (approximately $15,000), which she said she should have received already. It had not shown up, and now it was August. The August payment would be due the following week.
School Superintendent Doug Brown replied that he had withheld the funds because the school board office had received a copy of an eviction notice filed against the school by the Madison County Recreation Association (MRCA), owners of the property and buildings where New Millennium is located. The eviction proceeding still had another hearing pending at that time, and Brown stated that it he felt it was “unclear whether or not the school would even have a place to meet.” Court records indicate an eviction notice was posted on the school property July 10, 2014, by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
Haynes stated that the eviction document had been improperly filed, in the wrong court, and by an individual who was a board member of MCRA, not the chair or president, and as such, had no authority to file any legal action on the board’s behalf. Furthermore, MCRA did not have an attorney, “and they have to have an attorney,” said Haynes, reiterating that New Millennium, on the advice of its own attorney, planned to be at the same location as last year, in the old middle school building.
“There has been no action, no judgement to close us,” she said.
The school board had voted to rescind New Millennium’s charter, due to fiscal mismanagement, at their June 17 meeting, but New Millennium exercised its right to request an administrative hearing. The following month, the school board voted to have the Department of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee hear the case and make recommendations. The hearing has not yet taken place, but is expected to be held in about a month and a half.
“What happens if school starts and we don’t have the money?” Haynes asked. She added that she had 42 students signed up so far.
Reeves told the board members they had to decide if the school had “reasonable assurances” of a place to be, not base their actions on “what might happen six months down the road.” Even so, there was the question of the eviction that had not been dismissed yet.
The discussion soon became so lengthy and complicated, trying to deal with two separate issues, the eviction notice and the administrative hearing down the road, that the board decided to call a special meeting for Thursday evening, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. devoted entirely to the New Millennium Charter School. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend. The final hearing on the eviction notice will be done by then and the board felt that they could make a better decision at that time.