With teachers in short supply, Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto has been asking uncertified staffers to teach until the school can hire enough qualified instructors.
The Manatee County School Board resumed control over Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto last month, saying the school was being mismanaged.
Now that the district has oversight, it is Lincoln's former leaders crying foul over management at the charter school, saying children are being taught by uncertified teachers, some of whom do not even have a college degree.
On Monday, C.J. Czaia, a criminal defense attorney and member of Lincoln’s board, issued a press release lambasting the district for allowing the school year to begin without Lincoln being fully staffed.
“Qualified Teachers were FIRED by the Manatee School Board… FOUR (classes) are being taught by teacher’s aides who have associates degrees at best,” the release stated.
School District officials were in meetings most of the day Tuesday and could not confirm the allegation, although two employees at the school confirmed there were nonlicensed employees teaching academic classes.
Craig Huggins, a former transportation director for the school, said he had been asked to teach Language Arts, even though he has no degree or teacher certification. School registrar Jauana Phillips said there were at least six paraprofessionals who had been placed in core classrooms to teach.
On Tuesday afternoon, interim school Principal Ronnie King sent an email alerting parents that there were three teaching vacancies in math and English that were being covered until the school could hire teachers.
“While we are working to hire teachers in those areas, the classes are being covered by staff,” King’s email stated.
Lincoln Memorial Academy has been a hub of both controversy and excitement in the two years since it won independence from the Manatee School District in a charter conversion overwhelmingly supported by the school community and bitterly opposed by district leadership. Since then, former principal Eddie Hundley’s teaching certification has been revoked, allegations of fiscal mismanagement led the School Board to resume control of the school under threat of state intervention, and the federal government has launched an investigation into possible fraud by the board.
Amid all the chaos, families continue to choose Lincoln as the best place for their children, and enrollment has increased since the school’s conversion.
Last month’s move by the School Board to resume control has angered many members of the Palmetto community, who have shown up to protest at the last two board meetings.
Now that the school year has begun, the lack of certified teachers smacks of retaliation to the aggrieved community members.
Czaia also says the district has provided faulty transportation equipment.
“All the school buses provided by the Manatee School Board broke down on their first day of school!” the release stated. “NO QUALIFIED TEACHERS! NO ADEQUATE EQUIPMENT!”
Czaia has also set up a webpage, called the trojanwarforlma.com.
“We will not stand by while Palmetto (LMA) is singled out for unjust treatment by the Manatee County School Board when the School Board manipulates the rules and violates the law to preserve and expand their power,” the page states.
The page includes documents allegedly proving retaliation, underfunding and deception by the Manatee County School District.
The page has a link to a GoFundMe page as well, with the goal of raising $1 million. The page has raised $6,110 so far, including $5,000 from Czaia.