Manatee school officials defend themselves from allegations of mistreatment by the former board members of Lincoln Memorial Academy.
MANATEE COUNTY — Children returned to school on Monday, and the grownups kept fighting.
Manatee School District officials fired back Wednesday against claims that they were shortchanging Lincoln Memorial Academy, the embattled charter school that the district recently resumed control over. The school and district have a contentious history, one that has only gotten more volatile in recent weeks as school founder Eddie Hundley has become the subject of a federal investigation for possible fraud and the state Department of Education declared the school to be in dire financial condition.
Now that Manatee is overseeing Lincoln, the former governing board is alleging possibly retaliatory behavior. The board issued a press release on Tuesday claiming Manatee had fired qualified teachers and staffed the school with unlicensed and inexperienced replacements.
On Wednesday, district spokesman Mike Barber said that allegation was false.
“No teachers were fired period,” Barber said, adding that when the school was under the control of former principal Eddie Hundley, several academic teachers did not have their proper certification.
Barber also denied Lincoln's claim that academic classes were being taught by a hodgepodge of school staff, including the school nurse, a former director of transportation, a parent liaison and an ESOL paraprofessional. Barber said there were currently four vacancies at the school, and all were being covered by paraprofessionals, teachers’ assistants or substitute teachers. All four positions are being advertised on the district’s job page.
The spokesman further rebutted Lincoln's board's claim that "all" the buses provided by the district broke down on the first day, saying one bus had been replaced after having mechanical issues and another needed maintenance between routes.
The allegations come amid a charged situation, with Lincoln's board saying Manatee's motivation for taking back the majority-black school is purely racial, leading to increasingly tense board meetings. The largely white School Board has struggled to respond to protestors who have interrupted meetings several times. At Tuesday's board meeting, the district instituted strict new security measures.
Rodney Jones, the former president of the Manatee County NAACP, announced on Facebook that students would be staging a walkout on Friday. Barber said school administrators are aware of rumors about such a move but are hoping students and teachers focus on academics.