• Osceola County officials vote to close aviation charter school

    By: Jason Kelly , Ashley Edlund , Karen Parks


    KISSIMMEE, Fla. - A Kissimmee charter school that trains students to become pilots was notified Monday that its contract with the School District of Osceola County was immediately terminated.

    On Tuesday, the Osceola County School Board voted to close the Florida Aviation Academy's Kissimmee campus, which opened its doors in August to 111 students.

    Superintendent Debra Pace sent the school board a letter Monday, accusing the school of falsifying records, belittling students and double billing the state.

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    "There are students whose schedules don't reflect the students' grades on the report card," she said.

    Todd Hoepker, the school's attorney, said he can rebut each of the allegations.

    "What provides an immediate and serious danger to the health safety and welfare of the students? Not one of those things," he said.

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    The school board voted to assign interim administrators and instructors to the school, beginning Wednesday, and to transfer all of the school's students to Osceola High School, beginning Jan. 8.

    Parent Donald Frano said he was unhappy with the board's decision.

    "I'm livid (with) the School District of Osceola County," he said. "They let down our kids tonight."

    Parent Katya Calixtro said she, too, was displeased with the decision.

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    "We took our kids out of the public system to go to a charter school, because we are not happy with the public (school system)," she said. "So if that's what they are trying to do, my son is not going to go."

    The charter school said it plans to appeal the ruling.

    The school's executive director, Melissa March, said that 37 students had been scheduled to begin testing Wednesday that would earn them a private pilot's license.

    The school district said Thursday that semester exams were waived because teachers who resigned did not leave behind exam materials.

    Students will instead take exams in the spring, and the district said it will help students prepare for them.

    Those who completed their first semester at the charter will receive credit for the grades they earned, officials said.

    They said report cards and transcripts will be available in January.

    "We don't even have transcripts. I can't even take my son back to Orange County, because I can't get a transcript that says my son has got grades," parent Albert Llompart said. "The school board has taken over, and the old administration has no control over anything going on right now. It's mortifying."

    The district said students may continue to be enrolled at the charter, but the program will take place at Osceola High School's campus.

    It will also offer other options, but it has not disclosed any details.

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