Bradenton school mulls conversion to charter school

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BRADENTON - An education matter of a different sort is being decided at a school here on the Suncoast. Parents at Rowlett Magnet Elementary School began casting their votes Friday, deciding whether or not it will become a charter school in the fall.

Parents with children who attend Rowlett were mailed ballots to decide whether the school should remain as it is or be converted into a charter, and the school began collecting those ballets Friday.

“I just think it's important for kids to be well-rounded, and not just academically. They need the arts." Sherry Johnson's son is one of many students who attend the school for its magnet program. "I have a son who's very shy, who's now excelled. He's in drama and is coming out of his shell and doing great."

Johnson says the school's focus on the arts is the driving force behind her son's progress.

And in addition to the performance arts, Rowlett is also known for its language program. But school officials say those very programs maybe on the chopping block if the school continues under the county school board management.

"With the budget situations as they exist at Manatee County Schools, we wanted to insure that we would be able to continue to offer the special and unique programs we have here at Rowlett Magnet Elementary School. And there are many indications that we would not to do that," says principal Brian Flynn.

So the school began the process to manage themselves, as a charter. "The process involves voting by parents and teachers, and 51% of each other groups have to support the conversion in order for it to take place."

If the school is able to get the approval from both parents and teachers, they will then submit the official application to the school board for approval. And if given the go ahead, Flynn says she is confident the school is ready for the undertaking. "We have analyzed the data that we have, and our figures indicate that in our first year of operating as a charter school we will actually be in the black by over $100,000," says Flynn.

In the meantime, the parents we spoke to say they support the change. "I pass three elementary schools to come to this school, and it’s very much worth it. And I want it to maintain its programs, and that’s why l’m voting for charter," says Johnson.

Parents will continue voting until June 6. Teachers will cast their ballots next week.

The Manatee County School Board did not return ABC 7’s request for a comment.