SBAC gives go ahead to new charter school

The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) has approved the application for a new charter school that will serve first through eighth graders.

The decision came at SBAC’s meeting Tuesday night, three months after the SBAC received the application for the school that is scheduled to open for the 2022-23 school year.

After receiving the application, the Alachua County district’s Application Review Committee (ARC), which consists of members from each division of Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), evaluated the it. According to the SBAC report, the committee’s findings were then shared with SBAC members and the applicant.

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The application was then “approved with pending concerns,” and a list of ARC recommendations was itemized for representatives of the new school to address in the charter’s contractual language.

According to the application, Constellation Charter School of Gainesville was going to operate under the Heart Pine Waldorf Association, but that was replaced with the business entity of Constellation Charter School of Gainesville, Inc.

Sylvia Paluzzi, owner of Morning Meadow Preschool and Kindergarten serves as the president of the board of directors. Other members of the board include Shelley Rogers, a consultant with sustainable food company Mesh & Associates, Stephanie Jones, senior dentist for the Florida Department of Health in Bradford County, Dr. Nicole Roby, Razia Ali Hamm, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Amanda Holmes, courtesy faculty in anthropology at UF and Director of IRIE Center, Sita Marlier, owner of Alpin Bistro, and Jordan Wilson, a Rawlings Elementary culinary arts teacher.

“Constellation Charter School of Gainesville’s mission is to inspire children’s love of learning through academic pursuits, movement, art, and nature,” the application says. “Our school’s vision is to provide a whole child educational experience wherein teachers, staff and parents work together to support children as they move forward in their intellectual, emotional, and social development from first to eighth grade working out of the Public Waldorf Education Principles. We celebrate the gifts that a diverse community offers and honor the rhythms of human development. Our interdisciplinary curriculum inspires students’ critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and physical engagement, preparing children to be self-confident, capable individuals with a moral responsibility to act with purpose and compassion in our world.”

When Paluzzi appeared before the board, members emphasized that they want the school to serve all children well, especially those with learning disabilities.

“If you can’t serve that child, please make sure they remain in the district, especially if they have a learning disability,” said SBAC member Diyonne McGraw.

SBAC Vice Chair Tina Certain echoed that concern.

“Make sure whatever children enter your doors tomorrow, you really serve them,” she said.

Certain said charter schools drawing the student population away from public schools is affecting school districts.

“We are becoming fractured,” she said, adding that dollars being pulled out of public schools could start to destabilize the school system.

Board member Rob Hyatt asked if the school was going to be established in East Gainesville as indicated in the planning stages and original application.

But Paluzzi could not commit to that and said she is not completely wedded to an East Gainesville location.

“We branched out looking at other areas,” she said. “It will come down to affordability and access.”

The SBAC voted 4 to 1 to approve the application, with Hyatt in dissent.

Paluzzi thanked the SBAC for the approval and emphasized that she would be collaborating, not competing with the Alachua County school district.

“I really appreciate the opportunity,” she said. “We all want the same thing. It’s going to be a heartfelt endeavor to forge a relationship with the school board.”

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