By Danielle Dodder
The Florida Department of Education has a highly competitive grant program that funds start-up costs for public charter high schools, and the Marco Island Academy is one of the fortunate few who will receive it.
Gayle Thawley is the Academy board member who patiently culled the 44 page grant application from the 600 pages that comprise the school’s original charter application. After shepherding the application through a process that would rank the Academy on 18 points of demonstrated competence, Thawley learned on May 10 that the Academy would be awarded the funding. “This grant affords the opportunity to not only fund and enrich the school’s unique programs, it also, perhaps more importantly, affirms the state’s endorsement of the Academy after intense scrutiny.”
The Florida Department of Education’s Public Charter Schools Grant Program allocates funds under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It covers a three year period (2011-2014): $25,000 for planning and program design, $225,000 for first-year implementation, and $75,000 for second-year implementation.
Jane Watt, Academy board president, was justifiably ecstatic, and proud of Thawley’s efforts. “She worked tirelessly on the grant. I am so excited: now we can buy state of the art technology, computers, lab equipment and books for the students!” Watt added that only half of the charter schools who apply for the funds will meet the state standards to receive them.
Thawley explained that the grant requires strong oversight to ensure that the objectives laid out by the Academy will be met. Furthermore, the Academy will participate in FLDOE grant fiscal management training, and submit monthly reports to the Collier County School District as part of fiscal oversight.
“Contrary to what some believe, requirements for a district public school must be met, and then some [for a charter school],” adds Thawley. “Opening a public charter high school is not for the faint of heart.”