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FDOE asks school district to investigate Lee County charter school

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FDOE asks school district to investigate Lee County charter school

By Kelli Stegeman. CREATED May 14, 2014

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - A Lee County charter school is under the microscope for allegations of exaggerating enrollment numbers to get more of your tax dollars. 

 
The Florida Department of Education is now asking the Lee County School Board to investigate the allegations. 
 
A former employee of North Nicholas High School says the school is making attendance seem better than it is to earn a few bucks. 
 
"Now that the Florida Department of Education is looking into this, this is very serious," said Lee County School Board member Don Armstrong. 
 
Armstrong is concerned something is amiss at North Nicholas. 
 
"All schools need to be held accountable and if there is some frivilous spending on taxpayers money, then yeah, I have an issue because that's my money too," said Armstrong.
 
The more students in the classroom, the more money the charter school gets from taxpayer dollars.
 
A former employee of the charter school alleges that North Nicholas is using different tactics to make enrollment and attendance numbers greater than they are.
 
In a letter to board members he said: "I saw a rampant disregard for educational practice, student safety, and laws/standards at the county, state or federal level."
 
That employee alerted the Florida Department of Education who then asked Lee County to investigate on May 8th. 
 
"It's something that I feel needs to be looked at very seriously," said Armstrong.
 
Accelerated Learning Solutions manages the charter school.
 
"There are only certain things that we can actually do with charter schools," said Armstrong. 
 
"You can only act once something has been brought to your attention?" asked reporter Kelli Stegeman. 
 
"Yeah," Armstrong replied. "And, it has to be something very severe." 
 
"Like this?" asked Stegeman. 
 
"Like this," agreed Armstrong. 
 
In 2012, a state investigation revealed North Nicholas and Coronado High, both Lee County charter schools managed by ALS, did not properly document student enrollment. Armstrong hopes this isn't a case of déjà vu. 
 
"It's a waste of taxpayers money, from the way it is sounding, and we need to make sure that is not happening," he said. "Most importantly, these students are not being robbed of a great education." 
 
At the time of broadcast, Accelerated Learning Solutions and school board chair Tom Scott had not returned our calls. 
 
On the agenda at the next board meeting on May 20th, the charter school will be asking the board to increase enrollment to 650 students. Armstrong says while this investigation is going on, he will vote 'no.' 
 
Stay with FOX 4 for updates on the investigation. 
Kelli Stegeman

Kelli Stegeman

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Kelli co-anchors FOX 4 Rising