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Education

Orlando charter school principal gets $500,000 payout

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:25 PM

ORLANDO — A failed Florida charter school's principal is getting a $519,000 departure payment, and that has some state lawmakers outraged.

An evaluation by the Orange County School District shows NorthStar High School's directors paid principal Kelly Young more than twice as much as they spent on teachers and students in the 2011-12 school year.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Young received $824,000 in taxpayer funds. That includes the departure payment but not money she's still getting for winding down the school's operations. Meanwhile, the school spent $366,042 on instruction, including teacher salaries last year.

Young's lawyer, Usher "Larry" Brown, told the newspaper that her pay shouldn't have been a secret because it was included in financial filings that showed administrative salaries. In 2010-11, her contract also called for $305,000 in pay, a third of the school's budget that year.

State Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat, says he's drafting legislation to make charter schools more accountable and transparent.

"What have we done?" said Montford, who's also CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. "How did this happen and how can we correct it?"

Charters receive public funds but are run by public or private entities, including for-profit corporations, other than school districts.

"I have never seen an act that egregious in 15 years of working with charters," said Rep. John Legg, a Port Richey Republican who's a charter school business administrator. "You can't be giving these golden parachutes in any industry, especially one funded with taxpayer money."

A recording today said the phone number listed for the school had been disconnected.

While Young was getting a handsome salary, the school, made up of concrete portables, lacked computers, a library or a cafeteria for some 180 mostly at-risk and underprivileged students.

The district report said nearly three-quarters of the students failed the state's reading test and half failed math. Students, though, said it was the first school in which they felt supported.

Young was president of the school's board and a voting member for the last three years although she abstained from the vote on her departure payment.

Michael Kooi, who oversees charter schools for the Florida Department of Education, said it's a conflict of interest to serve as a principal and board member.

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