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THE BUZZ | Vol. 8, No. 14, April 05, 2007
(Burning Down The House)

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The Buzz


CHARTER SCHOOL AUDITS A review of the audited financial reports of the Escambia County School District's six charter schools provides some interesting insights into the workings of these operations. Five of the schools had submitted their financials to the school district as required by law. The Dr. Ruby J. Gainer School for Reaching Your Dream is the one holdout. Gainer school officials have hired the local CPA firm Brown Thornton Pacenta & Company to complete their financial statements for the period from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006.

The five schools that did submit audited financial reports are Beulah Academy of Science, Byrneville Elementary School, Capstone Academy, Escambia Charter School, the Jacquline Harris Preparatory Academy and Pensacola Beach Elementary School. These five schools received a total of $19 million for the 2005-06 fiscal year.

When you compare the budgets for each school, the biggest disparities in expenditures is the administration category, the Escambia Charter School spends only $25,843 on school administration. Capstone shows no administrative fees other than $4,016 labeled as “Administrative fees to Escambia County.”

Pensacola Beach Elementary shows $25,048 for general administration and $132,936 for school administration. The Beulah Academy only shows $163,805 for school administration.

Two most expensive schools to administer are Byrneville Elementary ($200,710) and Jacqueline Harris Preparatory ($218,983). The last audited financial reports for the Dr. Ruby J. Gainer School, dated June 30, 2005, show that school’s administrative expenses to be $182,761.

The Jacqueline Harris Preparatory Academy serves approximately 200 students in grades K-5. Beulah Academy of Science has 220 students in grades 6-8.  Beulah spends $47,511 more on instruction and $55,718 less on school administration.

We guess elementary school kids are cheaper to teach, but are they more expensive to administer?

The principal of Jacqueline Harris Preparatory is Celestine Lewis, who just happens to be a shareholder in the limited liability corporation from which the school leases its facilities. The school pays the Creative Projects, LLC, $7,756 per month to lease the school building.

LORD HUMONGOUS  Jeff Van Camp is starting to visit with Santa Rosa County citizens and groups in his campaign for Santa Rosa County Sheriff against two-term incumbent Wendell Hall.

Many in Pensacola will remember Van Camp, the 23-year law enforcement veteran, for his weekly Blab TV program that led to the creation of Crimestoppers in 1996. The show and program resulted in more than 4,000 arrests.

Others in the South will remember the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Van Camp as “Lord Humongous.” Now down to a svelte 280, the 45-year-old Van Camp played the wrestling character introduced in Memphis’ Mid-South Wrestling by “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart.

Van Camp wrestled with the dominant Jerry “the King” Lawler and Cowboy Bill Watts among others.

The only question Van Camp refused to answer during his IN interview?

“I can’t answer if wrestling is fake or not,” he says with a chuckle.

VOICE SILENCED? The Pensacola Voice is on the sales block for $1.5 million.

Les Humphrey, who died in January 2001 at the age of 75, began the Pensacola Voice newspaper in 1963 as the civil rights movement was gaining strength. It has been a fixture in the local African-American community ever since.

The paper, which has about 30,000 paid subscribers, has always addressed political, social and economic issues facing the black community that the mainstream media ignored. Humphrey’s granddaughter LaDonna Spavey took over in May 2001.

Under her leadership, the paper continues to fill the gap in minority coverage. Hopefully, the much-needed paper will find a worthy buyer, who will continue the Voice’s mission.

GO GAETZ GO Freshman Sen. Don Gaetz  got his first bill signed into law on March 29. The bill provides bonuses ranging from $4,000 to $8,000 to high-performing teachers and school administrators. The bill, which was only the second law signed by rookie Gov. Charlie Crist, is probably the first of many spearheaded by the political powerhouse Gaetz.

The bill, sponsored by Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, repeals the Department of Education’s controversial STAR system. It puts power back into the hand of local school boards to design by allowing them to implement their own Merit Award plans tied to student performance and effective teaching.

The bill provides $147.5 million in the first year. The program is voluntary. School districts have the option to participate or not.