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Saturday April 19th 2014

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Thomas in Favor of Closing Dixon


When Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas looks into his crystal ball, the future looks grim for A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence.
Thomas predicts the struggling school will be shut down. He should know, since the Superintendent is the one recommending the action.

“I think the school board is gonna support me tomorrow night,” Thomas said.

The Escambia County School Board will decided A.A. Dixon’s fate Tuesday night. The charter has made recent efforts to show it intends to dig its way out of a $100,000-hole and improve failing test scores; the school has hired a new principal and brought on new board members.

“We don’t feel bad about their academic plan, if they had the resources they could probably get it back on track,” Thomas said, explaining that the lack of financial stability was the District’s primary concern — “most of it’s about money.”

“If you can’t pay your teachers, can’t pay your staff, that’s gotta be a huge concern for you,” he said.

This is not a new direction for the Superintendent, who has already recommended the school be shuttered. And while he said he believes that the staff at Dixon is “trying to teach their hearts out,” Thomas only feels stronger in his position after listening to a representative from the charter on Friday.

“The more the Operational Officer stood before us and talked, the more concerns were raised,” he said.

Thomas said the Board was specifically concerned about a plan presented by the charter school to use a different company to bus students. He said that notion was fraught with logistical impossibilities, such as checking out all the company’s vehicles and licensing its drivers to ferry students.

“It’s just another example of how it’s been difficult to try to help Dixon,” the Superintendent said.

Thomas also said the Charter presented the Board with a plan that involved spending grant money that it has not yet received.

“They’ve not even got the packet prepared to the point where I could sign it and send to DOE,” he said. “This is what got them into trouble last year.”

The Superintendent said he planned to recommend the Board give A.A. Dixon a 90-day notice. The Charter would then have 14 days to request a hearing, which would probably be held inside of the original 90 days.

“The school board would vote up or down, at that point that is the final word,” Thomas said, predicting a close for Dixon by January. “If they go the distance it would be the semester. In mid-January is when we’d force it to an end.”