OCOEE It was not even a primary item on the Ocoee City Commission’s agenda Feb. 16, but the Charter Schools USA and Red Apple Development proposal for Renaissance Charter School at Westyn Bay arose multiple times.
The 10.6-acre parcel on which CSUSA is more than hoping to get approval for a charter school serving grades kindergarten to eighth is on West Road, just east of the Publix-anchored Fountains West Shopping Center on Ocoee-Apopka Road. An adjacent parcel of 28.1 acres is for Arbours at Crown Point PUD, which was the subject of a proposed ordinance to amend its land use plan that involves 240 apartment units.
“Over the weekend, I received numerous calls from individuals regarding this charter school,” District 2 Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said after the ordinance reading. “Saturday, someone said to me that this was a done deal, and I said, ‘Not with me it wasn’t.’”
A short time later, Wilsen saw a commercial for the charter school, asking parents for letters of commitment of admission, she said.
“I could not figure out (how) you could put the cart before the horse,” she said. “It didn’t smell good … I don’t like what I saw.”
District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller said he had seen that commercial as early as Jan. 26, before District 1 Commissioner John Grogan had held a community meeting Feb. 8 with residents and CSUSA officials to try gauging citizens’ opinions of the school proposal. Keller agreed with Wilsen that this commercial was presumptuous.
Later, Keller asked for WestynBayCharter.org to be shown. The website’s homepage prematurely advertises Renaissance Charter School at Westyn Bay as opening in August.
Mayor Rusty Johnson reiterated Wilsen’s points that he and commissioners had made no decisions about the school and some had not received any contact from CSUSA. Wilsen implored citizens to share their thoughts on the proposal with the commission, to which Grogan responded the turnout for the community meeting he had held was disappointing at less than 1% of those he had invited. He did acknowledge there had been a postal service issue with some invitations.
Resident Michelle Greco had made a public comment against taxpayer money going toward police provisions for meetings hosted by private entities such as Charter Schools USA, as well. City Manager Robert Frank said police had been provided at a CSUSA meeting to ensure safety, with no payment from CSUSA as a means to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Grogan asked to pull approval of a federal lobbying services contract from the consent agenda, saying he wanted the commission to see presentations from the top three applicants. A vote for that request passed with only Wilsen dissenting. She wanted to follow the Request for Proposal Committee’s recommendation to award a three-year contract worth $30,000 per year to Capitol Counsel.
- The first of two public hearings — with the second on March 1 — occurred regarding a moratorium on development and building permits and development orders in the State Road 429 Study Area. This would halt acceptance of new proposals through July 31.
- Commissioners unanimously approved accepting a $9,968 EMS grant from the Office of the Orange County Medical Director to enhance Ocoee Fire Department EMS training.
- The commission approved an Ocoee Police Department employee’s worker’s compensation settlement of $295,750.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].