Pam Dwyer, principal of Oakland Avenue Charter School, presented the school’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24 at the June 27 Town Commission meeting. The proposed amount is $6,266,836, compared to last year’s $6,305,137. Reserves are estimated at $121,672, compared to last year’s reserves of $311,135.
Included in the budget are $500,000 in remaining Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds; grant monies for the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program; an additional classroom and additions to the VPK and after-school programs; funding from the Department of Education to increase teacher salaries; a new playground to replace the original; safety fencing at the front of the school near the cafeteria; and the creation of a help-desk position.
At the time of the budget development, the Charter School Revenue Calculator was not available from the DOE. To calculate revenue, OACS and town staff took a conservative increase of 2.25% instead of the proposed 4.50% increase. When the calculator is released and final funding is approved by the state, Dwyer will include it with the final budget in September.
RESPONSE TO HATE LITERATURE
Two Oakland residents criticized the town for the way it handled the distribution of hate literature in several neighborhoods a few weeks ago.
Some residents in Oakland and Winter Garden received recently antisemitic flyers. The person who was distributing them was stopped and issued a traffic violation. However, as of press time, no other measures have been taken.
“Silence can be deafening, and when you look at our response, there’s nothing on our social media, there was nothing that says, ‘Hey we don’t stand for this. … this is not what our town is,” one man said to commissioners. “We’re a small, tight-knit community, and I want to keep it that way, but how can we do better?”
Another resident said he was disappointed the town didn’t address the issue.
“None of us condone the actions … but we were also dealing with a legal matter,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “We’re very disappointed we were targeted for this, and we will not tolerate (it), and I think we showed that in the way we got rid of the information, turned it over to the FBI and made sure we followed the letter of the law.
“We can learn from our actions, but there’s a lot more to what we were dealing with than people know, and that’s for the police department to deal with, and we take your hindsight into consideration … anything that goes on in the future,” Stark said. “We do not condone this nor will we ever.”
Police Chief Darron Esan presented a gift to Lt. Angela Campbell, who retired from the Oakland Police Department June 30 after 14 years of service.
“We really appreciate what she’s done and wish her well on her next venture,” Esan said.
“The town was my life, you guys were amazing, and I thank you for 14 years of my dream,” Campbell said. “This was my dream since I was a kid, and as you know I didn’t go to the academy until I was 40. So to have this as my first and only job in law enforcement, I’m beyond words. Thanks for always having my back and supporting me.”
IN OTHER NEWS
• Oakland Town Manager Andy Stewart announced town employee Jessica Lovejoy now is serving as the community outreach director and public information officer and has made some organizational changes at the Healthy West Orange Arts & Heritage Center at the Town of Oakland.
Lovejoy presented an events calendar for the second half of 2023 and already is working on the calendar for 2024. She said the fourth Friday Music on the Porch will transition to the fourth Thursday, and she was thrilled to announce the town will host a farmers market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays in front of the heritage center.
• The commission approved the consent agenda, which included an interlocal cooperation agreement with Orange County to participate in a Community Development Block Grant, Emergency Solutions Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships entitlement grants as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Urban County Program. The agreement covers the grant appropriations for fiscal years 2024, 2025 and 2026.
• The consent agenda also included a MetroPlan Orlando funding agreement for Fiscal Year 2023-24. MetroPlan Orlando has been an important partner in transportation planning for the town with both the adopted Mobility Master Plan and construction funding for the roundabout currently under construction on Oakland Avenue and Old Highway 50.
• Stewart said the town has reached out to Colwill Engineering, Orlando, and spoke with an electrical engineer who specializes in lighting regarding the water tower lighting. The engineer, Steve Conenna, will review and research the issue and provide recommendations for commission consideration.
• Commissioner Sal Ramos asked if the town plans to place a landmark or icon welcoming people to Oakland at the new roundabout on West Oakland Avenue. Nothing currently is planned, Public Works director Mike Parker said, other than landscaping but water and electricity have been run into the center so the town has options. Mayor Kathy Stark said she wants to see complementary signage on both the east and west ends of Oakland Avenue for continuity.