I worked at Bell Creek Academy, a Charter School in Hillsborough County from September, 2013-September, 2014. It was the worst experience of my life. During that time period, I was a Special Education teacher/and Coordinator of the entire school.
I was asked repeatedly to lie on school documents that said that we were providing services that we were not actually providing. The school continued to accept Special Education students that the school did not have the resources to service. I was the only Special Education teacher at the entire school responsible for over 50 IEP’s and 75 504 plans. Although the school benefited from the education dollars with accepting these students, I believe that the school was out of compliance in many areas, and knowingly failed to service the Special Education students. This process and policy cheats families and kids out of the proper education that they are required to under the law. Instead of hiring more Special Education teachers, the school utilized me as a teacher for the entire year. Having worked in other Hillsborough School District schools, an average case load of students is 30 students per teacher. However, I had more than double that, in addition to handling the 504 plans. I was also responsible for the gifted program all year, and was the teacher of record for the gifted program. Though I never serviced the gifted students, I was asked to write their gifted education plans, and correspondent with the gifted parents to let them know that we were providing gifted services. However, this actually did not happen.
I believe that this school cheats students out of services, and takes advantage of families that don’t have a better idea of how the process is supposed to function and what services their kids are entitled to.
On top of all of this, I was not adequately supported by the principal. The principal asked me to conduct RTI training at the school, of which I had no training myself on this topic. The School Psychologist at the school refused to test students who had been referred by teachers and legitimately needed to be evaluated. He said that he would not test unless they had gone through the RTI process. This certainly made his job easy since there were no teachers who had this training. Since our teachers at Bell Creek never had training on this, the students that really needed to be tested for legitimate placement concerns were never tested. This is unfortunate because it left many students in the wrong placement and allowed many needy students to fall through the cracks.
I tried to give my 100% to make sure that students were serviced in accordance to their IEP, even though the school lacked ample Special Ed staff. At the end of the year, the school eventually hired another ½ time Special Ed teacher and I found a better position at Boston Public Schools. However, Bell Creek needs to be better managed so that it can properly service kids and support teachers adequately. Changes need to be made to better manage these schools!
I have no desire to ever work at a Charter School again. However, if I do, I can guarantee it will not be a for profit Charter School.