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Charter School authority to appoint chair

By Staff | Dec 7, 2017

With the Cape Coral City Council’s decision to put a new council member on the Cape Coral Charter School Authority, a board reshuffling that was set to happen in the spring will now happen Tuesday during the school board’s 9 a.m. meeting in council chambers at City Hall.

On Nov. 20, Councilmember Jessica Cosden, who was also serving as Council liaison and chairperson on the municipal school board, was replaced by newly elected council member Jennifer Nelson. This forced the charter authority to move Robert Zivkovic into the acting chairperson role until the authority either names him permanent chair or taps someone else.

Nelson said she understands the learning curve will be steep, especially in light of past controversies and present challenges facing the city-run charter school system.

But Nelson also said she understands her role as a liaison and won’t try to overstep it, at least for now. At this point, it’s listen and learn.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to take a chair or vice-chair position. As a council member I’m going to have to have the objectivity between what’s best for the students and for the city,” Nelson said.

After reading a Cape Coral Police Department investigative report into a possible misuse of funds, Nelson said she learned a lot about the system and is going to ask a lot of questions.

According to the CCPD synopsis related specifically to money raised, a number of problem areas, or deficiencies that need to be addressed, were identified but “none of these have rose to the level of criminal activity or culpability.”

Among the questions Nelson would like answered is how the charter school system, which has worked on getting some of the city’s recommended low-cost and no-cost “best practices” implemented, will get the rest of policy items completed, Nelson said.

“I want to see what is left on the list of best practices and see who will take responsibility to get them completed and in what time frame,” Nelson said. “If there are high-cost ones, I would like to see if there is a return on investment.”

Nelson said her skill set would allow her to help with fundraising – which is among her biggest strengths – process improvements, policy writing and streamlining. She also could help the board with new technology that could help record ticket and cash handling.

“How can I help them finish what they started or help them come up with new ideas that will improve their processes,” Nelson said.

Before she can do that, the school authority is going to have to reorganize and decide who will chair the board.

It is likely Nelson will not replace Cosden in that role.

Zivkovic said Cosden’s chairmanship has since raised some Sunshine Law concerns, so even if Nelson wants the position, they would not likely nominate her.

“As a board, when you put it in those terms, it makes sense that the liaison is not the chair,” Zivkovic said.

Once the chairmanship is decided, the authority will listen to an update on the internal funds and on the real estate options the system has to address needs such as parking and athletic fields.

Also expected on the agenda is an update on the progress of a possible contract for interim Superintendent Jacqueline Collins.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Marilyn Stout said she would like to see the system conduct another nationwide search before naming the new superintendent.

Zivkovic said the last national search yielded 35 candidates before the decision to go with someone with institutional knowledge, Collins.

Nelson, along with Mayor Joe Coviello, supported Collins, as does Zivkovic, who said Collins’ track record speaks for itself as an effective, responsive leader who puts the kids first.

“She has dedication to the system and a track record of good work. She ran Christa McAuliffe (Charter Elementary School) really well and there’s a benefit from promoting from within,” Zivkovic said. “It gives encouragement to others that if they want to better themselves within the system, they can.”