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Jefferson Charter Operator Somerset Academy Inc., Gets 'Schools of Hope' Designation

Somerset Academy Inc., is one of new “Schools of Hope” operators in Florida. A law approved last year allows additional state funding and exemptions to charter schools that open near failing public ones.

Somerset Academy is also the provider that runs the district charter school in Jefferson County. Speaking to the state board of education earlier this week, Jefferson Somerset advisor Douglas Rodriguez held the school up as a model of his company’s work.

We compared grades to what the result were and we had many students receiving straight A’s…yet received 1’s on the EOC  [End of Course] exam. That’s the kind of lift we’re doing in this county," he told members of the State Board of Education.

Rodriguez says when Somerset took over Jefferson County Schools last year, "we had one student in our entire school who passed the end-of-course exam last year in Algebra.”

The Jefferson school district was pressured by the state to turn to an outside operator after more than a decade of poor academic performance and financial problems.

Somerset Academy Inc., runs more than 60 schools in four states. The majority are in South Florida.

The company is one of two "Schools of Hope" operators in the state. The other is IDEA Public Schools out of Texas. The State Board of Education approved the designations Tuesday, opening up millions in loans, grants and law exemptions under a 2017 law that established the program. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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