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2001 Opinions

Date:   April 11, 2001
Prepared By:   James A. Robinson
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   01-04
Staff Contact:   Diane McCain
TO: Vicki Mannausa, Choice Office
FROM: James A. Robinson, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Manatee School for the Arts
RE: E-mail from Karen Bennett dated April 4, 2001

QUESTION PRESENTED: What is the definition of Exemplary Academic Programming and Fiscal Management?

CONCLUSION: The term "exemplary" may be a question to be resolved by reference to generally accepted standards of fiscal management.

DISCUSSION: You have asked for my assistance in addressing some questions raised by Mr. David R. Kramer on behalf of the charter school. I understand Mr. Kramer has asked the meaning of the term "exemplary academic programming and fiscal management," as that term is used in Section 228.056(9)(b), Florida Statutes. As you know, the Office of General Counsel does not issue legal opinions to private individuals and entities, so my comments here are intended for your benefit should you have further discussion on this subject.

Neither Florida Statutes nor the rules of the Department of Education define "exemplary academic programming and fiscal management." Where a statute does not define a term, such term may be given its normal, everyday, dictionary meaning. "Exemplary" is defined by Webster's II, New Riverside Dictionary, Revised Edition, to mean:

"1. Serving as a model. 2. Worthy of imitation : commendable."

Section 228.056(10)(a), Florida Statutes, provides that at the end of the term of a charter, "the sponsor may choose not to renew for any of the following grounds:

  1. Failure to meet the requirements for student performance stated in the charter.
  2. Failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management.
  3. Violation of law.
  4. Other good cause shown.

Thus, what is "exemplary" may be a question to be resolved by reference to generally accepted standards of fiscal management. The charter school governing board may wish to confer with a certified public accountant or business lawyer in this regard. It is not entirely clear whether the financial difficulty experienced during the existing term disqualifies the charter school from a 15-year renewal term. This is, of course, the ultimate question posed by Mr. Kramer, and there are arguments that can be made on either side of that issue.


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