When the Palm Beach County School Board approved a new Mavericks High charter school this February, one board member abstained from the vote. Chuck Shaw, the former principal of the JFK Medical Center Charter School in Lake Worth, said he couldn't vote because he had done some "volunteer work" for Mavericks and helped them with their charter application.
He later emailed a statement to New Times. "I was not involved in the writing, editing or creation of their charter, just gave my opinions since I believed that their focus was good," he wrote.
What Shaw didn't mention at the public meeting was the money he'd received. At a June 2010 campaign event, he collected $750 in political contributions from Mavericks
employees and their families - including Mavericks president Frank Biden, manager Lauren Hollander, and founding investor Mark Rodberg. (Kudos to blogger Doug Martin for first reporting on the donations.)
Even without Shaw's vote, the board approved Mavericks' charter 5-1. The Palm Springs high school, which opened in August, was the first Mavericks school to open in Palm Beach County. There are seven other Mavericks schools in Florida, including two in Broward and two in Miami-Dade. All are run by a for-profit company headquartered in West Palm Beach, Mavericks in Education Florida.
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In November, the Palm Beach County School Board was slated to vote on three new Mavericks charter applications. School district staff had recommended approval of the schools. But after New Times began reporting on the questionable academic track record of the charters, the board postponed the vote. Mavericks' schools have low graduation rates and have earned "incomplete" grades on state report cards because so few of their students are taking the FCAT.
"Based on the information staff has received to date, there are reasons to be concerned about the strength of Mavericks' academic program," school district spokesman Nat Harrington wrote in an email to New Times.