USF Patel Charter School Looks to Merge with Hillsborough County School District

TAMPA, Fla. (July 29, 2008) – The USF Patel Charter School, which serves high-needs students in kindergarten through 5th grade, could become a part of the Hillsborough County School District under a plan proposed by the USF Patel Charter School Board of Directors at a special meeting July 29. Under the plan, the school would relinquish its charter status in order to partner with the school district to meet the needs of its students.

"Our primary concern is serving our students and their families,” said Ralph Wilcox, Ph.D, president of the USF Patel Charter School Board, as well as provost and senior vice president of the University of South Florida. "We are proposing that we expand our partnership with the Hillsborough County School District, and take advantage of the school district's resources to help high-needs children." 

Operating as a "charter school," the USF Patel Charter School is run by its board of directors as a direct support organization of the University of South Florida. However, USF is unable to use its state general funding to help support the school. In July, the school received the news that student scores on the FCAT resulted in an F grade for the school.
"This year’s 4th and 5th grade FCAT scores were deeply disappointing," Wilcox said, "despite our belief that many students have been helped by the school, especially in the third grade. Clearly the 4th and 5th grade scores mandate swift action to ensure that our students have the help they require and deserve.

"As we weighed our options, it became clear that the school district has greater resources to assist with such opportunities as after-school programs, which these students need to do well academically." 

For the university and the Hillsborough County School District, this is an opportunity to expand the long and very positive partnership between USF and the school district that is currently visible in USF's relationship with Pizzo Elementary School. It will allow the school district to bring its expertise and resources to bear on the needs of children enrolled in the Patel School.
The school will retain the name, the Patel School, named for Drs. Pallavi and Kiran Patel, who helped found the school.
"I believe we can make this a smooth transition for the students, their families, the teachers and staff," said School District Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. "I appreciate the great partnership we’ve had with USF and I look forward to working with USF to help these high-risk students."

The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is one of Florida's top three research universities. USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference. 

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