Osceola School Board might give second chance to failed aviation charter school

The Florida Aviation Academy was housed in a hangar at the Kissimmee Gateway Airport before it closed down.

An aviation charter school that abruptly closed in December amid a laundry list of corruption allegations from the Osceola County School District may get a chance to re-open its doors next August.

But parents who sent their students there still aren’t happy with the decision.

When Florida Aviation Academy (FAA) opened on Kissimmee Gateway Airport property last August, it was touted as an innovative high school where students could gain hands-on aerospace experience from industry leaders.

But the academy lasted less than five months before district officials stepped in and terminated its charter agreement. The move followed a major faculty walk-off Dec. 7 that left FAA with a single certified teacher.

The district cited 24 stiff allegations in a Dec. 17 letter that it claimed created an “immediate and serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of the school students.”

Allegations included falsifying academic documents, reporting student grades for courses that did not exist, failing to provide a state-mandated school resource officer during all operating hours, threatening to terminate staff who did not falsify records, holding class inside an airplane hangar without heat or air conditioning and attempting to double charge the state to receive more funding.

But the sudden closure left 111 students and their families scrambling to find an alternative just three  days before winter break.

Some parents are still angry with the district’s decision and believe FAA should be given a second chance.

“You guys, who we’ve elected to watch out for our children, have failed,” parent Don Frano  told Osceola County School Board members Tuesday. “I’m furious.”

Trade Logistics Aviation Academy Inc. – FAA’s parent company - appealed the district’s decision to revoke the school’s charter. That appeal is pending with the state of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. A hearing is set for July.

Now, a new settlement agreement is on the table between Trade Logistics and the district.

If approved, the settlement would allow FAA to re-open in August 2020 under new management – if it meets certain criteria first.

To get its charter back, the company will need to:

• Create a two-year financial and staffing plan based on projected enrollment.

• Complete contact and identification information for all FAA board members.

• Create a 24-month board meeting schedule.

• Secure a lease for a facility that meets code requirements.

• Submit an approved bell schedule for core classes.

If FAA is re-instated, the school would be placed on a one-year probation period then given a chance to renew its charter for three more years.

Osceola County School Board members discussed the settlement Tuesday but postponed a vote until next month because one member and the district superintendent were absent.  

Parent Albert Llompart said the settlement might benefit other children in the future but it doesn’t help his son who will be too old to enter the program in August 2020.

“It’s sort of closure for a nightmarish situation,” Llompart said. “But for the kids who were original enrollees in the program, the dream dies.”

School District Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher said the settlement is a way to keep the unique aviation program alive. But school board members still stood by their original December decision to revoke FAA’s charter.

“This school district does not manage those schools, but we are held accountable,” said School Board Member Ricky Booth. “We can be held criminally liable for some things that have happened.”

Kruppenbacher agreed, noting concerning facts he said were uncovered in a district investigation.  

“When the entire faculty resigns, there’s something there,” he said.

 A decision on the settlement agreement was postponed for a school board meeting next month.