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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

LWCS Asked The Polk County Sheriff’s Office To Do An Administrative Review Regarding Controversial NEEL Program

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By Carl Fish

Lake Wales, Florida – On April 4, 2022 the Lake Wales Charter School Board held a special meeting to discuss 3 items. One of those items was the implementation of the National Education Equity Lab (NEEL) dual enrollment class during the first semester of the 2021/2022 school year!

The National Education Equity Lab (NEEL) touts itself in the following manner: “We empower colleges to take a more active role in developing and inspiring the next generation of leaders. In partnership with pioneering universities including Howard, Princeton, Stanford, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, Cornell, Georgetown, Arizona State University, Barnard and Harvard (inaugural course), we deliver and support online college credit-bearing courses into teacher-led high school classrooms across the country. By enabling high school students from historically underserved communities to take actual college courses from college professors, students can build the skills — and confidence — needed to apply to and thrive in college. Participating students earn widely-transferable college credits, at no cost to them — and have access to mentorship and hands-on support.” (Link to National Education Equity Lab: https://edequitylab.org)

The program was first suggested by a Henry McCance, board member of the Lake Wales Charter School Foundation. He did so in an email that appears self explanatory. Here is a copy of that email:

During the teaching of the dual enrollment course it was determined by a LWHS teacher working with course that a certain reading assignment had storylines with cartoon drawings of items which many would consider pornographic. This teacher immediately brought it to Ms. Donna Dunson, LWHS Principal. Principal Dunson advised the board, in the April 4th meeting, that students were advised they did not have to do those two assignments. Within 24 hrs Principal Dunson reached out by email to the NEEL program to express her concerns with these particular items in the course material. She did not cancel the program outright as it would have been unfair to pull the whole course when it only had a few weeks remaining.

The board at one point asked Robin Gibson if they had any say in the curriculum. Gibson’s eventual reply is that they did not. It’s since been revealed that the board may have had the ability to have impute on this matter.

In the April 4, 2022, LWCS Board meeting board member Rusty Ingley made a motion that the board do a third party administrative investigation to look into “what happened from beginning to end”. The board unanimously agreed to that motion.

According to an email sent by LWCS Board Chairman, Danny Gill, on April 8th (to the Daily Ridge) which was a previous email to Dr Rodolfich on April 7, 2022 he advised the following: “I’m not sure if you watched the special board meeting last Monday but I wanted to give you an update. The Board had many concerns and questions regarding Donna Dunson’s implementation and lack of vetting process of the material used for the NEEL fall course. The Board was not aware of the program being implemented until late in the semester and the use of inappropriate material. The Board was appalled and voted to have an independent administrative investigation regarding the internal control breakdown at the high school. The administrative investigation will most likely be conducted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the material was turned over to them. The hope is that the breakdown can be investigated, identified and measures put in place to make sure this never happens again. I do not have a timeline on the process but feel that their department is very efficient.The complete email is here:

The Daily Ridge reached out to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office regarding their department doing administrative investigations. They advised from time to time the do get requests from school boards, city commissions and other agencies to do administrative investigations. When particularly asked about this investigation we were advised they are not doing this investigation, per Scott Wilder, Director of Communications.

The Daily Ridge has reached back out to the charter school board acting superintendent Alricky Smith to find out if they have an alternative to the Sheriff’s department to do this investigation.

We will update if we are advised in the next step of the investigation process.

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