School board approves new high school plan

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Posted June 11, 2021 | Ocala Gazette Staff

[Carlos Medina/Ocala Gazette]

The Marion County School Board unanimously approved the plan to create Ocali Charter High School during its June 8 meeting.

The school hopes to open by August 2022 and is looking at using an existing building on East Silver Springs Boulevard, according to school spokesman Kevin Christian.

The high school will be run by Clear Choice Academies, Inc. which established Ocali Charter Middle School in 2014. Ocala Charter High School would be the county’s ninth high school.

Originally formed as Francis Marion Charter School, it shared a campus with Francis Marion Military Academy. The middle school, however, was not a feeder to the now defunct Francis Marion academy.

The two schools split in 2016 following financial disputes, and the middle school became Ocali Charter Middle School. It moved to the Church of HOPE in a strip mall at 3233 SE Maricamp Road.

Then-principal Mary Pinson was arrested in 2016, accused of stealing school funds and charged with one count of grand theft involving more than $20,000. Pinson was fired. Court records do not show the disposition of the charges.

Teresa “Teecy” Matthews took over as principal. Matthews reinvigorated the school before transitioning to the school’s executive director position. The school eventually moved into storefront space next to the Church of HOPE, where they remain.

The school earned a “C” grade in 2019 the most recent available grade after the state suspended the measure in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic. School grades are based in part on performance on state assessments, learning gains on state assessments and the proportion of students who passed an end-of-course assessment.

The middle school caters to students who benefit from learning in smaller groups not available at public schools, according to the school’s website.

Now, organizers hope to offer a similar program at the high school level.

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