In a Feb. 15, 2011, email, K12’s Samantha Gilormini wrote to certified teachers in Florida: “So if you see your name next to a student that might not be yours it’s because you were qualified to teach that subject and we needed to put your name there.”
Gilormini sent one K12 teacher in Seminole County a roster of more than 100 students. She only recognized seven names and refused to sign. According to a subsequent survey conducted by school officials in Seminole County, only 36 percent of parents said their child’s teacher was the one K12 had listed.
It’s not just a problem in Seminole County. Leon County school administrators said they’ve moved one student out of a K12 class led by a teacher who did not have the correct subject certifications.
Seminole County school officials said the K12 problems uncovered there may exist statewide.
Following disclosure of the state probe, public school officials in Brevard and Volusia counties are checking the teacher information K12 has provided.
The Department of Education is limiting its investigation to Seminole County and the allegation concerning K12’s business there, according to spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.
Meanwhile, K12 executives have been trying to calm shareholders spooked by the state inquiry. In a conference call with investors Sept. 13, K12 CEO Ron Packard said news reports about the company’s internal documents in Seminole County included “rumormongering and absurd extrapolations.”
“All teachers teaching Seminole County students were Florida certified, and in our internal review, we have only identified minor mistakes in matching the appropriate grade and course certifications with specific students and courses,” Packard said.
K12 has maintained in public statements that the state has certified all company teachers in Florida. But that may not be enough to meet the state legal requirement.
In Florida, teachers must receive not only general state certification but also course-specific certification. Under Florida law, for example, a reading teacher cannot teach a science course.
Asked whether K12 teachers in Florida have the necessary course certifications for the classes they teach, company spokesman Kwitowski did not provide a direct answer.
“You’re asking me to get into the details of the matter currently under review by the state, which I can’t do,” he said. “As we’ve repeatedly stated, K12 teachers who teach students in Florida are appropriately state certified.”
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org. StateImpact Florida is a project of NPR, WUSF Public Media and WLRN Public Media. For more information, visit stateimpact.npr.org/florida.