Florida virtual fiasco


photo by Amy Hinnant

Freshman Lola Navarro works on her online Spanish course. Recent changes in the FLVS virtual system have caused uncertainty for the long-term future of the program.

Virtual school is every student’s dream. No homework, work at your own pace and you can do it all in your pajamas. What more could an overwhelmed high school student ask for? However, love is not enough to keep the Florida Virtual School running smoothly. 

This past spring, the people who run FLVS, or the independent board, were all fired or demoted due to allegations of mismanagement of funds and contracts. One scenario including the former general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher giving funds to his son in law. Gov. Ron Desantis called for an audit of the entire corporation. The whole thing is shady, but that is not even the worst part. The board was replaced with four politicians, none of whom have any experience in the education system.

You can not manage something if you do not know what it is. It is like if someone gave you a bunch of sentences in French, Hungarian and Italian and told you to sort them by language. If you do not speak any of those languages you are just moving things around blindly with no idea of what you are doing. Sam Verghese, the new chief operations officer, for example, was previously the Secretary of Elder Affairs for the state. So obviously, the next step would be to go into education. That is completely jumping from one demographic to another. 

The Florida Virtual classes have a few inconsistencies as well. There are multiple loopholes in the system that make it easy for students to cheat on their classes. As nice as it is to have a flexible class schedule, it makes it easy for people to ignore their classes until the last minute. This is very different from Seminole Virtual that requires a call at the end of every module, or lesson, to insure you are understanding the material. SCVS has the advantage of being run locally, so they are able to manage their resources in a more effective way. They send out SCVS employees to each virtual lab to make sure every student enrolled in their program is staying on pace. FLVS does not have the resources or staff to do so.    

Education is political enough as it is. A student’s schooling should not be swayed by policies or vote counts. People think that because they attended school they know enough to lead them, and that is just not true. There should be at least someone on that board that understands curriculum or even kids in general. The board now reports directly to the state education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, who has expressed in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel that they hired candidates who could bring management and strong ethical leadership.  

Strong ethical leadership may be a bit of a stretch. Especially since the new chief administrative officer Erik Braun was recently reprimanded at his previous job in the Department of Children and Families for failing to report his DUI to his supervisors, which was required of his position. It makes you question his reliability as a leader. Do we really want a man who lies about his criminal record to manage a school that receives $180 million dollars a year? This man is no more qualified than the “criminals” he replaced. 

If you want an easy A, Florida Virtual is the way to go, but if you value your education, consider taking a different route.