| Treasure Coast Newspapers
FORT PIERCE — Less than a month after a new charter school opened, its principal has resigned, claiming one of the co-founders misrepresented her educational experience and character toward students.
In a Facebook post last week, Courtney Paschal Purnell, the former principal of Independence Classical Academy, said the “school should be 100% about the success of our children and the betterment of our community.”
Director Sandy Krischke, according to Purnell, “willfully committed academic stolen valor” and “misrepresented” her certifications and character.
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Purnell confirmed her post and reasons for departure in an interview with TCPalm.
Krischke declined to comment.
On the school’s website, Krischke states she is certified to teach broad social sciences, grades five through nine. The Florida Department of Education website, however, lists no certifications for Krischke, and a spokeswoman confirmed she never obtained her certification.
The school’s board chairman, Clay Becton, denied the accusations against the school in an email sent to parents last week and obtained by TCPalm. “No one working at (the school) has misrepresented themselves in any capacity,” Becton wrote.
His email urged parents to “not get caught up in the misinformation being broadcast about our school on social media platforms.”
On Sept. 18, the school named Marcia Cully, a former St. Lucie County schools principal and educator, as interim principal.
Independence Classical Academy is a nonprofit public charter school ithat offers a classical education emphasizing a three-pronged learning process focusing on absorbing facts, thinking through arguments and learning to express one’s self, according to the school website.
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The school’s mission is “a response to what has become a merry-go-round of failed education policy, centered on standardized testing, driven by data that is skewed and improperly weighted, and no longer focused on knowledge,” according to the website.
The school — which opened for the 2020-21 school year, accepting kindergarten through eighth grade students — is expected to add a grade each year, eventually to serve grades K-12, the website says.
St. Lucie County Commission Chair Cathy Townsend, a board member of the school, said in a statement, “We are blessed to have one of the best principals in St. Lucie County, Ms. Marsha Cully. Our families should continue with their faith in (Independence Classical Academy).”
The school is educating “our greatest assets, (our children),” Townsend said.
Perhaps the biggest issue for Purnell was how Krischke acted in front of students, she said. Purnell cited a number of complaints the school received from parents regarding Krischke’s interactions with students.
Kameron Kinser is among the parents who expressed concern with Krischke’s behavior toward students.
Kinser’s 13-year-old son, an eighth grader, informed him of an incident during study hall when “(Krischke) came in and yelled at the children and used profanity” because one of the bathrooms had been vandalized, Kinser told TCPalm.
Other parents have told Kinser of similar situations, he said.
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If there was an issue with his son’s behavior, he would have wanted Krischke to bring it up with him, Kinser said. Everyone at times can lose their composure, he said, “but in her position, it’s inexcusable.”
He emailed the board Monday to express his concern and received a response Wednesday after he made public a petition to garner support for Krischke’s removal.
Still, despite his concern, Kinser continues to support the school and its curriculum and believes the school can move forward successfully.
“At the end of the day,” Purnell said of her departure, “it doesn’t matter who the leadership is, as long as the school succeeds for those children.”
Sommer Brugal is TCPalm’s education reporter for Indian River, St Lucie and Martin counties. You can keep up with Sommer on Twitter @smbrugal and give her a call at 772-221-4231.
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