MARCO ISLAND — Hoping to make the grade, Marco high school initiative members are honing in on the top three state requirements to get a charter high school.
A group of about 50 Islanders met at Marco Island Charter Middle School Saturday afternoon to discuss what exactly needed to be done to make their dream of an “exemplary” charter high school come true.
Mario Sanchez is leading the citizens’ movement for the charter school and shared the state requirements. As members of the committee work to complete an application for a charter high school by August 2010, they plan to focus on the following three elements as set by the state: improve student learning and academic achievement; include learning opportunities for all students with special emphasis on low-performing students and reading; encourage use of innovative learning methods.
Petitions are being circulated that will be shared with local, state and federal officials. There is also an electronic petition being posted on marcohigh.com requesting an on-Island "exemplary" high school.
“What is exemplary? Does that mean it’s better than Lely High School? No. It does not mean that Lely is not exemplary,” said Jane Watt, answering questions she said have been posed by many people.
“Exemplary means that every student who attends will be encouraged to reach their absolute highest potential,” Watt said.
“And well-rounded,” Tara Hagan interjected.
Hagan added that athletics and extra-curricular activities will be as important as other academic opportunities.
There is currently a high school on Island, Winterberry Christian Academy, which opened in 2008.
“I understand the desire of Marco residents to have a high school on the island. The students of the Island are able to attend highly rated, local schools from pre K through the eighth grade. It is only natural that they should be able to stay on the Island for their high school years as well,” TJ Freeman, an educator at the Christian Academy, has said to the Eagle.
“In fact, the Winterberry Christian Academy was formed as a solution to this desire and exists to help meet this need,” he added.
The private school has a partnership with the Marco YMCA to assist in providing athletic programs to the 18 students who attend the school in grades six through 12.
Sanchez’s hope is that the charter high school would be attractive to all of Collier County by offering the best possible education, while remaining a public school for people who may not have the money to enroll their children in a private school.
“It’s not a one-way bridge. We want to be the school everyone wants to get to,” Sanchez said.
Councilman Frank Recker was in attendance Saturday with his son Mac, 14.
Frank Recker suggested finding out what it would take to get three of the five school board members to “be on board” with the idea.
Hagan said that in her research and contact with local, state and federal officials, the highest hurdle to jump will be getting the capital dollars to build the school, which is slated for 2011.
Sanchez said “tens of billions of dollars” are available for education grants and possibly more through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the “stimulus package.”
“Having high school students, 16, 17, 18 years old driving all the way (to Lely) isn’t a safe thing.” Watt said.
Marco Island Charter Middle School sixth grade students Erin Homuth, 12, Jordyn Verville, 11, and Mariel Sanchez, 12, all said their greatest reason for wanting an on-Island high school would be to use the hours spent commuting off-Island to school for better purposes such as homework, sleep or extra-curricular activities.
Sanchez said a charter high school offers increased college potential and high school students could have the opportunity to get a jump-start on college level courses before high school graduation.
The most promising results for charter schools relate to the long-term outcomes of high-school graduation and college entry, according to RAND corporation’s studies on charter schools.
Charter high schools appear to have substantial positive impacts, increasing the probability of graduating by 7 to 15 percentage points and increasing the probability of enrolling in college by 8 to 10 percentage points, according to the studies in Chicago and Florida.
The report, “How Charter Schools Affect Student Outcomes,” can be found at rand.org. The report was conducted as a collaboration between RAND Education, Mathematic Policy Research, Inc., and Florida State University.
If interested in learning more about the idea of a Marco Island charter high school, e-mail members of the initiative at Marcohighschool@dbiq.com.