MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island as well as Naples students have a choice about where to start or complete their high school education that includes attendance at the Marco Island Academy (MIA), a public charter high school that is tuition free.
With the benefits of small sized classes an individualized attention, students who need those advantages thrive in such an educational setting.
“The smaller setting is more personal and allows greater interaction with teachers, I really like the set-up here,” said MIA student Jesse Polanco.
However, currently growing out of their current space at Winterberry Drive, plans are being finalized to erect a new school at a San Marco location by August 2012.
A team that includes an architect, engineer, a local community representative, a member of the board of directors and the modular company is now at work to make the move a reality.
In an effort to disseminate information about various components of the school, Jane Watt, MIA board chairperson sat down with the Eagle to discuss the school’s organizational structure, advanced curriculum, activities, staff, governing board and funding sources.
First, she explained that the difference between a charter school and a traditional public school is that charter schools evolve from a perceived need for a particular “type of school in a particular location.”
“Initiated by a grassroots group of individuals, charter schools have been freed from some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results,” she said.
“Charter schools are accountable for their results in the same way other public schools are, but they’re typically granted more flexibility in how the school is run. In addition, students ‘apply’ to charter schools rather than being ‘assigned’ to the school based on where they live.”
She also said that charter schools “tend to have a focus” such as evident at MIA’s science, technology, engineering and environmental studies and mathematics (STEM) curriculum emphasis.
For high achieving students, in addition to a dual enrollment program at local universities, MIA offers an Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) diploma through the University of Cambridge.
Offered worldwide, AICE is a two year curriculum that has been in use in Florida schools since 1998. Students completing up to 45 credit diploma requirements are offered advanced standing and academic credit by many colleges and universities.
Watt said that AICE program students also qualify for the Florida Bright Futures tuition scholarship.
MIA extracurricular activities includes a growing number of clubs such as Student Council, Debate Club and civic clubs like the Key Club (Kiwanis), Interact Club (Rotary), Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program and the Naples Town Hall Speakers Series Ambassadors Program.
Athletic Director Roger Raymond directs the existing cheerleading, boys’ and girls’ cross country team, girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and track.
For the 2012-13 school years, plans are in the works to add teams for football, tennis, softball and golf.
Regarding the administration, George Andreozzi, M.A. is at the helm at MIA as principal with 50 years of experience in education up to the college level. He also holds a professional certificate in administration.
The highly qualified teaching staff of nine includes six with master’s degrees, one of those who is also a bar certified attorney, one who will earn her masters’ degree in June, one with a bachelor’s degree and one music teacher.
The support staff includes the athletic director and coach, a comptroller, office manager and an office assistant.
Governed by a volunteer six voting member and one non-voting member board of directors, MIA also has a National Advisory Board, comprised of educators, business leaders and environmentalists.
According to Watt, the school is partially funded through tax dollars allotted each student. A portion of Collier County property taxes is applied to the school district that in turn sends the funds allocated for each student to their respective schools.
“The existence of MIA does not increase the educational tax dollars paid by property owners; by law, charter schools cannot levy taxes. The remaining funding needed for operations and capital expenditures is paid for by grants, fundraising and donations,” she said.
Since MIA is a non-profit 501 c(3) organization, all monies donated are tax-deductible and directly benefit the school. Fundraisers are conducted to supply additional needed capital for the school operation and now for the new building and site.
MIA is seeking “larger donations with naming rights” for the new structure and site.
Any persons interested in supporting the school’s vision with a tax-deductible donation, can drop off funds made payable to Marco Island Academy, a public charter high school to the school office or mail to MI Academy, 1450 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island, FL 34145.
For more information, visit MIA at marcoislandacademy.com.