With the news of Marco Island Academy receiving its accreditation, the board of the local high school is now turning its attention to its search for a new principal. The current principal, George Andreozzi, announced his retirement earlier this school year, and he has been in and out of the office of late as he recovers from hip replacement surgery. He has been principal of MIA since November 2011.
According to Jane Watt, the chair of the board of directors for MIA, a team has been put together to find the school’s next principal, and applicants from both within the current faculty and staff and outside the school are being considered.
To be sure, MIA has come a long way under Andreozzi’s tutelage. When comparing MIA to other public high schools in Collier County in 2012, the academy’s ninth graders had a 59 percent passing rate in the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). That is four percentage points above the district average. Last year, the passing rate jumped to 66 percent — 7 percent above the district average.
Also in 2013, MIA students scored 10 percentage points higher than other Collier County students on the geometry section of the FCAT with an 80 percent passing rate. MIA’s ninth graders placed third out of 10 other high schools in the Collier Writes assessment, while the 10th-grade received the second highest marks of any other district high school in the writing portion of the FCAT.
The latest sign of progress — accreditation — was a big one, admits Watt, with a sigh of relief. MIA is now accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accreditation division of AdvancED in the Southern U.S., meaning the credits earned by MIA students now will be recognized and accepted by other high schools and colleges throughout the country.
This recognition is important to MIA’s first class of 18 graduating seniors, Watt says: “Some colleges won’t accept credits from non-accredited schools. At the post-secondary level, it is more valuable to graduate from an accredited high school…We wanted to make sure we had our accreditation before our first seniors graduated.”
The process takes roughly three years, as schools are not eligible to apply for accreditation until they have been in operation for at least two years. So, after the close of its second year lastspring, MIA’s board, administration, faculty and staff jumped into action, and hired education consultant Randall Cook to help MIA begin the accreditation process.
Watt explains that the biggest challenge was not in the mechanics, operation or curriculum of the school. Instead, it was making sure everything was documented. “Much of what we needed to be doing to receive the accreditation, we were already doing, but we were not documenting it,” she says.
Watt and Andreozzi identified two key MIA faculty members to spearhead the assemblage of the application — Amber Prange and Melissa Scott. Both women are MIA assistant principals and teachers, and one is a candidate for the principal position. “They were buried in this for several months,” notes Watt. “If not for their dedication, it would not have happened.”
Representatives from AdvancED and SACS visited MIA last November, surveying classes, rate teachers and interviewing parents, students, board members and teachers. According to Watt, school officials were told at the end of the three-day visit that MIA would be recommended for accreditation. State officials approved the move, and on Jan. 22, verbal approval from the national level was received. The accreditation term is five years, and then MIA will be re-evaluated.
“They were very complimentary of the program and the school itself,” says Watt. “I was so proud of our school the day they gave us the report…We were doing the right things all along, and we didn’t have to recreate anything…They said there was the most unique and impressive level of commitment by staff and teachers here…It was clear to them that we are deeply committed to our students.”
It is clear the community is recognizing this as well — another sign of progress after years under the public microscope of scrutiny and doubt. Currently, about 160 students have enrolled for the 2014-2015 school year during the open enrollment period, which closed Feb. 28. The school can accommodate up to 250 students.
For Watt, the ever-increasing interest in the school is progress enough. “We have a lot of 8th graders (from MICMS) coming in for next year,” Watt notes. “Our experience is much different than in other public school settings…We are far more individualized, and it is difficult for a child to slip through the cracks here…It is important for people to have choices. It is up to the parent and individual, and we give them the alternative.”