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Indian River Charter High gets a 15-year renewal


Indian River Charter High School has received a 15-year charter renewal from its sponsor, the Indian River County School District, after going through a half-year review process.

About a dozen School District staff members evaluated the school in their areas of expertise. They graded the charter on more than 20 criteria that included academics, fiscal management, teacher oversight, student selection and school mission. The team recommended charter renewal unanimously, according to IRCHS Executive Board Director Gene Waddell.

The Indian River County School Board likewise voted unanimously to renew the charter at its last meeting in January.

The charter school’s esprit de corps was easy to see at the board meeting, with charter students, faculty, board members and parents filling the hall. Cheering and applause resounded after the motion passed.

“We appreciate the scrutiny district staff put us through,” Waddell said. “We enjoy that sort of thing.”

The mission of the charter high school, which is known for its emphasis on the arts, is to serve students “who want or need a non-traditional structure and learning environment.”

The school, which beat out Vero Beach and Sebastian River traditional high schools for the last nine years in the state Department of Education evaluations, has 686 students enrolled this year.

 The state gave the charter an “A” rating for the past five years. In 2016, 92 percent of graduates went to a four- or two-year college or into the armed services, and it was recently designated a “school of excellence” for maintaining high standards in several categories for three years running, earning loosened state oversight and more flexibility in programing.  

At the same time, the school has room for improvement, according to district personnel.

Waddell and IRCHS Assistant Director Joseph Mezzina said the district evaluators found the school needs a better plan for attracting minority students and staff to reflect the county’s diversity, and that it needs to use the same reporting method the school district uses when a student is transferred out of the charter back into his or her “assigned” district school.

Fixes will be included in the new charter contract that will be negotiated between now and July.

The charter high school’s application materials state 5 percent of the student population was African American in 2015-2016 school and 5.5 percent in 2016-2017. According to the 2016 U.S. Census data, 9.3 percent of the county population was African American.

In 2015-2016 the Hispanic student population was 13 percent, rising to 14.4 percent the next school year. The county Hispanic population in 2016 was 12 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

Twenty percent of the charter’s 61 employees are minorities, according to the renewal application submitted by the school.