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Latest bid for charter school at Pointe West comes to an end

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of May 6, 2021)

The latest effort to launch a charter school out to the west of Vero in Pointe West has come to naught.

Mater Academy withdrew its application for a K-5 charter after school district administrators recommended rejection mainly because it offered no help with court-ordered desegregation efforts in Indian River County.

 The Miami-based nonprofit had proposed opening a college-preparatory school in August 2022 with 414 students and growing it to 768 students by its fifth year of operation.

Mater’s plan was to take over the 14-acre parcel at 16th Street and 76th Drive where Somerset Academy had proposed building a K-8 charter school for 1,700 students.

┬áThose plans have been on hold for three years at the request of Somerset Academy, according to School Board Attorney Suzanne D’Agresta.

Mater Academy and Somerset Academy both use Academica Corp., as an educational service provider, records show. A subsidiary of Academica owns the 14-acre parcel.

Five charter schools, including two elementary schools, already serve Indian River County.

School district officials gave failing grades to the Mater Academy charter school application in three subjects and incompletes in seven other categories.

“There is no information as to how the model school plans on addressing the federally-mandated desegregation order, Joint Plan or board-adopted African-American (Academic) Achievement Plan,” said Heather Holden, the district’s coordinator of assessment and virtual education, in an April 13 report.

The school district has been under a federal desegregation order since 1967 in a case filed in 1964.

In August 2018, the School Board agreed to improve minority students’ test scores, recruit more minority teachers and better integrate schools.

The School Board also worked with the Indian River County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the Joint Plan for integrating public schools and the African-American Academic Achievement Plan.

Mater Academy officials seemed not to understand Pointe West is a middle-class white neighborhood, nor did they offer a detailed plan for recruiting minority students and educators, Holden’s report says.

The school would need to bring in students from other neighborhoods to meet its goal of serving a student body with a minority population of 46 percent, but there was no budget submitted for transportation and the transportation plan lacked specifics, the report says.

In addition, the proposed Mater Academy Vero Beach charter school bore little resemblance to the K-12 charter school in East Miami it purported to be using as a model for replication, which serves a 98 percent minority population.

“The application does not explain in clear and coherent fashion the education program design, or how it replicates Mater Academy East charter design,” Assistant Superintendent Pamela Dampier told the School Board on April 27.

Mater Academy’s chief academic officer, Judith Marty, withdrew the charter school application via email about eight hours before the School Board was scheduled to vote on the proposal.

Marty did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment on the company’s reasons for withdrawing the application and its response to the critical comments by district administrators.

“There will be no need to have a vote,” School Superintendent David Moore told the board in announcing the withdrawal of Mater’s application during the April 27 workshop meeting.

The withdrawal is final, Moore said.

“If they would want to reapply, they would have to do so in the new school year and resubmit and go through the whole process again,” Moore said.
Mater Academy Inc. operates 28 charter schools serving 18,000 students in Miami-Dade and Osceola counties in conjunction with Academica Corp.