VCS again recognized as school of excellence

Brantley Anderson, 8, pays attention during class at The Villages Charter Elementary School Intermediate Center.

The Florida Department of Education has once again awarded The Villages Charter School with a School of Excellence designation, putting it in the elite class of the top 5.3% of schools in the state to earn that designation twice since the program began in 2017. The School of Excellence title recognizes consistently high performance on specific testing standards through the K-12 system. VCS was one of 181 schools, out of the 3,392 in the state, to earn the original award and also renew the three-year designation this year. Dr. Randy McDaniel, the charter school’s director of education, said the academic achievement is a result of the continual hard work of the school’s teachers and staff. “You don’t do what you do to win awards,” McDaniel said. “But it is great to be recognized for your accomplishments.”

The School of Excellence program rewards schools in the 80th percentile or higher of possible percentage points in a grade calculation for at least two years in a three-year period, compared with schools in the same grade range.  The designation lasts for three years.

While school grades are handed out annually, the School of Excellence designation is a reward for performance over a longer time period. The Villages Charter School has met the 80th percentile requirement all three years since its last assessment.

“I believe it shows consistency at a high-performing level,” McDaniel said.

The Villages Charter School has earned an A grade from the state every year dating back to 2003, including being one of 324 schools in Florida to receive an A grade in the 2020-21 school year. The state did not grade schools during the 2019-20 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That meant schools originally honored in 2017 could not qualify again as a School of Excellence until this year, and only if they opted in to receive a school grade for the 2020-21 year.

VCS was one of only 767 schools statewide to earn the School of Excellence honor for the 2020-21 school year, and one of only 5.3% of schools in Florida to earn the original designation and also renew it this year.

If an original School of Excellence opted out of receiving a grade for last school year, it is allowed to maintain the designation until next year, when it has three years worth of grades. That happened with 578 schools statewide.

Rob Grant, principal of The Villages High School, said he is proud of the hard work the school puts into earning high marks from the state.

“It’s an honor and a blessing,” Grant said. “Just getting to see how the students and teachers work hard for this and achieve it.”

To Grant, the honor is a testament to the core values of The Villages Charter School system.

“To me that shows hard work pays off,” Grant said. “That’s one of the core values we really stress here.”

Grant also said this designation shows that the school was able to “hold its own” during the pandemic.

Dr. Peggy Irwin, principal of The Villages Charter Middle School, said she is proud her school could contribute to the School of Excellence honor.

“We at the middle school feel very proud of the designation and that is a reward for all the hard work of our staff and students,” Irwin said.

Irwin said the school will keep aiming to rank among the state’s best.

“It shows that what we do on a daily basis is successful,” Irwin said. “We also feel that we must continue to teach to the best of our abilities so that all students are learning every day.”

Villages Charter Elementary School Principal LeAnne Yerk also noted the achievement of overcoming the pandemic to earn the honor once again and credited everyone with a team effort to reach that goal.

“I rest my thanks with the students, teachers, staff and parents,” Yerk said.

Staff writer Garrett Shiflet can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or garrett.shiflet@thevillagesmedia.com.