The Maine Charter School Commission voted 6-1 Tuesday to renew the charter for Augusta-based Maine Virtual Academy for five years subject to conditions aimed at improving the school’s performance and organization.

The stipulations for renewal call for the school to increase the size of its governing board, develop a formal tool for evaluating the head of school and develop plans for academic areas where performance targets haven’t been met, said charter commission Executive Director Bob Kautz.

“I think people were impressed with the improvement they made and the actions they’ve taken to help bring about that improvement,” Kautz said after the vote. “I didn’t hear any reservations.”

Commission Chair Nichi Farnham was the only commissioner who voted against renewal.

Kautz said charter renewals typically come with such conditions, and that these had nothing to do with concerns that have been raised about the performance of the Maine Virtual Academy in a report last January.

The independent report by the White Barn Center for Research cited higher-than-average rates of absenteeism and dropouts, a lower-than-average graduation rate and poor test performances.

Maine Virtual Academy had a chronic absenteeism rate of more than 30 percent in 2017-2018, although school officials say they’ve brought that number down in the last year.

The four-year graduation rate, according to the Maine Department of Education, was 49 percent – compared with a statewide rate of almost 87 percent.

And on state assessments, 42 percent of students were at proficiency in English language arts, compared with 50 percent statewide; and just under 13 percent were proficient in math, compared with 37 percent statewide.

School officials and commission representatives said over the summer that Maine Virtual Academy has made improvements on some of these problems, and that it is also subject to additional oversight as both a charter school and a virtual school.

The school, which opened in September 2015, is one of 10 charters in Maine. It now has 390 students in grades 7 through 12.

Other stipulations in the charter renewal include that the school create a plan for effective collection and analysis of data, and that it contract with or employ a certified special education director in addition to its head of school, Melinda Browne, who is also certified as a special ed director.

Browne said Tuesday the school does not have issues with any of the renewal stipulations.

“In my opinion, I don’t think any of these things will be a problem at all,” she said. “We’re very pleased and looking forward to continuing efforts to improve the school.”

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