Top 100 Best High Schools 2013– Suncoast Community High School – Newsweek – 9/100
City: Riviera Beach
School Classification: M, L
GRAD RATE(%): 100
AP/IB TESTS: 2.8
COLLEGE BOUND(%): 97
AVG SAT: 1744
AVG AP SCORE: 2.9
NEWSWEEK SCORE: 4.16
1717 Avenue S. Riviera Beach, FL 33404 United States
Suncoast Community High School is a public magnet high school (grades 9-12) in Riviera Beach, Florida, 33401.
The campus was built in 1955 as Riviera Beach High School. Renamed in 1970, Suncoast became a magnet school in 1989. All students belong to one or more of the school’s four magnet programs: Math, Science, and Engineering (MSE), Computer Science (CS), International Baccalaureate (IB), or the Innovative Interactive Technology Program (IIT).
Suncoast’s campus was built in 1955 as Riviera Beach High School. During the 1950s and 1960s, Riviera Beach High School was known for both its academics and its athletics. The Riviera Beach High Hornets were particularly strong in men’s basketball, with games against rival Palm Beach High School routinely drawing packed crowds.
While Riviera Beach High School had been desegregated during the 1960s (by the end of the decade the school’s student population was approximately 15 percent black and 85 percent white), a court order to desegregate all schools in the School District of Palm Beach County resulted in nearby J.F. Kennedy High School, where the student body was almost entirely African-American, being converted to a junior high school, now John F. Kennedy Middle School. Beginning in 1970, black students who had been going to John F. Kennedy High School, or who had anticipated going there, were forced to attend what had been the mostly white Riviera Beach High, which had been renamed Suncoast and given the new mascot of the Chargers.
Suncoast’s first year was marred by major race riots that received national media coverage, with police using tear gas and helicopters to break up rock-throwing and fights between mobs of black and white students. Racial tensions remained high at the school over the next several years, and while there were no more riots on the scale of 1970-71, there was a gradual exodus of white students from Suncoast High as their families either enrolled them in private or parochial schools, or moved. By the late 1980s, the racial makeup of Suncoast’s student population was more segregated than it had been 20 years before.
In 1989 Suncoast, along with Atlantic High in Delray Beach and S.D. Spady Elementary School, became a magnet school. The institution of magnet programs was originally opposed by several black organizations and some teachers’ unions. The principal at the time was Kay Carnes, who remained Suncoast’s principal for 15 years before stepping down at the end of the 2004 school year. Current Suncoast students and prospective students were required to apply in late spring, and minimum GPA and new dress code were adopted. About 150 former Suncoast students left the school this year and moved to either Palm Beach Gardens or Jupiter High School (which the previous school year had enrollments of more than 2000 compared with Suncoast’s 666). About 350 Suncoast students stayed.
The introduction of the IB program improved greatly racial balance at the school; in this year of the introduction of the magnet program 71 percent of Suncoast’s students were black (despite improving its racial balance by 19.3 percent that year). Suncoast was the target of an investigation beginning on June 2, 1987 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The investigation began after parents complained in a letter-writing campaign to state and federal officials that the School Board and then-Superintendent Tom Mills allowed Suncoast and John F. Kennedy Junior High to become segregated black schools, allowing enrollment to decline and facilities to become run down. Two years earlier Mills had proposed busing white students from southern Jupiter to integrate Suncoast, but Jupiter parents opposed the plan and it was dropped.