(ATLANTIC) James Brauer, Principal for Iowa Connections Academy, spoke at the Atlantic Rotary meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Iowa Connections Academy is a full time, online school affiliated with the CAM school district that started on August 16th. Currently there are a total of 240 students in all grade levels enrolled across the state of Iowa.
Brauer said while enrollment has been good for their first year they have met multiple challenges along the way, including political opposition, negative media coverage and one thing that worries him the most; the sunset clause. Brauer said the education reform bill signed by the Governor this past year gives them three years to operate. If legislation does not change, they will have to shut down by the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
“It’s very difficult when you’re trying to recruit and hire teachers who are savvy enough to understand that, very difficult to assure parents that it’s a credible option when they know that the state has only offered three years to operate and very difficult to keep morale high and know that you’re doing the right thing when you’re being told constantly, either through the Des Moines Register or through other legislators, that what you’re doing does not have a profound impact on families,” said Brauer.
Brauer said he is trying to find the positive in this.
“Rather than look at it as a sunset clause, I look at this as though we are a pilot program, we are given three years and it’s our job to assure that we can produce and yield the academic outcomes, the social, emotional and behavioral outcomes, throw it out for the public to be able to see and then in three years have the legislators have to look at their own constituents in the face and then they tell the parent of a seven year old student, who couldn’t go to school for a variety of special educations issues or anxiety issues or bullying issues, to be able to look that parent in the eye and then say this does not work and then allow that conversation to occur between them,” said Brauer. “All I can do is build the best school we can possibly do and hold ourselves to those standards.”
Brauer said Iowa Connections Academy is located on 3rd Street in Anita and includes fully licensed professional teachers from Iowa. He said while the classes are virtual the teachers still have to travel around the state to do the student assessments in person. Iowa Connections Academy has to follow all state laws 100% and they function under the open enrollment laws.
“In short, what it basically allows is any family has the opportunity by March 1st to open enroll to another school district outside of their resident district so that their students may attend full time and it’s completely tuition free and entirely legal,” explained Brauer. “The funds, the student allocated funding, follows the student to that district, in essence.”
Iowa Connections Academy offers an award winning curriculum that allows students to personalize their lesson plan. Classes can be available at any time of the day and there are chances for students to socialize. Students will earn a full time accredited diploma.
You can learn more about Iowa Connection Academy online at www.connectionsacademy.com