Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Board makes virtual school commitment

December 14, 2006

A contractual agreement on paper continues to move the Baldwin Board of Education one step closer to a partnership with Insight Schools.

On Monday night, the school board voted 6-0 to approve the motion that board attorney Bob Bezek wrote, which simply stated that the board will agree to move forward with Insight Schools.

"All that does is basically say the board is committed to going to work with Insight Schools," Supt. Paul Dorathy said Tuesday. "That's really all it has done. Basically we are going to work together and we're going to get a contract made out. That's the commitment that Insight Schools was looking for."

The agreement that Bezek wrote locks the school board in a commercial transaction with Insight Schools, but it still allows the board a chance to walk away if the contract doesn't meet its requirements.

"We want to be very careful to guard the interests of USD 348 patrons and students," Board President Alison Bauer said. "But, Insight Schools has come back with complete answers every time on issues again and again. I think we owe it to our school district to take this chance and see how this can work. We've got it covered if we need to get out and I'm looking forward to seeing how it unfolds."

Insight Schools is a state-wide virtual high school that is looking for a home in Kansas. For more than a year now, it has been working with the Baldwin district to create its Kansas base here in Baldwin City.

It offers a tuition-free virtual school with a wide array of classes that are offered. For more information, look on its Web site at www.insightschools.net.

Bezek spoke to the board Monday night about several things. He first told the board he is still reviewing the contract agreement and working with the Insight Schools' attorney on that.

He also said he has friends on the Kansas Association of School Boards that are reviewing the contract.

One major emphasis of the contract is trying to figure out the details regarding special education students that might enroll in the virtual school.

"The contract speaks to and assumes a normal student body," Bezek said. "That's not reality. It's about 80 percent reality. There are several special education issues right now that we are working through."

Bezek did say the contract was about 75 or 80 percent done, but there are a few minor details to hash over.

Early in the discussion, several members of the school board said they still want to be cautious about an agreement, but they have to act quickly.

"I think we've had the due diligence to ask questions," Board Member Blaine Cone said. "It's time for us to make a decision, but that doesn't mean that we have to sign the contract if we are not covered."

Board Member Bill Busby agreed, saying if the school board doesn't act now, Insight Schools will find another Kansas school to work with.

"I think we've done a reasonable job of getting answers to the questions we've wanted," Busby said. "I wish we knew more about them, but they haven't been around very long, which makes it tough. We can't wait any longer, because they will move on to another school."

Dorathy also said Insight Schools has worked hard to meet the needs of the district.

"I feel like every concern that we brought up, they have tried to bend over backwards to meet those concerns," Dorathy said. "I felt they have tried to meet every one of those and I believe those are now in the management agreement that Bob Bezek is working out with them."

Board Member Ande Parks believes a partnership with Insight Schools will be beneficial to the district.

"I think this is an exciting opportunity for the district," Parks said. "There are three key benefits that I can see for us: The chance to bring some extra money into the district, which can be used to enhance opportunities for our kids, the chance to offer some exciting new classes to our high school students, which are classes which we simply could not afford to offer otherwise and the chance to be seen as an innovative educational leader in the state, which could enhance our ability to recruit exceptional new personnel."

On Dec. 6, the school board hosted a town hall meeting for the public to come ask questions to an Insight Schools representative. Brian Rose, Insight Schools vice president of school development, attended the meeting and answered the questions in a professional way, according to Bauer.

"It was a good meeting," Bauer said. "All of the school board members were there, which made it look crowded. The public asked really good questions and Mr. Rose answered our questions in a really specific way. I felt like it was a good meeting."

The school board will again be discussing the Insight Schools' contract at its next meeting Jan.8.

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