Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Insight schools coming for town hall meeting

November 30, 2006

Baldwin City patrons will have their chance to ask questions and hear answers about the possible Baldwin School District owned on-line virtual school next Wednesday.

Brian Rose, Insight Schools vice president of school development, will be at a town hall meeting that the Baldwin Board of Education set up at its meeting Monday night. The meeting with Rose will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the District Office.

"At this point, I guess we'll see what the town hall meeting brings up," Supt. Paul Dorathy said. "We'll see how that goes. Then I think the board will have to make a decision at the December board meeting."

The town hall meeting will be open to anyone and should last around one hour.

"There were some patrons that brought up some good questions tonight," Board Member Scott Lauridsen said. "We want as many people that are interested as we can to come in and ask those questions and expose those things that we may not have thought about. That's the intent."

The school board discussed the proposal with Rose during its meeting Monday night. Rose answered several questions while talking on speakerphone to the board.

Board President Alison Bauer was pleased with how the board's questions were answered by Rose.

"We had an excellent discussion," Bauer said. "Insight schools has been very forthcoming. Every time we've have a question about how things would work, they are forthcoming about explaining it."

Dorathy said the meeting was productive, but the board is still taking its time before making a decision on the matter.

"I think the board had a good conversation," Dorathy said. "Information was shared with all of the board members. I think the board is moving closer to a decision on whether they want to partner with Insight Schools or not partner with them. I think they are being very diligent and careful about what kind of agreement they might get into with Insight Schools."

Some of the issues that the board had with Insight Schools were Adequate Yearly Progress and some of the financial information.

During the meeting, Rose tried to answer the AYP question by saying Insight Schools would compare the progress of the district after one year with the previous year.

He said that first year would give them a starting point and a guideline for the following years.

Lauridsen said making AYP should be the main concern, because that is a necessity for the district.

"To me, the minimum bar is making AYP," Lauridsen said. "We know we have to do that. There isn't much data out there yet on virtual schools, so I think making AYP should be the goal."

The other concern dealt with money on several levels. Some of the questions asked by the board involved the district's annual audit, royalty payment and USD 348's budget.

"At the beginning of each year, we will work through a budget for the virtual school," Rose said. "We will work with you to create that budget."

Lauridsen said Rose told him that the district could be as involved as it chooses to or not to be in the financial aspect, if a partnership was created.

He also said the district would receive a royalty payment from Insight each year, plus part of the surplus if Insight made money from the school.

"They pay us that no matter how many students they get," Lauridsen said. "Whether they make a profit or not, we get that amount. Even if they are losing money every year, we still get that royalty payment. So even if they never make a dime, we make money."

Many more questions will be answered at Wednesday's town hall meeting and the school board is encouraging anyone interested in the topic to attend. Before any decision is made, the board wants to make sure it has every angle covered.

"This is a big responsibility and we need to take our time and make the best decision we can," Bauer said. "We've received favorable input and negative input. We have to weigh that and make a decision before we can go forward."

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