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Waukesha School Board not Renewing iQ Academy Contract

School board votes to allow online school sole control, citing the success of the program so far.

Wednesday night, the Waukesha School Board approved giving notice that the school district will not renew its contract with KC Distance Learning, which currently provides logistically support for the district’s online charter school.

The move will

For the 2012-2013 school year, the district plans to run iQ Academy without a business partner, a move that would allow the online school more flexibility and significant savings, according to Rick Nettesheim, principal of iQ Academy Wisconsin.

“Starting out, having a partner was absolutely the right thing … but now that we’ve been at it for seven years, we’ve got one of the most seasoned staff in the state in terms of providing virtual education and we’re ready to fly on our own,” Nettesheim said.

 “Increased quality, more savings, we’ve got the experience, to me it seems like a no-brainer,” he said.

Nettesheim was lauded for the success of the program by the school board but he said that it’s really the teachers that make it work, saying that their individual approach with students is the main selling point for families.

Budget projections for the academy have the school operating at a surplus as long as enrollment remains above 550 full-time students, a conservative number based on last year's enrollment.

Last year, the school started with 815 full-time students and had an additional 634 course enrollments from part-time students, 455 of which were from resident students. The part-time enrollments represented a 35 percent increase over the previous year.

Enrollments this spring and summer have been slightly ahead of last year’s so the school anticipates being as large as or perhaps slightly larger than last year, according to Nettesheim.

One unknown area for not renewing the contract is how much the district will have to pay for marketing expenses incurred by the district during the 2011-12 school year. Those amounts will depend on a separation settlement currently being negotiated by the district and the company.

The district had been dissatisfied with the amount of marketing the school received and also with KCDL for hosting a rival online school, according to discussion at a committee meeting last spring. Marketing expenses are critical for the school since that drives enrollment, according to school board members.

For the first two years of the newly-organized school, $500,000 is budgeted for marketing the online school, an amount that would be paid for by the enrollment of 70 students, School Superintendent Todd Gray noted at a recent finance committee meeting.

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