Big changes could be coming to the Waukesha School District’s online school – iQ Academy Wisconsin – after the company that provides logistic support for the program was informed by the school district that it was in breach of contract.
Superintendent Todd Gray told the Finance & Facilities Committee that he believed the school district could “go it alone” and take over all operations for the school.
"We are almost doing that on our own," Gray said.
The change would give the school district more flexibility with the program and, with the proposed changes to the open enrollment caps in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget, could save the school district money.
The changes could allow the school district to adopt additional curriculum for the online school, which started in Waukesha during the 2004-05 school year.
“We would be greatly enhancing our curriculum,” said Rick Nettesheim, director of online learning and principal for the online school.
The problems with K12, Inc., the vendor for iQ Academy Wisconsin include poor marketing and hosting a rival online school, Gray said.
The members of the Finance & Facilities Committee also expressed their frustrations with the promised advertising and marketing support given to the school district by K12. Historically, the school district was told by the company that the company was spending $500,000 a year on marketing. Nettesheim said in recent years the company has been unwilling to share those monetary figures.
“There were all kinds of promises and, lo and behold, our name wasn’t out there,” Nettesheim said.
The school district believes its high quality programs – the students placed the highest on standardized test compared to all other online schools in Wisconsin, according to Nettesheim – has kept the online school’s attendance steady.
But, the lack of marketing has not escaped the attention of some of the Waukesha School Board members.
“All the advertisements out there were for anybody but iQ Academy,” said Kurt O’Bryan, who chairs the Finance & Facilities Committee.
Monday night’s conversation about the changes to the online school was a discussion only and no action was taken. Nettesheim said after the meeting the discussion could come back to the Finance & Facilities Committee and the Waukesha School Board again in May. The school board could make the decision during its June school board meeting.
And while O’Bryan, who was defeated in the April 5 election, won’t be on the school board anymore, he still made it clear about his thoughts about on the issue. The program will not be sustainable with the current vendor, he said.
“Either we change dramatically or we shut down,” O’Bryan said.