Two educators thought they would each build their own charter school in Boise, anchored with their $120,000 Idaho New School Fellowships from Bluum, a Boise-based new school incubator network.
After Brad Petersen and Amanda Cox spent time together in the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) training for charter school principals, they decided it made sense to combine their fellowships.
“It became clear pretty quickly that this is a lot of work,” Cox said of establishing a charter school. “It might be best for us to join forces. There was a good alignment of our visions.”
Cox and Petersen want to break ground in the coming months next to the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County’s Moseley Center on 42nd Street in Garden City. They hope to open their school, called Future Public School, in fall 2018. They are in the early design phase with erstad ARCHITECTS.
“Our vision is to create engineers of the future and engineers of our community,” Petersen said. “They will engineer future computer and science solutions while also engineering ways to expand equitable access to opportunity for people of all backgrounds and walks of life.”
The Future Public School will seek to prepare students to tackle jobs that do not exist yet.
“Our expanded vision of student success includes preparing students for a life of constant agility, pivots, and iteration,” Petersen said. “We can no longer automate the education process and teach all children the precise facts and figures that prepare them for a 40-year career at a certain firm.”
Petersen, Cox, Bluum CEO Terry Ryan and Building Hope, which is Bluum’s charter school financing partner, all saw just reason in combining two fellowships for one school.
“We learned a lot together,” Ryan said. “Opening a charter school in Idaho is really hard. There are a lot of moving parts. Opening one school does not preclude them from opening a second school. The main thing is the first school they open has to be a good one. This is the best way to assure they open a good one.”
The duo propose a three-story, 35,000-square-foot school building with 18 classroom. They intend to open with free, full-day kindergarten to fourth grade and add one grade in each subsequent year until they achieve a K-8 school.
They anticipate opening with 320 students with long-term projections for 575 students.
Cox and Petersen anticipate construction and opening the school will cost $6 million to $7 million. They are talking about financing with Building Hope, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that has loaned $231 million to 219 charter schools in 14 years. Building Hope opened a second office in Boise in 2013 and works with Bluum and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation on financing charter schools in Idaho.
Duo are first awardees of Bluum fellowship to establish charter schools
Cox and Petersen are the first awardees of the Bluum Idaho New School fellowships established two years ago to assist individuals in opening a charter or private school. They were selected from a field of 44 applicants after the initial intention to award a single fellowship.
Some applicants included Idaho school superintendents, but the five-person selection committee could not narrow it down between Petersen and Cox, Bluum CEO Terry Ryan said.
“They had the experience with the sort of students we are interested in serving, at-risk students,” Ryan said.
The two-year Bluum fellowship offers the recipient a salary, a base at the Bluum office and financing opportunities with Building Hope and the Albertson foundation to open a charter, private or innovation school in Idaho, Ryan said.
Petersen recently taught 3-1/2 years at a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school as part of the Teach for America program in Houston. He is a native of Sparks, Nev., where his mother started a charter school, and he graduated from Brigham Young University Idaho in Rexburg.
KIPP is a non-profit network of 200 college-preparatory, public charter schools educating early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school students with head offices in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. Teach for America is a New York City nonprofit that recruits and trains educators to make a two-year commitment to teaching in urban and rural public schools.
Cox was also involved in Teach for America, but in North Carolina. She is from the Northwest.
“Idaho has always been familiar to me,” Cox said. “We view Idaho as coming back home.”
Petersen and Cox are co-founders of Future Public Schools. Both are actively involved in all aspects of establishing the school with Cox’s strengths in managing adult teams and curriculum development and Petersen’s strengths in business and facilities and a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) background.