WALDORF — There’s no doubt the partners, board members and supporters of Technical Academies of Minnesota have impressive backgrounds in education and business.
The board chair alone, Joan Arbisi Little, is an education consultant and past associate director at Macalester College Center for School Change. She was also a member of the Charter School Leadership Assessment Team at the University of St. Thomas and has a diverse teaching and administration background.
Board Vice Chair Connie Ireland is director of the Office of Innovation and Strategic Alliances at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The schools’ authorizer is Innovative Quality Schools, and EdVisions Schools — behind the highly lauded Minnesota New Country School in Henderson — has been involved from the ground level.
The Minnesota Board of Education in February approved the contract between Innovative Quality Schools and Technical Academies to go ahead with the plan for the four project-based, technical-focused public charter high schools as well, which means the schools can receive per-pupil state funding (about $5,000).
But the short timeline for opening two of the four planned schools by fall this year — Waldorf Technical Academy and a school in Fairmont — has generated some skepticism over whether Technical Academies is trying to move too quickly with its plan.
With reportedly $7,500 in the bank, the group has to raise about $250,000 in start-up costs in the next few weeks.
“There’s lots of opportunities. Some businesses, local and regional, are interested in supporting us and are in the process of learning more about the school,” Little said, adding that federal grants also are being written. “I’m an optimistic person, and it would be a shame if we couldn’t open this fall. We are just going to do our best.”
The Waldorf school building has been vacant since 2010, having been closed due to budget cuts. When discussions began in 2012 with the Technical Academies board to house the charter school there, the original plan was to sell the building to the group for $1.