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North Idaho STEM Charter Academy

Lessons From the North Idaho STEM Public Charter School

By Terry Ryan

One of the criticisms tossed at Idaho’s public charter schools is that they don’t share lessons learned. Bluum is committed to sharing lessons from those schools doing innovative work in Idaho to help improve student opportunities and learning.

The North Idaho STEM Charter Academy in Rathdrum was one of the first public charter schools in Idaho to receive grant support from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation as part of their “20 in 10” initiative.  The school received a 3-year grant commitment of $450,000 in 2014 to expand their enrollment by 370 students.

To learn what the school has done with these resources and how things are going we engaged two Idaho education experts to conduct a school site visit in October. Veteran educators Christina Linder and Katie Rhodenbaugh visit the school, met school leaders Colleen and Scott Thomson, interviewed teachers, visited classrooms and scoured school documentation including recent financial audits.

The findings from Linder and Rhodenbaugh are summed up thusly: “This school should be considered a model for other public schools in the areas of finance, shared leadership, and student growth.”

One of the most interesting insights shared by the authors is the impact of the North Idaho STEM Academy on the rural community of Rathdrum. Linder and Rhodenbaugh report, “The Mayor of Rathdrum (Vic Holmes) has indicated that the economic impact of NISTEM has been significant. In terms of number of employees, NISTEM is now ranked one of the top three or four employers in Rathdrum. NISTEM is one of the top employers and have earned a seat on the Rathdrum Mountain development steering committee. In just four short years (since the school opened) NISTEM has become an integral part of the Rathdrum community.”

It is our pleasure to share the full report about this award winning public charter school for interested readers. There is much here to learn and we are appreciative of the leadership and openness of Scott and Colleen Thomson to share, and the expertise of both Linder and Rhondenbaugh in capturing the efforts of the school, its staff, its students and its families.

Read the Full School Report Here

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