A recent article in the Baker City Herald describes criminal charges filed against men who were involved with the Baker Web Academy three years ago. I've been a BWA board member for almost a year. In that time I've been privy to audit details, I've met stellar educators, and I've come to know dedicated board members who serve the best interests of our children.
My kids have been BWA students for almost three years. My eldest Sarah is a BWA junior enrolled in the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree program. She is simultaneously earning a high school diploma and an associate's degree that will fulfill all lower division requirements at any four-year college in the Oregon University System. If she enrolls in an Oregon university, it will be as a junior classman. Sarah participates in extracurricular athletic programs at Baker High School, and has been permitted to enroll in a class at BHS when space was available. Her teachers will tell you she is a good student. I will tell you that Baker City is fortunate to have community-minded school administrators who provide flexibility and excellent choices in education.
My son Ben was a BWA student until two months ago, at which time he transferred to BHS as a freshman. Although his sister prospers in the online environment, we discovered that at age 14, Ben seemed better suited to a traditional classroom setting. The BWA and BHS staffs were extremely helpful in achieving a seamless transition, and his teachers will tell you that he arrived well-equipped to perform.
My youngest, Katie, spent her kindergarten year in the 5J school and is now a first-grader enrolled at BWA. In addition to our preference for a "home school" environment for Katie, we also like the flexibility, the attention from staff (by telephone), and the excellent selection of available curricula.
The Herald article referred to BWA as "a public relations dilemma," propagating a regional perception of the school that is unfounded. The academy has received attention for low achievement test scores, but the majority of BWA students who failed to meet minimum test benchmarks were enrolled at the school less than one academic year at the time they were tested. Those scores are not attributable solely to BWA, but rather at least equally to the school districts where the students obtained the preponderance of their education.
In past years, many of the academy's new enrollments were transfer students who were failing in other public school programs. BWA was becoming a revolving door for a large number of students who enrolled not because they were attracted by the opportunities, but rather because they had no other choice. The quality of education at BWA is excellent, but the challenging curriculum and work requirements are infrequently a good fit for a student who lacks the desire to excel in academics.
This year BWA has initiated enrollment counseling and student learning programs to change that revolving door dynamic, and has also worked with 5J officials to develop community-wide perspectives on addressing the needs of all types of students.
Baker City does have kids who need the services BWA can provide, and my kids are at the front of that list. The men described in the Herald article who were accused of misuse of education funds are past history. We are years past those events, and give them no thought in our daily operation of an excellent K-12 school.
David Spaugh is a Baker City resident.