2012-2013 will mark the thirteenth year RiverBend Academy has been open to serve the students of the Mankato area. Below is a short history written by Klea Brewton-Fitzgerald about the origins of RBA.
RIVERBEND ACADEMY DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
In November 1995 a call went out from the Mankato ISD #77 Superintendent’s Office for those interested in exploring educational reform to meet. Recognizing that the world is a rapidly changing place, but that our educational systems have changed very little since the early 20th Century, more than 20 parents, educators, and interested community members met. Thus, began a journey to examine research and information, and plan for true research based education reform in our community. The goal of this group was to meet the varying needs of the young people in our community (recognizing new brain/learning theory, individual learning styles, multiple intelligences, changing societal needs and structures), and prepare Southern Minnesota students to contribute competently and meaningfully to 21st century society.
This group and its many subgroup task forces worked and planned for over 2 years with support from the Minneapolis based Humphrey Institute Center for School Change and the Edvisions Cooperative based in Henderson, Minnesota . The group acknowledged early on the difficulties in making and sustaining meaningful change within a large established system. There is a constant struggle to resist returning to the “way things have been done in the past” and not disrupt the machine like efficiency of “the system”.
It was recognized that no one design model could fit all people and, thus, offering choice of different educational models was considered important. A child centered, non-graded, hands on model was developed. Mankato Public schools developed this model and created Bridges Community School which currently serves students in grade levels 5-6. ISD#77 was not willing and/or able to extend this model past grade six. A group of committed area citizens continued to develop the model for older students and saw the creation of a charter school as a viable option.
After a search for sponsors, RiverBend Academy’s charter was accepted and approved by the Minnesota Department of Children Families and Learning in July 2000. With this contract between the State of Minnesota and RBA work accelerated. A site was secured at the Belle Mar Mall; some staff were hired; students enrolled; building renovated; furniture built (by students, families, and staff); materials created and ordered; and kinks worked out at every turn. In September of 2000 RBA officially opened its doors as a free public charter school to over 150 students. RiverBend Academy is still considered a “work in progress”. Change generated by the needs of parents, students, staff, and society will always be part of RBA, even as processes are refined. RBA considers normal problems that may arise as opportunities to continually improve. RBA moved to the present location on North 6th St. in August of 2003. RBA does have “constants”. Keeping the program small (150 students maximum) assures individual attention for each student. Size allows us to be more responsive and flexible in meeting needs. Project based curriculum which enables students to meet high standards is an important aspect of RBA and allows for further individualization as each student pursues their interest to share in the design of their own learning. Successful people of the 21st Century must learn to find and create what they need while sifting through myriad options. RBA seeks to empower students to reach within and take responsibility for their learning as they develop quality traits and skills that will serve them and their communities throughout their lives.
-RBA was granted a 3 year charter under the supervision of a new Authorizer, Novation Education Opportunities, for the 2012-13 School year.