CMO launches in Idaho

For further information:
Albertson Family Foundation Communications Officer:
Jennie Sue Weltner,, (208) 424-2640

First CMO to launch in Idaho

J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation invests in homegrown charter management organization

BOISE, Idaho – March 4, 2015 — The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation announced today it will help fund Idaho’s first homegrown charter management organization (CMO) as part of the Foundation’s goal to expand high-performing limitless learning models in the state.

The Foundation will provide a four-year, multi-million dollar grant to Gem Innovation Schools, the CMO that will operate Gem Prep Schools. Full and continued funding relies on the CMO’s ability to meet annual milestones. The grant supports the Foundation’s 20 in 10 strategy, designed to close the gap between mediocrity and excellence in college and career readiness by creating 20,000 seats in high-performing learning environments in Idaho by 2024.

Albertson family foundation President Jamie MacMillan said to reach the ambitious goal the Foundation will invest in best-in-class models, great leaders and facilities solutions that result in student achievement and college and career readiness.

“Investing in Gem Innovation Schools is investing in a homegrown model that levels the playing field for all Idaho kids,” MacMillan said. “Innovative, high-quality models like Gem, with exceptional leadership, can demonstrate what is possible for our students.”

Four schools will operate under the new CMO Gem Innovation Schools: Idaho Distance Education Academy’s (I-DEA) virtual school and three bricks and mortar, blended learning Gem Prep schools. The CMO will provide management services, curriculum, leadership training to the schools, as well as business operations like purchasing and payroll. By sharing these administrative services, the organization can reallocate resources to directly impact student learning.

Gem Prep will blend the best of online and face-to-face learning to personalize instruction for each student. The schools in Coeur d’Alene, the Treasure Valley and Pocatello will serve as many as 2,500 K-12 students across the state by 2022.

The new CMO is based on the principals of I-DEA, a highly successful, and free, virtual public charter school. Founded in 2004, I-DEA currently serves about 700 students in grades K-12. I-DEA piloted its first blended learning school, Gem Prep: Pocatello, in August 2014 with kindergarten and first grade students.

Under the leadership of I-DEA CEO Jason Bransford, who will lead the CMO, I-DEA boasts a five-star rating and the sixth-highest SAT scores in the state. Twenty percent of I-DEA students earned an associate degree by the time they completed high school.

“Gem’s focus on individualized instruction informed by data encourages advancement at the student’s pace, not the group’s,” Bransford said. “When students master a concept, they are quickly introduced to the next step, always advancing at their own pace.”

Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Network, said Gem Innovation Schools will employ high-performing teachers, who will also serve as mentors, and use powerful online programs to personalize learning for each student.

“They’re blending the best of these two models to help one student at a time reach his or her potential,” Ryan said. “We hope as a result we will help bring Idaho education to the forefront in national standings.”

  • J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation leadership
  • Gem Innovation Schools CEO Jason Bransford
  • Idaho Charter School Network President Terry Ryan
About charter management organizations and charter schools

Charter management organizations are primarily nonprofits that operate multiple charter schools.

Charter schools are free public schools designed by educators, parents and/or community members. Charter schools operate under a charter (or contract) between the charter school and either a local school district or the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, Idaho had 48 charter schools serving more than 19,500 students. According to the Idaho Department of Education, an additional 11,400 students were on waiting lists. As of the 2014-15 school year, there are eight virtual charter schools, some with a blended model of online and onsite capabilities. There are 41 “bricks and mortar” charter schools in operation. More than 6 percent of Idaho’s K-12 students attend a charter school. Although charter schools are funded by the same formula as district schools, they do not receive local tax revenues or supplemental levies.

About the Idaho Charter School Network

The Idaho Charter School Network’s mission is to improve student achievement and expand choice among high-quality public schools by advancing and supporting Idaho’s charter schools. It supports efforts to improve the overall charter school movement both in Idaho and across the nation. For more information, visit

About the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is a Boise, Idaho-based, private family foundation committed to the vision of limitless learning for all Idahoans. In the last 17 years, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation has invested almost $700 million in Idaho. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation honors the legacy of Joe and Kathryn Albertson, founders of the Albertson grocery store, however it is not affiliated with Albertson’s, LLC. For more information, visit