Monday, October 02, 2023

Francom named founding principal for NICA

Staff Writer | June 8, 2023 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Dr. Jacob Francom has been named the founding principal of the North Idaho Classical Academy, which will be located at the former Boulder Creek Academy.

This school will be an additional classical academy for the American Classical Schools of Idaho. Other schools include Treasure Valley Classical Academy in Fruitland and Idaho Novus Classical Academy coming to Avimor in 2024.

Francom has lived in Moyie Springs for nearly 13 years with his wife and has served as superintendent at Troy School District in Montana for the past 10 years. He was also a high school principal for three years.

After completing undergraduate studies in chemistry and physics at Utah State University, Francom pursued three additional graduate degrees. He holds a master’s degree in Russian language, literature and linguistics from the University of Arizona and master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from the University of Montana.

He has been honored as the Montana Principal of the Year and the superintendent of the Montana Board of the Year.

Francom will have the dual role as teacher and administrator, a role he also had in Troy.

His background in the sciences, literature, language, and his research in character education make him well suited for leading North Idaho Classical Academy, officials wrote in the NICA newsletter.

NICA is a charter school, which are free, public schools open to all students. Designed by a group of parents, educators, and/or community members, charter schools follow the same rules and regulations as public schools and participate in the same state-mandated assessments, according to the Idaho Department of Education website.

The goal in opening the academy is to offer parents another education option, Francom said. The vast majority of intent-to-enroll letters — about 475 students — came from homeschool families in Boundary County. The school is open to students in Bonner and Boundary counties.

“What turned me on to this classical academy is their focus on character development,” he said. “My dissertation was on character education, so that intrigued me quite a bit to see what curriculum and culture they have in their schools.”

“Culture is the most important thing in setting up the school,” he said. “In that we have a culture focused on our mission, our values and on the curriculum and the intent of what the school is.”

NICA is scheduled to open in fall of 2025. The school will open first at K-6 grades and as the oldest class advances, additional grade levels will be added each year until a 12th grade is formed.

The focus isn’t on standards, which was a change from his past experience, Francom said. Upon visiting the Treasure Valley school, he noticed that standards or objectives were not posted.

“The point is to have such high standards, that you don’t have to meet the state minimum standards,” he said. “People don’t understand, when you’re talking about academic standards that’s the absolute minimum we want students to meet.”

“And so when talking about classical education with the Hillsdale model, we’re not wanting to get students at the minimum level, we want to get students so far above that they are going to be so well prepared for the next grade level, that they'll just keep growing and progressing,” he said.

Students at North Idaho Classical Academy will have to take standardized tests, per state requirements, but the goal for school officials is much more ambitious.

“The focus isn’t teaching the test. The whole focus is creating citizens: students with good values, creating students that can be part of a community and not just be in the background, but help lead the community and have the community grow and develop,” Francom said.

Francom said the curriculum focuses on classics and primary sources and back-to-basics of math, science, history and language, and the principles founded in the virtues of the school. The goal is to have students think, “how can I help others” first, rather than themselves.

The school will utilize the Hillsdale College Office of K-12 Education curriculum, which is written around five core values: courage, courtesy, honesty, perseverance, self-government and service. Francom said they are akin to virtues that public schools promote, such as respect and responsibility. However, at NICA the curriculum will align and promote the virtues.

These core virtues are embedded through the curriculum, from the reading material to the math prompts, Francom said adding the Hillsdale curriculum is so well refined and developed.

“We are training the minds and improving the hearts of students through classical content rich curriculum that emphasizes three things: virtuous living, traditional learning and civic responsibility,” he said.

Although Hillsdale college is a Christian-based school, the curriculum is not faith-based. Rather the virtues instilled in the curriculum are also virtues found in Christianity.

Francom will receive training at the Hillsdale College before shadowing for a year at the sister schools in the Treasure Valley. Next year, staff will be recruited.

Hillsdale Barney Charter School Initiative partners with the school step-by-step, observes and gives feedback, all aligned to its curriculum.

NICA will have a booth at the Boundary County Fair.

The school is applying to be a school affiliate with Hillsdale College, the application is due July 10. From there the school will apply for a charter application with the state in August. Final approval for the school would be announced in December.

This allows the school to go out for grants and other financing options, Francom said.

Information: 406-293-1080, email or follow on social media at “North Idaho Classical Academy”

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