“Please excuse me if I burst into tears.” – Dawn, an attendee at the Integrity Academy information session with Executive Director, Ali Ronder

Dawn was excited to hear about an alternative to the formal education system. An alternative that sounded promising and held a very clear and concise message. Integrity Academy’s mission is “to co-create an educational environment that nurtures the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual development of our students with active participation from their families.”

IA ad

I was excited too. Jamie Jett here, editor at Do512 Family. I attended the session Tuesday, November 12 at Casa de Luz with an open mind and ready to learn how 140 children will learn next year. There is an upcoming Information Exchange on Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 5 – 7 pm. Currently, Parkside Community School is holding its curriculum at Casa de Luz. They will be moving out this summer and Casa de Luz has decided to take its place with an innovative and alternative school of their own. The school is enrolling now for classes that will begin Fall 2014. If you are familiar with Casa de Luz, then you already know that it is a place that makes you immediately feel better upon entering. Most people know it as a restaurant, but there is much more happening at that little sweet spot on Toomey Rd. It is a community center that regularly holds classes and sessions in yoga, tai chi, neural retraining, authentic relating and much, much more. The restaurant serves a 100 percent organic and whole-food breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. And now, Case de Luz can add an amazing school to their offerings.

integlogoIntegrity Academy will be a year-round school with six 7-week units, with 1 – 2-week breaks between them. School is from 9 am – 3 pm, Monday – Thursday, with no school on Friday (!). There will be before-school hours from 7 – 9 am, after-school hours from 3 – 6 pm and Friday camp from 7 am – 3 pm for parents who need that extra support. During non-traditional breaks, camps will be offered as well. This schedule is intended to allow the freedom of travel and to avoid the “Summer Brain Drain”, as well as alleviate the expense of summer camps.

Children will be educated in a team teaching, project-based, non-graded, multi-aged environment focused on collaboration, cooperation and communication.

There will be two teachers and one intern for each group of 20 students. They will work on lesson plans together and will be available for mentoring during class. Both of them will implement and both of them will assess. To learn more about the teachers that Integrity Academy has hired thus far, you can read all about them here.

Children will be in a Stage as opposed to a grade:

  • Emerging Stage – ages 3, 4, 5 
  • Beginning Stage – ages 5, 6, 7
  • Expanding – Bridging Stages – ages 7, 8, 9
  • Fluent Stage – ages 9, 10, 11
  • Proficient Stage – ages 11, 12, 13
  • Connecting Stage – ages 13, 14, 15
  • Independent Stage – ages 15, 16, 17

Children will move between stages when they have coursed through the material and when they demonstrate movement from proficiency to mastery.

“We are taking away the box [of 1st grade] because the box is a construct that is not helping us.” – Ali Ronder, Executive Director of Integrity Academy


Assessment will continually be reported through portfolios, developmental continuums and narrative assessments, as well as a parent conference where the teachers provide specific recommendations, activities and skills to help their student at home. These parent conferences are put in place to resolve the issue parents have when their children receive a “bad” letter-grade and them not knowing what to do about it. The A, B, C model, or 1, 2, 3 or whatever your current school may use, is an assessment that lets you know how your kid is doing, but does not give you ANY guidance as to how to improve certain areas should your child be struggling. Integrity Academy aims to bridge that gap and help parents learn ways to support their children’s education. The core content will be taught Monday – Thursday and will consist of Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies with a focus on Socio Emotional development that will be satisfied through role playing, leadership activities, workshops and interaction with nature. Musical Arts, Martial Arts, Yogic Arts, Culinary Arts, Second Language Art, Graphic Arts and Dramatic Art will be offered during the before and after school hours, as well as during the Friday and break camps. Lunch will be served to all children by Casa de Luz. Teachers will eat Casa de Luz too!

image from poco-cocoa.com
image from poco-cocoa.com

Tuition for the Monday – Thursday program is $8000 + $500 registration and $200 supply fee. For the early morning program, tuition is $2000 and for the after school program tuition is $3000. Friday camp tuition is $3000 and break camps are $250/week. Scholarships as well as work/trade options are available to all willing participants until all roles are filled. I highly recommend that you attend one of the information sessions if you have any curiosity about this program. They are by appointment and are limited to 10 people for each event so an RSVP is required. RSVP here. There is A LOT of information that is not included in this post. I encourage you to seek this information out by visiting Integrity Academy’s website where you will find helpful videos about where this curriculum stems from and how it intends to grow, as well as learn how to enroll. Integrity Academy wants to educate adults too! Check out their upcoming events and make plans to attend a low-cost or donation-based workshop. Funds collected at these events will go toward scholarships for select students at Integrity Academy. I will leave you with a few quotes that were gathered from the session, and some that were used in the information provided to us at the session.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

“Self-actualization is the goal of this school.”  – Ali Ronder

“If you tell me, I’ll forget, if you show me, I might remember, if you let me do it, it’ll be mine forever.”  -Aristotle

“Do not believe the hype — public schools are not the only way to college.”  – Ali Ronder

– J Jett