SIERRA VISTA — The past four weeks have been a whirlwind for Kelly and Mark Managan.
Kelly, with the help and support of her husband Mark, started the process of opening a private school for kids with intellectual disabilities and is on a mission to have the doors opened on Aug. 1.
Kelly, who has more than 30 years of teaching experience, 13 in special education — says owning and operating her own school is something she’s wanted to do for the past 15 years.
“We are all in,” Mark said. “We’ve put everything into this.”
Skills (Special Kids Individualized Learning and Life Skills) Private Academy will be a kindergarten through 12 grade facility and target audience is students with multiple disabilities, severe disabilities or are medically fragile, such as being prone to seizures or have a feeding tube. Their mission is to keep the class sizes small and will have a student-teacher ratio of 4-1 in their first year.
“I want them to be here where they can have that small group instruction,” Kelly said. “I know I am a good teacher and I think I can offer what these kids need.”
“It’s not an inclusion setting. We don’t get federal funding so there’s no one-on-one nursing qualification,” Kelly said. “What I do offer is a loving, happy supportive environment.”
In their efforts to have the small class sizes the couple have limited their enrollment to 20 students, which they have reached just through word of mouth and Kelly’s reputation as well as connections.
Her classrooms will be filled with familiar faces as her former students and kids she had in class have already enrolled in the school. However, Kelly is excited for the new faces and kids she’ll meet because it shows that people trust her with their children.
Kelly spent the last six years at Joyce Clark Middle School, where she was a special education teacher and department chair. She submitted her resignation a few weeks ago after deciding to turn her dream into a reality. Kelly said with the changes happening within the Sierra Vista Unified School District, she felt like it was time to make a change for herself and to provide something extra that community didn’t already have.
“I want to get the kids ready for post-secondary education,” Kelly said. “I want these kids to have big dreams and I want to help them get there.”
Though Skills Private Academy is a private school, tuition isn’t required. Kelley doesn’t want parents to have to pay out of pocket for their child to attend the school but instead will fund the school via a student’s Empowerment Scholarship Account, which is paid for by the state.
According to the Arizona Department of Education website “The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program is an account administered by The Arizona Department of Education that is funded by state tax dollars to provide educational options for qualified Arizona students. By opting out of the public school system, parents can seek a range of alternative educational services, such as private school or home-based education, to tailor an individualized educational plan that is best for their child. The ESA program is not affiliated with any services, providers, vendors or websites, please ensure you are referring to our website and documents for program direction.”
Kelly plans to have outside contracts with speech, occupational and physical therapists so that the students get the therapy required by their individualized education program.
“If they have it in public school, the same services will be offered,” she said. “I want this to be a free education for parents like public school is.”
The Managan’s have applied to be a nonprofit and will run as one upon approval. Right now they have minor renovations — painting, laying flooring and making one of the bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
After the first year, they hope to expand and build an ADA playground for their students on their property, located off State Route 92. To help with any of the projects contact Kelly and Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.