By Scott Campbell
When the Pennsylvania General Assembly envisioned charter schools within the state, the Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA) is precisely what its members had in mind.
It is a Middle States-accredited, tuition-free, public cyber school serving more than 9,000 children in grades K-12 from seven family-services centers, with a staff of Pennsylvania-certified educators that exceeds 500. The CEO of this burgeoning, state-wide educational enterprise is Dr. Maurice Flurie.
The 55-year-old, Marysville resident had a well-traveled career in the public-education realm before assuming his current post at CCA. Rising through the ranks from teacher to assistant superintendent, he gained valuable experiences from traditional school districts at Middletown, Shippensburg, Cumberland Valley, Susquenita and Lower Dauphin. They prepared Flurie for his present responsibilities in an environment that melds conventional and technology-based pedagogical methods in a non-traditional public school.
“I think that the main difference between us and the typical public school is that our curriculum is career-focused and very much oriented toward family service,” says Flurie. “We ask our students, ‘Where do you want to be when you’re 25 or 30?’ We look at our school as a preparation for adult life. At the same time, we don’t pigeon-hole them by gender, ethnic identity or any other category. And we talk a lot to the parents or the student’s adult mentor. No one knows the child better than they do.”
In most schools, interaction with parents is generally limited – not at CCA. “We require some kind of contact on a bi-weekly basis,” says Flurie. “We actively pursue them and will meet or talk with them at their convenience, which is frequently after school hours.”
It is an essential ingredient in the CCA curriculum, as many of its new enrollees have been struggling academically. “Most of our students come to us during the middle school years, and we have to catch them up, so to speak,” says Flurie. “They may be in eighth grade but read at a fourth-grade level, for example. So, it’s not surprising that we have some who require an extra year before graduating.”
The instruction is very personal. Students work at a pace that suits their learning profile. There are also numerous opportunities for internships with various businesses as well as hundreds of field trips to complement the more structured part of the curriculum.
And what of their experience after CCA? “Many of our graduates do very well with their time management at college,” says Flurie, “because it’s something that they were compelled to do while with us. This gives them a head start and allows them to concentrate more on their studies. It’s not something that they have to take a few years to learn.”
“My position is similar to that of a public-school superintendent,” muses Flurie. “However, I am involved much more with business and government entities. One of my responsibilities is to see that we are good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. To that end, there is a chief operating officer who served nearly 20 years as a traditional school-district business administrator and a board of directors that oversees our financial transactions and educational programs.”
Flurie does not see CCA competing with public school districts but, rather, partnering with them. “We are able to support districts by bolstering their on-line education through teacher-training programs,” he says. “Serving kids is the main objective in what we do and why we exist.”
When not in his office on the corner of N. 3rd and Reily Streets in Harrisburg, Flurie enjoys the outdoors – sailing, riding his bike, hunting and fishing. He is married and has two adult children.