Gem Innovation Schools (GIS) is a rapidly growing charter management organization designed to meet the state of Idaho’s pressing need for more high quality educational options which prepare students for post-secondary success. Founded in 2004, Gem Innovation Schools began as a high-performing, distance learning model and has a demonstrated record of student achievement and financial sustainability.
Currently, Gem Innovation Schools has approximately 1,050 K-12 students throughout the state of Idaho. Over the next five years, Gem Innovation Schools will more than triple the number of students served to meet a growing population and demand from families interested in innovative education options, by expanding our two campuses in Pocatello and Nampa, and the creation of a new Meridian campus in 2018. Additionally, Gem Innovation Schools will continue to expand enrollment at the existing schools, serving approximately 2,500 students by 2023.



Chief Executive Officer

Jason Bransford co-founded Gem Innovation Schools (GIS) in 2014, the first non-profit charter school management organization in the State of Idaho. Responding to the excellent student outcomes being attained in Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA), he created a plan which would give more Idaho students access to quality education. Working with national education leaders and philanthropists he secured the financial, strategic, and operational support necessary to open 3 brick and mortar schools that build upon the success of the flagship school I-DEA. In 2014, Jason and his team opened Gem Prep: Pocatello, and in 2016 opened Gem Prep: Nampa. Both schools have been highly successful in their early years with the expectation for continued future success. A third Gem Prep school is scheduled to open in fall 2018 in Meridian, Idaho. At full capacity each school will serve grades K-12 with Gem Innovation Schools serving a total of 2,126 students.

Prior to founding GIS, Jason taught high school and mentored other teachers in the Houston, Texas, area. Upon arriving in Idaho, Jason was part of a team that revitalized the state-wide distance education school, Idaho Distance Education Academy. Under his direction, severe financial deficits were reversed and operations in all school departments were streamlined. At the same time, he guided I-DEA to receive the highest state academic rating and the highest SAT scores of any district in the state. The State of Idaho recognized I-DEA’s successes and its creation of a highly successful college credit program for high school students, and Jason was awarded the Idaho Education Network Innovator of the Year Award.

Jason has held a number of education roles during his career, including teacher, faculty mentor, school director, and vice president of the Idaho Charter School Network. Jason earned a B.S. degree from Brigham Young University-Idaho, an M.S. degree from the University of Houston, and an Ed.S. from Idaho State University.

Chief Operating Officer

A co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Gem Innovation Schools, Josh Femreite facilitates the expansion plans for the CMO, engaging and partnering with each school’s local communities to support the network’s advancement and mission. Josh oversees all facility acquisitions and facilities management, transportation, school operations and safety, nutrition programs, as well as technology for all schools and support structures organization-wide.

Before accepting operations leadership for GIS, Josh developed and led Idaho Distance Education Academy’s (I-DEA) service oriented technology department—from conception to ultimately serving all of the technology needs of I-DEA students and families state-wide. The department also supported students and staff at five separate regional and support offices. As I-DEA’s Director of Technology he spring-boarded and managed the school’s transition to the utilization of high quality adaptable online educational programs for students. He also implemented a learning management system to bring courses online, created a school wide video conferencing system, and started an online electronic library using Overdrive to provide literary access to students in outlying areas.

Josh received his B.S. in Business Information Systems from the University of Idaho.

Chief Financial Officer

With more than 27 years of demonstrated financial and operational management experience, Barb Femreite co-founded Gem Innovation Schools, the first charter school management organization in Idaho. As CFO, Barb is the GIS controller and board treasurer responsible for the financial well-being of the network of high performing schools. She conducts all economic forecasting, budgeting and supervises the financial affairs of the organization while administering treasury duties and facilitating all audits. Barb’s proven expertise in managing school finances allows GIS to provide the high quality and innovative education desired for all students, no matter their economic or cultural background.

Before accepting the appointment as Chief Financial Officer for Gem Innovation Schools, Barb’s considerable experience in governmental accounting and finance was utilized to move the initial school (Idaho Distance Education Academy) from a conception to a fully functional and academically flourishing school in 2004, and then helped catapult it to the high performing school it is today. She successfully managed the organization’s finances through the economic downturn while maintaining the fund balance and administering multiple grants totaling over $6 million.

Barb’s passion is education and community service and she has served as a board member of both the Whitepine School District in Deary, Idaho, and Gritman Hospital in Moscow, Idaho.

Chief Academic Officer

A co-founder and CAO of Gem Innovation Schools, Dr. Laurie Wolfe is dedicated to enhancing the networks’ efforts to improve student success in Idaho. She has extensive experience in curriculum development and implementation, and faculty training and growth. Laurie oversees all facets of academic affairs for the GIS network of schools, including school leadership, faculty, curriculum, assessments, classroom management and accreditation.

Previous to GIS, Laurie acted as the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA). Her strategic vision helped to move the student academic achievement from the bottom quartile in the state to the top; taking I-DEA students and programs to the forefront in Idaho education.

An experienced educator and leader, she began her career in an inner city school in Long Beach, CA, teaching first and second grades. She embraced a number of different educational roles during her early career; including teacher in both elementary and junior high, reading specialist, as well as gifted and talented facilitator.

Laurie received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in reading education, and a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from Boise State University. Her dissertation research focused on how teachers and principals use data to guide curriculum and instruction.

Jared Bissen
Director of Special Education

In 2016, Jared Bissen accepted the position of Director of Special Education for Gem Innovation Schools and continues his passion to improve the educational outcomes of students with disabilities as he coordinates services throughout the network of schools. Jared supports the daily work of all the schools through the lens of special education and works to build an inclusive community whereby all students are valued. He oversees student support services and ensures that students have access to and receive the services they need to succeed. Jared is committed to supporting staff and parents as they endeavor to serve students and help them reach their highest potentials.

Jared began his career serving students with special needs over a decade ago and joined the Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA) team in 2008 as a special education teacher. Jared received a B.S. and an M.Ed in special education from Boise State University. He continues to strive for excellence in special education services and is pursuing his Ed.S, with a particular focus on serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders.


Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA) is a distance education school serving over 600 students state-wide, with three regional resource centers to support students and families.

Open enrollment for grades K-12

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Gem Prep: Pocatello is a face-to-face (on-campus) blended learning school serving students in Pocatello, Idaho and surrounding area.

Open enrollment for grades K-6

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Gem Prep: Nampa is a face-to-face (on-campus) blended learning school serving students in Nampa, Idaho and surrounding area.

Open enrollment for grades K-6

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Gem Prep: Meridian is a face-to-face (on-campus) blended learning school serving students in Meridian, Idaho and surrounding area.

Open enrollment for grades K-6

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GIS Contacts

Jason Bransford

Josh Femreite

Barb Femreite

Laurie Wolfe









Media & General Inquiry

For media and general inquiry about Gem Innovation Schools please contact Shay Angelo at 208.238.1388 or shayangelo@geminnovation.org

School Contacts

I-DEA Central Office
P.O. Box 86/600 South Ave.
Deary, ID 83823

Gem Prep: Pocatello
1451 Jessie Clark Lane
Pocatello, ID 83202

Gem Prep: Nampa
310 W. Iowa St.
Nampa, ID 83686

Gem Prep: Meridian
2750 E. Gala Street
Meridian, ID 83642


Why Gem Innovation Schools? Gem Innovation Schools are high achieving public charter schools for students in kindergarten through grade twelve across the state of Idaho. Supported by motivated, innovative leadership, our teachers change the lives of students and families. They are willing to do “whatever it takes” to make every student successful. Our passionate teachers work relentlessly toward academic goals that will prepare students for college and beyond.

Support Us!

Your tax-deductible donation helps ensure Gem Innovation students continue receiving a personalized learning experience through individualized instruction, positive adult relationships, the use of adaptive software, and data.