The Barbara J. Dreyer Cares Foundation

barbara

The Barbara J. Dreyer Cares Foundation was established by Barbara Dreyer, the co-founder and long-time CEO of Connections Education, in whose memory the foundation is now named.

The foundation’s origin predates its formal creation in 2011.  During her years at the helm of Connections Education, Barbara developed close personal relationships with many of the families and students attending Connections-supported schools.  Through her personal interaction with families she learned about many of their accomplishments.  She also knew when families faced major obstacles and setbacks and was moved to help them in any way possible.

The Foundation’s mission is to continue Barbara’s legacy by providing financial assistance to families within the Connections community that face significant hardship.

45 thoughts on “The Barbara J. Dreyer Cares Foundation

  1. Ms. Dreyer, you were and will continue to be an inspiration to me and the many you have guided. You will be missed by all who your kind heart touched and will always be remembered.

    Thank you for your teachings!
    Eric Rodriguez

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  2. Barbara never let you get away with calling her Ms. Dreyer. She always insisted that you call her Barbara. While I was in the Baltimore office, any troubleshooting I assisted her with, I would always try to call her Ms. Dreyer first, out of respect, but i’d always get reminded that she was Barbara. Really going to miss seeing her office light on until 9pm some nights while I was on the 4th floor fixing random hardware issues.

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  3. I admired Barbara very much. She was an inspirational leader and a savvy horsewoman. I remember we shared a lively conversation about horses. Ill never firget the horse post cards she sent me. I still have them. Thank you Barbara for all of your valiant efforts. You will be remembered.

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  4. Jason, you are so right, she never stood on ceremony or title. Just look at her office, you’d never believe it was the founder’s office!!! She didn’t hesitate to let you know when you needed to improve but she also was always just as quick to admit when she or our company needed to improve too. It was always a treat when I visited Fleet St., and went by her office and she would invite me to say hi. i’m so glad I got to see her back in July. She was/is an amazing inspiration that will live on in not just us, the employees, but also the thousands and thousands of students and families who have and will continue to benefit from her legacy.

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  5. I am a teacher and I had a question for HR that could not be answered. After several messages back and forth, Barbara took time out of her day and not only wrote me a special letter addressing the question, but acted on it as if I were her top priority. She never met me but she had such respect for teachers and I really felt honored that she took the time to reply. She was a real leader and very down to earth. Prayers to her family at this time.

    Kim

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  6. I had the opportunity to know Barbara for 12 years. She was a very caring woman. She always had time for you if a problem would arise. She fought her cancer valiently. She was a real inspiration to me and others. She will be missed by the CA family. Her family is in my prayers.

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  7. I am a teacher and I have never met Barbara Dreyer personally. Reading the posts and how well our Head Principal spoke of over, I received a very good glimpse into her life. I hope we all can learn and implement how she modeled what good customer service is to be like, good teaching, and care for people which really matters. I am praying for the family!

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  8. Dear Barbara,
    Thank you for inspiring me to be the best I can be for not only Connections, but also my family. I had the privilege to meet you during my first year with the company way back in 2008 and since then I have made every attempt to make you proud. I heard the great things you do for not only our families, but also for the employees which truly made me feel valued and protected. Your passion and values will continue to inspire me as I go on to my 8th year with the company. It breaks my heart that you are no longer with us, but you have left us all with a great gift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. With admiration, Yina Dominguez

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  9. It was a real pleasure to work with Barbara at Connections…she had an amazing spirit! Praying for her family and the entire CA Team. Rest in love, Barbara!!

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  10. Barbara was the North Star. It seemed to me that when all of us looked up and saw a miscellany of information, she provided the vision that ultimately steered the ship in the right direction. I love that you knew exactly who she was and how she felt at every moment – genuine, present and now perpetual.

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  11. Here’s to you Barbara! Thank you for the wonderful career opportunity you gave me and, most importantly, the life lessons and friendship. I miss you

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  12. I have known Barbara since 2004 when Connections Academy joined our charter school. Barbara has always been an inspiration, a staunch supporter and a caring human being. I am extremely saddened by her passing. She will be truly missed.

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  13. In one sense, Mosaica Education has been a respectful competitor of Connections Academy since Mickey and Barbara started that business. But in a more profound sense, we were always collaborators — working together, with allies across the country and across the political spectrum, to improve public education. There was no more generous collaborator than Barbara. We were both among the founding members of the National Council of Education Providers, and we worked together as directors of that organization for a decade. Barbara was always there with an incisive insight, her oh-so-wise wit and that incredible smile (often flashed after her oh-so-wise wit and incisive insight had eviscerated someone else’s not-so-wise or insightful comment).

    Two stories to illustrate Barbara’s generosity of spirit: when Pearson acquired Connections, I was asked to comment by a reporter, and I said that it was a great coup for Pearson, because Connections had a culture and leadership team that captured the dual goals of intellectual integrity and entrepreneurism that we all aspired to. The next day, amid all the chaos that goes along with a merger of that scale, Barbara took the time to call to thank me personally for my comment.

    Then, last year, Barbara was honored by the Center for Education Reform in a wonderful ceremony in Washington. In her acceptance speech, she, of course, graciously and sincerely thanked and praised CER, her friends, families and colleagues — the “usual suspects” — but she also went out of her way to do something I don’t remember ever seeing an honoree do: she thanked and praised by name some of the folks Mickey Revenaugh refers to as Barbara’s “NCEP buds” — also known as “CEOs of Connections competitors” — for what she said she had learned from us. Sharing your spotlight with your competitors? Now that’s generosity!

    A wise man once told me that there were lots of very smart people in education, and there were also lots of big-hearted people, but there was a shortage of people with both an astute brain and a kind soul. Barbara was one of those rare people. She fought the good fight, and we cheered her on. We will miss her.

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  14. Barbara was a very special leader and a dynamic advocate for students and family choice. A pioneer and leader in our industry, I found our interactions always refreshing and always enlightening for me. She will be missed by more than her family, friends, and coworkers. She will be missed by educators and by an entire industry.

    Thank you for your great leadership and contributions, Barbara! We are all better people for having known you.

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  15. I am new to Connections. I have been a Board member of Nexus Cleveland for just over a year. I am so very impressed with the people I work with. What a tribute to the co-founders and to Barbara!

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  16. Never had the chance to meet her…but my goodness I heard nothing but wonderful things about her! Prayers for her family at their time of loss. Candice Martin

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  17. It has been nice working at a company that actively keeps the employees in mind and keeps them aware of the changes that will be taking place. My first personal experience with Barbara was at a group meeting. She let us know where the company came from, how we were doing and where we are heading to. I appreciated knowing the CEO wanted to connect with all the employees and not just be a figure in an office.

    She has positively influenced education and placed a high standard for all that follow in her footsteps.

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  18. In 2007 I met Barbara during my first week of work at Connections. I think it was day 3 and I was getting in the elevator to go take a walk at lunch. The doors began to shut and then a hand slid in to stop the closure. I smiled at the woman who entered and returned to my standard nervous look at the floor stance. The doors closed and the woman turned to me and introduced herself simply as Barbara. She then asked if I was new and was I enjoying myself so far. When we parted ways I remember thinking how thankful I was that the woman in the elevator was so kind and welcoming. It eased my new job worries. It wasn’t until a few weeks later did I learn who Barbara was.

    Her kindness and simple encouragement to enjoy my job has carried me through 7+ years. There have been many a day where I contemplated writing to Barbara or stopping by to tell her thank you.

    Barbara- thank you for welcoming and encouraging creativity and drive. Thank you for pursuing your passion and creating a company that has become home to me.

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  19. My thoughts are with Barbara’s family. She is with all of you in spirit. It was always a pleasure to speak to Barbara when she visited FLVSFT. She will be missed.

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  20. I was really shocked to hear of Barbara’s passing. I was very fortunate to have met her on several occasions and share her ensite on education. Our prayers go out to her family during this trying time.

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  21. Barbara’s leadership in creating alternative ways to reach and teach kids is well known. Along with that great achievement, was Barbara’s way of doing it that combined wit, generous sharing of credit, and enormous commitment to the individuals involved. I will miss her counsel, and miss the laughing we did over all the great triumphs and stumbles that life gives us.

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  22. Barbara was the highlight to the end of the year meetings we had at FLVSFT. She was always down to Earth, and quite funny. She made hundreds of people in one room feel like she was speaking to each one individually.

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  23. One of the most genuinely nice, talented, and innovative persons I have had the pleasure of interacting with. I was fortunate to be able to call her “friend.”

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  24. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Barbara, I feel as if I knew her. “How can that be?” you may wonder. Her driving spirit and passion for helping every child achieve; permeate our Connections Academy curriculum, core values, and our day-to-day interactions as teachers with students, caretakers, and fellow staff members. Her legacy will continue to drive us as we strive to meet the needs of students, “Every Child, Every Day!” Thanks, Barbara.

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  25. I had the privilege of being at meetings with Barbara only a few times and sat next to her at lunch once. I knew that when she said if there was anything I ever needed to call her that she was being sincere. That meant a lot to me then and still does. Thank you Barbara for your leadership and thank you Dreyer family for sharing her with all us.

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  26. While I am not always one to share a lot of my personal feelings with others, I was moved to tears when I heard of our CEO’s passing. Throughout the years, as person who is always looking to become more self-confident, I have periodically made a secret list of the top 5 women who inspire me, or who have qualities that I would like to possess when I “grow up”. That list has changed from time to time but, ever since I had a brief introduction to Barbara Dreyer at the end of our school year in 2009, she has been on that list. I have now decided that she will forever hold one of the spots on my list.

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  27. Barbara Dreyer was a pioneer when it came to online education. It was her vision, determination, and passion for education that created the most reputable, high-quality virtual program in the nation. My children have been enrolled in this program for 12 years now and it is because of Barbara that they are thriving. I met Barbara after I became a member of the WCA board and immediately was touched by what a sincere and compassionate woman she was. Connections Education was not just a business to her; it was a passion. She truly cared about kids and was passionate about providing quality online education that worked for families. Barbara has left a legacy that has, and will continue to touched the lives of children and families everywhere. Thank you, Barbara, not only for what you have done for all of us, but also for the beautiful person you were. We will never forget you!

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  28. I remember the first time I met Barbara,it was 9 years ago at our annual Holiday party. It was at a time when all the Maryland corporate employees could fit in the lobby of this hotel where the party was held a couple of blocks away. Barbara sat down next to me at the table,introduced herself as Barbara, no last name and began to speak with me. She asked if I was an employee and when I started. She wanted to know what I liked about Connections Academy and why. She was interested in my opinions and my concerns. Our conversation was brief but very memorable for me. It was cut short by the announcement that the President was about to speak and to my surprise it was the woman I had just met named Barbara. I was taken aback by her interest in me and my concerns. She has always made it known that no person employed here is ever too small or does not matter. I have always admired her for that and her candid nature as well. I must say Barbara you will really be missed and there will forever be a void at Connections Education that I believe as hard as we may try will never be filled the way you have embraced it through the years. It has been such an honor and a pleasure to have known you and worked with you for the past 9 years. I wish myself and others could have been fortunate enough to have many more years with you. I am just glad that you are no longer suffering but can forever smile and provide us with your ray of sunshine personality and guidance from a far for a lifetime to come. Thank you for being in my life and allowing me to be in yours.

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  29. Barbara will continue to be a “lighthouse” to all of us committed to changing how our children learn and prepare themselves to compete in the global landscape. May her family be comforted in the knowledge that her footprint on education will remain forever.

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  30. I did not get the chance to meet Barbara in person, only through stories and pictures. I am a third year learning coach with CA and now an employee. I am so sorry for your loss. The way that Barbara has changed and touched my families lives is immeasurable.

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  31. Barbara, my toast to you. I will miss you but you will never be far away.

    My relationship with Barbara began in 2003 as a competitor when CA ventured into Florida; later we would often joke that it seemed like a lifetime ago. We were two scrappy women, who always seemed to find ourselves swimming up stream, fighting for what we believed was the good fight for kids. We had almost instant admiration for each other as we began to discover that we were incredibly aligned on our values. We spent the first few years trying to convince each other that our toys were better than the others, and then thanks to the Florida Legislature we found ourselves in the precarious position of becoming partners. 
    People often ask me, “how do you choose your partners?”  My answer is an easy one; after the typical financial sustainability and legal clearance,  first and foremost, I look at the leadership of the organization and how they run their company. I talk to their employees to see what they think of their organization and determine their convictions. I then look for a shared vision and a heart for kids.  It is my belief that if you let the students’ needs guide your decisions, great things will follow. Barbara shared that belief. In my business, our families, legislators and taxpayers were our shareholders. We used to say that our profits came in the form of student success. Some would argue that a private company could never really put the student at the center of their decisions; driving revenue was first and foremost. Barbara changed that paradigm. After spending a few hours together, it was instantly clear that there was a shared vision and that she had a huge heart for kids. During the years that followed, regardless of her P&L, I watched Barbara develop amazing relationships with her families and put students first. 
    At first it seemed we could not have been more different.  One night over dinner after a long day walking the halls of the FL Capitol, we made a list. Her background was in corporate finance and mine was very much of a traditional educator, recognizing Florida Virtual School was an exception. She had always worked in private sector, and I had always worked in public sector.  Her brain worked in numbers and my brain worked in words. She raised girls and I raised boys. She was really tall and I was really short. She wore boots and I wore pumps. She rode horses and I was the girl from KY who tended to fall off horses.  She had an expense account, I had a per diem. 
    But our similarities were what really mattered. We shared an incredible passion for changing the face of education and the lives of children and were determined not to take no for an answer. It wasn’t that we saw a better way, but we saw a different way that was better for some children. We also saw our work as our play and our work teams as our extended family. If you listen to Barbara’s team talk about what it was like to work for her and the environment she created, it was and still is a family. You feel the warmth the moment you walk into the Connections Education Corporate office. Most of her 11 executive team members have been with her since day one; one has followed her for 22 years. We all know that people don’t work for companies, they work for their bosses.
    But we soon discovered that leveraging our differences was our silver bullet as we built a ground-breaking private/public partnership in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been daisies and rainbows. The difference was that when the weeds appeared, the trust we shared allowed us to go mano a mano to reach a solution and then talk about what our families were doing for Thanksgiving.  
    To describe Barbara, many adjectives come to mind. We have all witnessed her strength and courage over these many months. She was so determined to continue to push forward, that from a distance, it was easy to forget she was ill. I’m sure that is exactly what she wanted. Often the only way you were reminded she was sick was when an email reply took more than a few hours.  But she also had the courage to share her journey to bring more awareness to cancer and the devastation it breeds. I admire that self-less courage.
    Barbara was a classic disrupter with an innovative spirit. She could see beyond the obvious. Whenever she was in the room, she spoke with passionate purpose. She always did her homework and had so much detail in her brain that she would often leave others somewhat speechless. It was a great negotiating tactic. She never held back and always left it all on the floor. 
    Barbara was Tenacious with a capital T. She really wanted to know in a deep way what worked and what didn’t work educationally in our schools, so she would dig, dig, dig into the data looking for patterns. She was notorious for doing complex statistical analyses at 2 am and stunning everyone with her insights when they opened their email the next morning. Her intellectual curiosity and her belief in data were the real deal. To this day, I think she knows more about Florida education legislation and formulas than most anyone working or residing in the state. 
    I was always struck by how she analyzed a situation, managing to play out all of the scenarios with such depth.  I remember telling Pam Birtolo, our Chief Education Officer, once that I wish I could live a day in her brain. The results of her analysis would often come in the form of a verbose email, finding its way to your inbox first thing in the morning, shortly after she had just gone to bed and you had just gotten up. She was a night owl and we shared our distain for alarm clocks. 
    Barbara was a woman of significant character and integrity, never shying away from openly facing the bad news and taking her share of the blame. As an industry leader, when the press would take on virtual education, Barbara would bring the accusations to the forefront, opening the kimono and facing them head-on; confirming the accuracy of the allegations and identifying a go forward strategy or clearing up the inaccuracies with data or a commissioned third party study.  Barbara was one of those people who did the right things for the right reasons. 
    John Bailey, VP of Policy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, remembers Barbara as “always being the adult in the room, pushing for what was good for kids.” Barbara made online/blended learning all about kids and families, and not in an abstract way – she made it a point to personally get to know many students and was so moved by their stories that it kept the focus on the right things for her and all those around her.
    Barbara was a shrewd and determined business woman. I personally loved this about her. You always knew where you stood and she was the first to pick the phone up and call when something was out of kilter. There were no whispers in the shadows; she would readily cut to the chase. Cecilia Lopez, former Business Development Officer for FLVS, found herself in the unfortunate position of having to negotiate a contract with Barbara in the past few months. She shared the following: 
    “Barbara is by far one of the craftiest negotiators that I’ve ever dealt with, but she is fair. Her points and counterpoints were just and fair. Our conversations took place over the course of multiple weeks. She would provide us with dates when she would be in the hospital and when she would be available. I remember a day that she was in the hospital and she was on the phone with us. The doctor came in and she asked us to hold. As feisty as she was with us, she was as feisty with that doctor. She never wavered on her convictions regarding the negotiations and I experienced first hand that she was going to fight like hell for her life and everything that reflected her life.”
    Over the years I have seen Barbara through a number of lenses – ranging from an educational leader and pioneer, a competitor, a well respected colleague, a wonderful wife and mother and my friend.  We meet a great deal of people over the course of our careers and lives and in some manner they all make an impact on us.  What few do though is make a major impact on society.  To be able to serve in a role where you can impact so many people is an honor and a blessing.  Barbara is one of those people and her impact will be felt for years to come. We will miss having the opportunity to work with her on the big things that might revolutionize education and we will cherish the time we’ve had. 
    As I reflect, I am reminded that we get very few chances to do the big things with the people who inspire us and we need to jump at every opportunity to do them.  Let that be a lesson to all of us. Barbara did that and will be remembered for all of those she helped and how her work will endure.
    When I received the call asking me to come and share my heart and memories of Barbara, as you might imagine, a flood of emotions took over. I was incredibly honored and humbled as my admiration and love for Barbara is immeasurable. I felt an immediate sense of responsibility, as I thought about all of the incredible colleagues Barbara has surrounded herself with and the loss they are all feeling today; I want to honor their loss as a community. Many of them could not be here today and send their love. And finally, I felt a sense of peace because I would finally have the opportunity to  meet her beautiful family that she talked about so often and to say, “I’ll see you later, my friend. Keep everyone in line up there. We love you.” 

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  32. Her life was an inspiration in hard work, a no excuse philosophy, and doing what is right for kids. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work with such an amazing leader. May she continue to watch from heaven and provide an example to guide us in our continued journey to help kids. In the last email that I received from her in July, she said “Well then we better get going on making that point”. Let’s all keep “making that point” and following in her footsteps.

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  33. Barbara treated everyone she met with the utmost respect and honor and gave everyone she spoke with her full attention. I was always amazed at how she would continually think of others and put their needs ahead of her own. Barbara, thank you for being so gracious and for being a wonderful example and an excellent leader. You will be greatly missed!

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  34. I admired and always appreciated that no matter how busy, Barbara always returned an email with a positive comment and always thanked me for my work with Connections. I enjoyed when she would come to Florida and I am thrilled to continue to be a dedicated employee (nine years and counting) carrying on with her legacy. You will be missed Barbara and I send my sincerest sympathy to her family.

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  35. I remember Barbarah coming over to my house after NCA’s first year. It was just short of a train wreck but she sat on my couch and told me it will be better. It did. Our school soared.
    I am missing her comfort with our new challenges we are facing, but know she is here watching. Nevada is strong and we will fight until the end. Just like Barbra.

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  36. I remember Barbara coming over to my house after NCA’s first year. It was just short of a train wreck but she sat on my couch and told me it will be better. It did. Our school soared.
    I am missing her comfort with our new challenges we are facing, but know she is here watching. Nevada is strong and we will fight until the end. Just like Barbra.

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