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Ball State pulls the plug on 3 Fort Wayne charter schools

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 9:26 am

Ball State University will not renew the charters of three Fort Wayne schools.

The contracts of Imagine MASTer Academy, Imagine Schools on Broadway and Timothy L. Johnson Academy will end June 30.

The Fort Wayne schools were among seven charter schools in the state that did not have their contracts renewed.

“Nonrenewals were based on schools' academic performance and failure to present additional information that demonstrated they could achieve academic standards,” Ball State said in a news release Tuesday. The university's Office of Charter Schools supervises 42 charter schools in the state.

“We take our authorizer responsibility for ensuring academic quality very seriously,” Bob Marra, executive director of Ball State's charter office, said in a statement announcing the status of 20 of the 42 schools. “While we prefer to see these schools succeed, we have determined that their current success or progress isn't sufficient for seven of our schools. It is our responsibility to not renew the school, which usually leads to closure. While I understand it may cause some short-term difficulty for families, it is a decision made in the long-term best interests of their students.”

The decisions, affecting approximately half of Ball State's charter schools, were determined using a new accountability framework finalized by the charter office last summer. The framework, developed over the course of two years, was presented by the office to all Ball State authorized schools on June 27, 2012.

Every school had at least three substantial meetings with the charter schools office to review the data, according to Ball State.

“None of these schools should be surprised,” said Marra in the statement on the schools' status. “We've advanced through methodical and iterative steps over the last two years to develop a framework that we believe will drive strong performance in our charter schools. And we've been transparently communicating with the schools about it since the summer.”

Ball State said the renewal review process allows for the schools to request reconsideration of the university's decision. Schools must request reconsideration within 10 business days. For those making such a request, a hearing will be held with the Ball State University Charter Schools Hearing Panel. The panel would submit recommendation(s) to the president of the university in early March. The president's decision, based on the panel's recommendation, is final.

According to Indiana Department of Education records for the 2011-2012 school year, the three charter schools enrolled more than 1,500 students.

Imagine MASTer Academy, 2000 N. Wells St., had 758 students K-8.

Imagine Schools on Broadway, 2320 Broadway, had 443 students K-5.

Timothy L. Johnson Academy, 7908 S. Anthony Blvd., had 305 students K-8.

The Department of Education says two other charter schools are in Fort Wayne. The K-8 Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, 2310 Weisser Park Ave., is chartered by the Indiana Charter Schools Board. The grades 6-9 Smith Academy for Excellence, 6806 Embers Court, is chartered by Grace College. No enrollment data on these schools is available from the Department of Education website.

Previously, Ball State has terminated authorization for one school, Urban Brightest in Fort Wayne, in 2004.

For more on this story, check back later or see The News-Sentinel print edition Wednesday.