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Imagine Schools left with few options after Ball State affirms charter revocation

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 7:26 am

On the day that the governing boards of numerous charter schools in the state were notified that appeals to not have their contracts terminated had failed -- including two local charters -- a spokesman for the parent company of Imagine Schools said it was too early to say what their next steps would be.

When reached yesterday by phone in Indianapolis, spokesman Tim Phelps said that Imagine -- which operates charters Imagine Schools on Broadway and Imagine MASTer Academy -- was still working to notify all affected parties, including administrators, teachers, parents and students, of Ball State University's decision and that it was too soon to comment on next steps, saying instead that would be Imagine's "focus in the coming days" and referring to an official statement that had been released.

Imagine Schools on Broadway and Imagine MASTer Academy will have their contracts expire with Ball State on June 30, with Ball State President Jo Ann Gora affirming the decision for revocation upon hearing the recommendations of the university's Charter Schools Hearing Panel, acccording to a news release issued by the university. The president's decision is final.

Another local charter, Timothy L. Johnson Academy, withdrew its appeal prior to a scheduled hearing and is also scheduled to have its charter expire on June 30.

The schools have roughly six weeks before the doors could close for good. The schools have few -- essentially, no - options if they cannot clear the biggest hurdle: finding another authorizer.

Ball State originally notified the schools on Jan. 18 that their charters would not be renewed, but each had initially exercised its right to schedule an appeal to the university.

Imagine's statement addressed that appeals process in its release, with it reading, "Today, the governing Boards of Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy East, Imagine Master Academy, and Imagine Schools on Broadway received notification from Ball State University affirming their decision not to renew the charters for these campuses. This decision came despite a clear presentation to the Charter Schools Hearing Panel of strong academic growth by students at the campuses and a strong desire from parents for the schools to remain open.

"Imagine Schools is disappointed by Ball State's decision but remains strongly committed to providing options for parents and families in making the best educational choices for their children. Despite the announcement, it is the intention of Imagine Schools to keep these campuses open for the greater Indianapolis and Fort Wayne communities."

"Our focus today is to communicate directly with our students, parents, families and staff the best information about ongoing educational options as, together, we approach this difficult transition."

According to Indiana Department of Education records for the 2011-2012 school year, Imagine MASTer Academy, 2000 N. Wells St., had 758 students in grades K-8, while Imagine Schools on Broadway, 2320 Broadway, had 443 students in grades K-5. Timothy L. Johnson Academy, 7908 S. Anthony Blvd., had 305 students in grades K-8.

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