"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CMO/EMO Updates

Here are some EMO/CMO updates:

Imagine would like to expand in Pittsburgh, but the piece of real estate they were eyeing may not be available. The Pittsburgh Public Schools recently decided to sell an available building** to the Oasis Ministries rather than give the building to developer Sam Glasser. The $15,000 offer from Oasis was far below the $150,000-$350,000 put up by Glasser. Officially, the school board claims Glasser didn't submit his bid properly, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Pittsburg schools are just as concerned about Imagine (c'mon - a web search of these guys brings up plenty of dirt). Additionally, many school districts are rightfully afraid of losing enrollment to charter schools. **Update: the sale is now on hold due to questions about the financial stability of the Oasis Ministries**

If he's successful, this wouldn't be the first time Glasser has teamed up with Imagine to secure real estate. In fact, the well-known law in St. Louis that prevents public schools from being converted into a sex-related shop, alcohol-related outlets, or charter schools was put into place (well, at least the charter school part) because of a previous Glasser-Imagine deal:
One program, the Imagine Academy of Careers Middle School, managed to get into the old King Triad School on North Kingshighway Boulevard, when developer Sam Glasser bought and flipped it to Imagine's real estate holding company.

City schools spokesman Patrick Wallace says it was that transaction that prompted the SAB to adopt the deed restriction.
There are at least two schools now owned by Entertainment Properties Trust that passed through the hands of Glasser (maybe through the hands of Imagine's real estate arm, SchoolHouse Finance, LLC). One of the schools, Imagine Academy of Careers, is still run by the Virginia-based company, but the other school, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy, has since severed their relationship with Imagine (even though the EPT doesn't reflect this; Imagine doesn't list the school on their website). I cannot find 990 tax forms for either entity - who knows how much these schools are being charged for rent (then again, many Imagine-run schools do not file 990 tax forms, and Imagine itself does not file 990 forms because they've still yet to receive nonprofit status).

Lots of education-related news has been coming out of Texas lately, most of it focused on the revisionist history standards. While the well-publicized shenanigans of the Texas State Board of Education grabbed the headlines, Imagine managed to dodge publicity about the Texas Education Agency's questions regarding the proposed contract between Imagine Schools, Inc and the Imagine International Academy of North Texas.

The Imagine people (and SBOE President, Don McElroy) have been throwing fits about the delay and continue to claim TEA is simply being hostile towards charters. TEA says otherwise. From the Dallas Morning News:

TEA's attorneys reviewing the contract have been vague about their concerns but say that they worry it grants Imagine Schools too many responsibilities and roles, and too much authority over the charter school's governing board. A copy of the proposed contract submitted in 2008 shows that Imagine would be in charge of hiring teachers, staffers, the principal and much more.

In return, the state-funded school would pay a fee to Imagine Schools, a for-profit company. Education officials in other states where Imagine operates have criticized that fee as excessive and unreasonable. In fact, another proposed Imagine charter near Austin cut ties with the company last fall because of concerns about the management contract.

"Over-delegation to contractors is illegal in Texas," Thompson said. "That's primarily what we are engaged in right here."

He said he didn't think that Imagine Schools and the charter school were taking the agency's concerns seriously.

Oh - so raising concerns about Imagine's degree of control over a non-profit school? Sounds legitimate to me, particularly given Imagine's record and Texas' history of for-profit education providers.

New York:
The Victory Schools-run New Covenant Charter School will be shutting down after months of turmoil.

Also in New York, teachers at a charter school run by the for-profit National Heritage Academies are pushing for unionization, but the CMO is playing hardball (via WBEN):
"We decided to go public with our labor dispute" says Barb Coogan, a librarian at the school. The staff according to Coogan voted unanimously a year ago to unionize but the school to date has not recognized the union opting instead to hire a lawyer and take the issue to court. Coogan says "this law judge in Buffalo found that we were private employees yet the same company that manages our school manages a school in Brooklyn, found them to be public employees."

The staff according to Coogan simply wants a voice. "We don't have a voice here, we are told what to do, we are just employees, we are not respected, we are not supported." Coogan says employees are the trained educators who work with the kids and know what they need.
It was just a few years ago that NHA allegedly fired two assistant principals for trying to unionize.

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