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

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Imagine Schools "Death Spiral"

Guess which charter school chain is behind this little scheme:
An F-rated St. Petersburg charter school stands on the verge of collapse, mired in debt and losing enrollment. And most of those debts — around $1 million in public tax dollars — are owed to the same private company that founded it.
No, this isn't Chris Whittle's newest invention, this is the corrupt fools at Imagine. It's not a surprise - heck, this is practically the blueprint for Imagine's business plan. The snippet above is from Tom Marshall's article on Imagine that appeared in today's St. Petersburg Times. Do check it out.

I can't even tell you how many reporters are either a) too lazy or b) too dense to fully understand the corrupt practices of Imagine despite being sent ample evidence of their ways. Instead, they simply buy the sales pitch put forth by Dennis and Imagine without even the slightest bit of questioning. Yes - you can include Jay Mathews in that category. Jay says Dennis and Eileen are "breaking barriers for charter schools." His stupidity knows no bounds.

But back to Tom and his wonderful article. There's plenty going on in Florida with Imagine. From the St. Petersburg Times:

According to the Internal Revenue Service, charters must be run by independent boards and negotiate contracts that benefit the school — not a management company or vendor.

"A board must show that it is not a front for a management company," the agency said in published guidelines.

But the Pinellas charter's board is chaired by Justin Matthews, who works for the company as a school principal in North Port.

"Who's he going to support, Imagine or the school?" Clark said.

Huber, the Imagine spokesman, said the company was seeking a replacement.

"Just because Imagine appoints the board member doesn't mean Imagine doesn't have an arm's-length relationship," he said.

Still, Imagine has yet to receive the nonprofit status it has sought from the IRS since 2005, and school officials in Texas, Georgia, Nevada and Indiana — as well as Alachua, Indian River and Palm Beach counties in Florida — have challenged the company's applications.

Marshall takes the bold step to ask, "Who's in charge?" Of course, Imagine employees dare not ask that question, particularly about the school's real estate dealings or management fees. That'll earn you a, "You're not longer a good fit," or, "We've decided to go in a different direction," which are simply code phrases for, "Don't you dare question us. Ever. Especially about our financial dealings":

Who's in charge?

Pasco County may be next, raising similar questions about the company's Land O'Lakes school.

Unless Imagine provides clear evidence of its legal status soon, superintendent Heather Fiorentino told Imagine in a letter, the district "will have no choice but to consider this a breach of the charter contract and take appropriate action."

In Hillsborough, officials wondered whether the proposed charter's local board would have the power to fire Imagine, or just serve as a front for the company.

In a meeting, charter supervisor Jenna Hodgens asked the question.

"Karl Huber yelled out, 'Of course they cannot fire us. They are Imagine Schools,' " she recalled.

Faced with challenges from several districts, Imagine sought a ruling from the state on its nonprofit status. On Jan. 5, the Department of Education told the company it would develop new rules on the issue and invite public comment.

Imagine officials say they're pleased with the result.

"The proposal is pretty much what we've always argued defines a nonprofit," Huber said.

The draft rules, due to be reviewed Wednesday at a public meeting, would allow schools to qualify for nonprofit status by demonstrating that they were operated for public purposes and "not organized primarily for profit." They also specify that individuals or shareholders can't benefit from net earnings.

It's public record that there are clearly shareholders behind the Imagine Schools.

[Side note: Imagine is trying to snag another school in GA. The school board was set to vote on the application, but an extension was granted and the application will be considered at a later date. The superintendent doesn't want the school and gives ample reasons. The recent charter developments in GA are sure to impact this situation.]

1 comment:

  1. Imagine Schools seems to be the educational equivalent of BP