When you watch the video, it's hard to see why anyone would oppose bringing Imagine Schools into their district. The students on film look so happy.
"We are ... Imagine!" they shout in unison from their classrooms.
Watching the video on April 7 were two dozen Hazelwood residents, gathered in the pews at the Keystone Church. From the video they learned about Imagine, a "not-for-profit" organization that values "integrity, justice and fun" while turning "bad apples" into good students.
"A lot of my friends in education around the country are very supportive of the charter movement," says Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. "But I have not had a single person once say to me, 'Wow! Imagine Schools.' It's always been, 'Watch out for Imagine Schools.'"
It may be ominous that one of Imagine's chief advocates, Sarah Jameela Martin, says she was unaware of the company's problems elsewhere until informed by CP. After reading critical articles about Imagine, though, she's still confident about the firm.
"From what I gather, Imagine's [Environmental Charter School] is not having any of the problems" other schools have experienced, Martin wrote CP in an e-mail. "I see the proposed [Hazelwood] school functioning equally well."
"My concerns with the school revolve around the franchise-type arrangement with Imagine Schools," says Barbara Daly Danko, a business manager at the Environmental School from June 2008 to August 2009. She says she left largely because of concerns over those terms. "The contract between the local board and Imagine Schools is complicated, long-term and -- in my opinion -- very expensive."