By K. LeveK
The D.C. Public Charter School Board has voted to begin the process to revoke the charter of Imagine Public Charter School, located in the 3100 block of MLK Ave. SE. The board held a meeting on January 10th in an auditorium located in Columbia Heights. The special board meeting was open to the public and was held to not only vote on the revocation of Imagine’s charter, but also vote for the renewal of Elsie Whitlow Stokes and Cesar Chavez’s public charter.
The auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, students and administrators. Much of the audience was there in support of Imagine and was often vocal throughout the meeting. According to the Performance Management Framework Tier 2 School, Imagine has failed 4 of the 5 goals it set out to make during its first five years, citing that the school’s failure in the areas of: students being strong readers, students regularly attending school, students being able to grasp key concepts related to math and parents indicating high levels of satisfaction with the program. The one area the board said the school did succeed in was regulating negative behavior.
Attendance rates at Imagine are among the lowest in Ward 8, and re-enrollment rates never rose above 70 percent, which the board translated into 1 in 5 kids leaving the school every year. Academic failure was another key in the board’s decision to move forward with proposing to revoke the school’s charter. The board noted that less than a third of student are proficient in math and the student’s reading and math are below the District’s average.
The PCSB said that the school has broken several laws over the past five years including financial mismanagement, emergency evacuation compliance laws, board members who do not reside in the District and specifically noted that the school was not in compliance with special education laws. A former business assistant, who wanted to speak on condition of anonymity, said “the school has some problems” but still seemed optimistic about the school.
At the end of the meeting, the board opened the floor for public comment. A couple dozen parents and students spoke up to voice their concern about the board’s decision. Many parents came to the microphone with their children in support of the school and asked that the board reconsider their vote to move forward with the revocation. Other students help posters reading “please don’t close our school.” Parent Teacher Organization President, Lauren Frazier , said, “Imagine is a place for our children to grow and learn.” She has a 5th grader who attends the school. Maurice Jones, who works in the sschool’s cafeteria became emotional at the microphone stating, “some of the kids ask me for more than two meals because sometimes that’ the only meal they get all day.”
If the PCSB votes to revoke Imagine’s charter, the school would close at the end of this school year. Families would have the aid of an enrollment specialist dedicated to helping them find a new school. Imagine Southeast is part of a network of schools operated by Imagine Schools Inc., a for-profit company that operates about 70 schools in 12 states and the District, according to its Web site.