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Vol. 46, No. 25
April 17, 2012

 

State Education Board Approves Closing Three Imagine Charter Academies in St. Louis

State Education Department will help parents and guardians with moving students to other schools

 

Saying that the educational needs of more than 3,800 children are not being met, the Missouri State Board of Education today approved Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro’s recommendation to close the three Imagine Academies in St. Louis at the end of the 2011‑2012 school year due to poor academic performance and fiscal management.  

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has established a transition office in St. Louis to help provide information to parents and guardians about moving their children to other schools and to coordinate with receiving schools and community stakeholders to ensure placement of all students.

The State Board’s action comes as a result of Missouri Baptist University (MBU) voluntarily surrendering its sponsorship of the three Imagine Academies (six buildings) and a fourth charter school, Carondelet Leadership Academy, in St. Louis.  For the past year, DESE has urged MBU to address ongoing academic and management issues at the schools.  The State Board accepted MBU’s action yesterday.  Under Missouri law, the State Board becomes the sponsor of the schools. 

The State Board voted today to close Imagine Academy of Academic Success and Academy of Cultural Arts (grades K-8, approximately 955 students), Imagine Academy of Careers Elementary, Middle and Prep High (grades K-12, approximately 1,620 students), and Imagine Academy of Environmental Science and Math (grades K-8, approximately 1,290 students), effective June 30, 2012.  MBU announced in December that it was closing the Imagine Academy of Academic Success at the end of this school year.

“It would be a disservice to the children – and run counter to the mission of the State Board of Education to ensure a quality public education experience for every child – to allow the underperforming and poorly managed Imagine Schools to continue to operate,” Nicastro said.

“This decision was not made lightly or hastily. The Imagine Schools in St. Louis City have been underperforming for years. They are among the lowest achieving schools in the state, scoring well below the St. Louis Public Schools and Missouri state averages,” Nicastro said. “The State Board of Education had to take this action as part of its mandate to ensure public schools – including charter schools – are held accountable for student performance and fiscal management.”

In another action, the State Board today approved transferring the Carondelet Leadership Academy’s sponsorship to the University of Missouri-Columbia’s College of Education. MU sponsors two other charter schools in the St. Louis area, as well as two in the Kansas City area.

This decision to close the three Imagine Academies is due to their ongoing poor academic performance and fiscal management. The Imagine Schools in St. Louis City are among the bottom 5 percent of schools in academic performance in the state, scoring well below the St. Louis Public Schools and Missouri state averages.

Parents and guardians of students currently attending the Imagine Schools in St. Louis will need to enroll their children in other schools for the 2012-2013 school year that starts in August. DESE has established a Transition Office in St. Louis to help ensure that parents, caregivers and others have information on the school options available. 

“We know this decision creates uncertainty for the families and children involved,” said Commissioner Nicastro. “We are committed to working with them as they explore their options and help with their move to other schools. There is a seat available for every student affected by these closings.”

DESE is coordinating with the St. Louis Public Schools and the Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) to ensure a smooth transition.

“We are working closely with Dr. Kelvin Adams and his team at the St. Louis Public Schools and the leaders of the other charter schools in the city,” Nicastro said.  “The St. Louis Public Schools and the MCPSA charters have capacity and are making adjustments to accommodate these children. It is important to note that the St. Louis Public Schools and the MCPSA charters are well managed and offer much improved educational opportunity compared with the Imagine Schools.”

The Transition Office has established several resources for further information, including a toll-free number (1‑866‑791-4715), a website and an email address.  In addition, personnel from DESE and the Transition Office will be available for meetings and presentations in the coming weeks.

Student fairs have been scheduled in April and May where parents, guardians and students can meet with representatives from the St. Louis Public Schools and MCPSA charter schools to learn about educational opportunities for the 2012-2013 school year. The student fairs will take place on Saturday, April 28 at Gateway Math and Science Elementary and Preparatory Schools, 1200 North Jefferson and Saturday, May 12 at South City Preparatory, 2900 South Grand Avenue. Both student fairs will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Transition Office also is working with the St. Louis Public Schools and MCPSA charter schools on scheduling job fairs in May to assist faculty and staff displaced by the closing of the Imagine Schools.