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October 22, 2014

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Drama is real for Imagine charter

Academy stands to lose more than $300,000 in funding as feud goes on

IF YOU GO

What: Imagine 100 Academy of Excellence charter school board meeting

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: 2341 Comstock Drive, North Las Vegas

Beyond the Sun

The dramatic buildup to tonight’s board meeting at Imagine 100 Academy of Excellence charter school has included Principal Timothy Goler’s resignation, a cascade of dueling letters to hundreds of families from two sides of an ongoing conflict and the permanent withdrawal of at least 50 students.

The school’s bumpiest beginning since opening in 2006 has morphed into chaos. Dozens of parents are nearly two weeks into a protest over Goler’s unexplained Sept. 2 suspension. The school also stands to lose more than $300,000 in state funding for next year because Friday is “count day,” when the state tallies the number of students at state-funded schools to calculate the per-pupil funding total for each campus. Each student in class Friday is worth $6,433 for next school year.

Dozens of families have withdrawn their children from the school, and others are threatening to keep theirs at home Friday to convey their dissatisfaction with the treatment of Goler, the school’s third principal in as many years. And some say they are simply fed up with the management of 100 Academy by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc.

The agenda for tonight’s board meeting includes an evaluation of the school’s contract with Imagine.

The case is important because Imagine 100 Academy was seen as a beacon of hope in an area beset by high rates of poverty and crime and because Imagine also operates Imagine School in the Valle near Summerlin.

Imagine has stirred similar controversy in some of its other schools nationwide, where there have been allegations of heavy-handed, profit-centered management.

Problems at 100 Academy, which have included turnover and sloppy bookkeeping, have been followed in media across the nation. The Virginia-based company operates 74 schools in 12 states.

With 100 Academy, families want to know whether the unwieldy mix of influences over the school — state and county, the governing board, the 100 Black Men organization, and Imagine — dooms it to fail.

Or can the community — parents, the board and 100 Black Men volunteers — seize the school’s destiny?

Goler handed out a missive to families Wednesday saying that he had resigned from Imagine, but not the school. “Imagine is a management company. They are not the school. Period!” Goler wrote.

Goler said resignation was the only move left to him after the company suspended him without explanation, and then asked him this week to apologize to school families and staff “for all the ruckus.”

“My conscience wouldn’t let me do that,” he said.

In the days leading up to Goler’s resignation, dozens of parents signed a petition seeking his return. Many said they thought Goler was suspended because he personally invited families to attend the year’s first meeting of the school’s board, on Aug. 27. About 100 showed up, and many parents took the opportunity give the board an earful about the school’s needs — for an improved physical education program and a school nurse, for example.

Meanwhile, Vickie Frazier-Williams, Imagine’s regional vice president, sent out her own letter saying her company “met several times with Mr. Goler to work through mutual concerns ... (and) could not come to a consensus.”

Goler, in his letter, disputes that there were several meetings.

Frazier-Williams did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

As for the school’s immediate future, Napoleon McCallum, chairman of the 100 Academy board, said “there is always an option to cancel the contract. It’s not like they have a free pass.”

But if the board severed the relationship, McCallum added, “where would the kids go?”

The board pays an affiliate of Imagine for the school’s building, not to mention books and supplies. In fact, about 40 percent of the funding that the state provides to the charter school goes to rent.

Still, Goler insists the community can take charge. He points to schools elsewhere — including one, recently, in Marietta, Ga. — that have severed ties with Imagine Inc.

“It’s not as difficult as it seems,” he says.

Hundreds of families in the valley — and likely many others across the nation — will watch events unfold at 100 Academy in the coming weeks to see whether Goler is right.

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