2 Charter Schools to Move Forward on Own Institutions Dissolve Contracts with Management Firms

Article excerpt

Two charter schools have parted ways this summer with management companies that have been part of the schools since their founding.

The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, which opened in 2008, no longer has a management contract with Imagine Schools, which is based in Arlington, Va.

The PA Distance Learning Charter School, which started in 2004, has ended its contract with White Hat, based in Akron, Ohio.

Jon McCann, CEO and founding principal of the Environmental Charter School, said the school now is independent.

He said Imagine Schools "provided foundational support for us early in our existence," but the "relationship matured, and we've decided at that point it was best to move forward on our own."

He said the school in the early days "needed lots of support. As we matured and grew, that need for support lessened."

Imagine's name appeared in the school's old logo and some now- outdated variations of the school name.

In an email, Mubuso Zamchiya, regional director for Imagine Schools, said the parting was mutual.

He said he is confident the school's leadership "will be successful in growing the school and meeting the learning needs of children and the expectations and aspirations of their parents."

At PA Distance Learning Charter School based in Franklin Park, CEO James Hoover said, "We felt we could do better on our own."

The school has about 350 students registered for fall.

With White Hat, Mr. Hoover said, "I knew very little about monies that were being spent and where they were being spent. To be honest with you, it made me very uncomfortable."

White Hat could not be reached for comment.

At the Environmental Charter School, which expects 547 students this fall, Mr. McCann said the resources that were spent on the management fee can be redirected to help students.

According to the IRS 990 form filed by the school for 2009-10, the Environmental Charter School had $4.5 million in expenses, including $547,766 for a management fee to Imagine Schools.

The school also paid $542,946 that year for a lease on the building from Schoolhouse Finance, an arm of Imagine Schools. Mr. Zamchiya said the lease does not include utilities but does include the cost of renovations.

Ownership of the Regent Square building was transferred last month to Entertainment Properties Trust. The county website lists the owner as Education Capital Solutions, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Entertainment Properties Trust. The county lists the sales price as $10 on each of two parcels.

Mr. Zamchiya said the charter school continues as a tenant under the same terms.

Schoolhouse Finance bought the former Regent Square School from Pittsburgh Public Schools for $3 million in 2006. Taxes are paid on the property, which is assessed at $1.1 million.

Mr. McCann said the end of the management agreement with Imagine was not related to controversy surrounding Imagine Schools in other parts of the country.

The Missouri Board of Education, for example, shut down six Imagine charter schools for 2012-13 because of questions about finances and academic performance. …