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outdated variations of the school name.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. …