El Centro District Defends Students; Denies Charter School Renewal

El Centro ESD

EL CENTRO – In a unanimous decision, El Centro Elementary School District (ECESD)
Board of Trustees voted to deny Imagine School Imperial Valley’s (ISIV’s) petition for a five-year renewal of its charter, citing failure to meet a host of academic, fiscal, and legal requirements.

ECESD’s data as presented to the school board showed a long-term pattern of deficiency in key areas that led to the determinations below:

(1) [Based on standardized test scores over several years] The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.
(2) The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.
(3) The petition does not contain the number of signatures required by statute.
(4) The petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions required by statute.
(5) The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the required elements of a charter petition.
(6) The petition does not contain a declaration of whether or not the charter school shall be deemed the exclusive public employer of the employees of the charter school for purposes of Chapter 10.7 (commencing with Section 3540) of Division 4 of Title 1 of the
Government Code.

Included in those concerns brought by ECESD officials were the high teacher turnover rate at Imagine, and test scores that are continuously and significantly below the district average- an important measure of proof whether a charter should exist under the stated California Education Code purpose of providing “…a sound educational environment.”

The ECESD report determined that ISIV spends $3.8 million dollars per year on contracted services with related parties and without adequate disclosures or compliance with conflict of interest laws. That amounts to 38 percent of the charter school’s anticipated annual budget.

The report also said ISIV spends upward of $350,000 a month for contracted administrative services from undisclosed “professional service providers” that the local charter school has no participation in selecting. Instead, the providers were contracted through Non-Profit Inc., “one of several undisclosed corporate entities operating Imagine Schools nationally from its headquarters in Virginia,” the report said.

The ECESD report determined;

The review team thus concludes that the petition presents an unsound educational program because I asked IV students are subjected to educational harmed by virtue of attending. ISIV students perform far below students at comparable schools, are taught by teachers who are inexperienced or not properly credentialed, and serve under the direction of business entities outside of California. The Local Control Funding Formula distributed funds to the charter school on a per-pupil basis with the expectation that ISIV will expend such funds on its pupils rather than transferring these funds to out of state business entities in the form of inflated administrative fees and rents. The petition proposes to continue the status quo at ISIV and accordingly, the petition presents an unsound educational program.

Imagine Schools Inc. will appeal the decision to the Imperial County School Board. El Centro education and community leaders hope Imperial County School Board members show the same resolve ECESD board members have to ensure each El Centro child gets an appropriate, free, and public education.