JEFFERSON CITY • The State Board of Education this afternoon unanimously voted to revoke the charters of all Imagine schools in St. Louis.
The move means the schools will close at the end of this school year. Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro made the recommendation, saying closure was necessary because the educational needs of more than 3,800 children were not being met.
“This decision was not made lightly or hastily," Nicastro said in a statement. "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.”
State school board members say their action speaks to the state's resolve to crack down on deficient charter schools.
"It is clear that the state board of education takes seriously its most constituational and moral responsibilities for the quality of education that children receive in Missouri public schools," said Board of Education member Mike Jones of St. Louis.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 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 department had been temporarily in charge of the low-performing schools after their sponsor, Missouri Baptist University, gave up its authority in March.
Before it relinquished control of the charter schools, four Imagine schools already had been on probation for academic, financial and leadership failure. Two schools were already set to close due to low performance.
Also this afternoon, the board approved a new sponsor for Carondelet Leadership Academy, which also had been previously sponsored by Missouri Baptist University. Its new sponsor is the University of Missouri-Columbia.
The Missouri Charter Public School Association issued a statement this afternoon praising the arrangement to keep Carondelet open.
"We commend the University of Missouri- Columbia for their willingness to accept sponsorship of Carondelet Leadership Academy recognizing the educational benefits this school brings to the community," the statement said.
Imagine Schools officials will be working with the state’s transition office to get children into other schools, representatives of the schools said. As for litigation, the charter school management company has not ruled it out, said Ed Hayes, attorney for Virginia-based Imagine.
“We feel like we’ve been hit pretty hard at the moment,” Hayes said. “We haven’t made any decisions on next steps."