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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The former Imagine MASTer Academy was among charter schools dropped by Ball State University this year. In two other cases, Trine University has stepped in.


Journal Gazette file

Shift in charter authorization offers uncertain benefits

When Imagine Inc., the nation’s largest charter school operator, looked for a sponsor for two Indianapolis schools in 2006, it logically turned to the Indianapolis mayor’s office. But the application was rejected, on grounds that the company proposed a building lease deal that was so costly, “it could make it difficult to adequately fund their academic programs.”

Imagine Inc. then shopped its application to Ball State University’s charter school office, where officials approved charters for the schools without contacting the mayor’s office. Two Imagine schools in Fort Wayne followed, both of which proceeded to enter into extravagant building lease deals.

Flash forward to early this year when Ball State, working with the National Association for Charter School Authorizers, revoked the charters of three of the four Imagine charters, including Imagine MASTer Academy and Imagine on Broadway in Fort Wayne and one of the two Indianapolis Schools, Imagine Life Sciences Academy-East.

That left Imagine Life Sciences Academy-West as the only Ball State-sponsored Imagine school. BSU charter school officials were set to visit this week as part of its renewal process. But Imagine schools and Trine University announced Thursday the Indianapolis school will instead be authorized next year by the Angola-based university.

“Continuity for the 630 K-8 students and families is preserved in the agreement, but the contract creates an opportunity to expand grade levels and programming at this campus as it enters its fifth year of operations,” according to a news release. The school principal is quoted as saying a partnership with Trine “better serves the educational objectives of our school.”

It’s tough to imagine how a partnership with Trine, a relative newcomer to charter authorizing, will serve students better than a partnership with Ball State, which now has more than a decade of authorizing experience and newly strengthened accountability requirements. But the General Assembly, in its push to expand unproven charter schools, approved a bill that gave non-public colleges and universities the authority to sponsor public charter schools.

Trine quickly picked up authorization of the Timothy L. Johnson Academy in Fort Wayne, another charter revoked by Ball State, and now collects a percentage of the per-pupil tuition reimbursement for the school.

Lawmakers should hope that Trine and the other non-public charter school authorizers succeed. If they don’t, the state has little leverage to ensure they do better.

Getting the newspaper’s attention

They used to call them “the 2 percent”: Kids that got in the paper by getting in trouble and thereby gave all young people a bad name. And we still, unfortunately, have to write about those kids every so often.

Tonight, as we do periodically, The Journal Gazette will recognize high-schoolers who represent some of the best of the other 98 percent: Recipients of The Journal Gazette/Sport ONE Ortho Northeast 2013 football and volleyball honors.

This newspaper has been honoring All Summit Athletic Conference athletes since 1983. In recent years, we’ve also recognized All-Northeast Indiana Football and Volleyball Teams.

Two special awards also are given to outstanding athletes: The Journal Gazette Glass Spike Award, to the top SAC volleyball player, and the Euell A. Wilson Award, named for the late Bishop Dwenger star, to the top SAC football player.

Each year, the young people that gather for this event are a very special group. We are honored to honor them.

Purdue officials head elsewhere

Purdue University saw a major transition this year when former Gov. Mitch Daniels became president of the flagship campus. More change is ahead with the departure of the next two highest-ranking officials.

On Friday, Purdue Provost Tim Sands was named president of Virginia Tech University and Al Diaz, Purdue’s chief financial officer, was named president of Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Both officials begin their new jobs June 1.

Sands was one of 238 candidates for the Virginia Tech post. Like Purdue, it is a land-grant institution. Its enrollment is about 31,000, compared with a total Purdue enrollment of 38,800.

Marymount is a Catholic institution with an enrollment of about 3,700. Diaz had originally announced he would retire in 2015.