FORT WAYNE – Ball State University officials have officially pulled the plug on the sponsorship of seven charter schools across the state, including three in Fort Wayne.
The final decision not to renew contracts with the charter schools was announced Wednesday after the university completed a review of five schools that appealed the decision, initially made this year.
Fort Wayne’s Imagine MASTer Academy, Imagine Schools on Broadway and Timothy L. Johnson Academy plan to remain open despite Ball State’s decision, officials with those schools said.
We kind of figured it would end up where it ended up, said Rev. Mike Nickleson, founder and current board president of the Johnson Academy.
We’re still out searching for sponsorship, he said. Like all the schools affected, we have a lot invested and a lot involved at this point.
The university initially announced in January it would not renew the contracts because of poor performance ratings. All seven schools planned to appeal – at first.
But Johnson Academy leadership as well as leadership from a school in Gary pulled out of the appeals process before Wednesday’s announcement.
The reasoning for Nickleson was simple: Ball State officials had already made up their mind about sponsoring the school.
We’ll definitely finish the school year, he said, adding that he and the school’s board are in talks with other organizations about possible sponsorship.
Imagine Schools, the company that runs the two Imagine schools in Fort Wayne and one in Indianapolis that was also denied contract renewal, released a statement in light of Wednesday’s announcement.
In part, it read:
Imagine Schools is disappointed by Ball State’s decision but remains strongly committed to providing options for parents and families in making the best educational choices for their children.
Despite the announcement, it is the intention of Imagine Schools to keep these campuses open for the greater Indianapolis and Fort Wayne communities.
A five-member panel put together by the university reviewed each school before making a final decision, according to a statement from Ball State.
That review included looking at academic, financial and organizational performance as well as compliance.
The appeals process also gave the schools an opportunity to present additional information.
The panel recommended the university not renew sponsorship of the five schools that asked for an appeal, according to Ball State.
Imagine Schools officials took issue with the ruling.
This decision came despite a clear presentation to the Charter Schools Hearing Panel of strong academic growth by students at the campuses and a strong desire from parents for the schools to remain open, according to a statement from Imagine Schools.
Coincidentally, a Johnson Academy board meeting scheduled for Monday has been canceled.
According to Nickleson, the meeting is being rescheduled so board leaders can gather information and complete talks with another possible source of sponsorship.
Nickleson lamented Ball State’s decision Wednesday, noting that he believed his school did not directly compete with other districts but instead provided children who might have had trouble with an opportunity to learn.
We didn’t try to draw from the top 10 percent (of other districts), he said. Some of the kids have already been removed from their district schools. To me, it’s tragic.