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As the School District Agonizes Over Cuts, Imagine Prepares to Almost Double in Size

| March 28, 2011

This way to an expansion that could add 400 students to Imagine's current enrollment of about 500. (© FlaglerLive)

Imagine Schools operates 73 public charter schools in 12 states, including 17 schools in Florida. One of those is Imagine’s Town Center campus, open since 2008. Even as population and student growth stalled in Flagler County, Imagine’s enrollment has grown each year as parents have sought out its alternative to the traditional public school setting.

These days Imagine’s K-8 school has an enrollment of 539. The school is expanding to enable almost a doubling of its student population by next school year–to 910 students. The new building is scheduled for completion by Aug. 1. That expansion dovetails with the Florida Legislature’s plan to increase charter schools and charter-school enrollment in the state.

“I am confident that we will reach our enrollment number of 910 for next year. It’s nice to feel like we have a firm toehold here in Flagler. We have a high district standard to hold ourselves to,” Brett Cunningham, a teacher at the school, said in an email. “I’m very excited to be growing because it solidifies what we do and the niche we fill in the county. I’ve traveled to many other Imagine schools, a number inside of Florida, and a couple up North, and the success comes from a can-do spirit of innovation and a want to help students everywhere.” Besides additional classrooms, the expansion will include a library, a computer lab, and two science lab rooms.

Thursday evening the school hosted an open house to inform parents and others about the expansion.

Charlotte Marten covered the event:


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21 Responses for “As the School District Agonizes Over Cuts, Imagine Prepares to Almost Double in Size”

  1. Jerry M says:

    Bravo to Imagine Schools! I guess we can all assume that they will be creating jobs as well!

  2. Jim Guines says:

    This is the type of planning you can do when you have just one school to worry about. They can take their time and involve staff and parents in the design and structure of their school. Then, pull from the district just enogh students to fill it and not overload it.

  3. Stacey M. says:

    I am a proud teacher at ISTC and am very excited that this expansion will create the ability for us to serve additional students. I taught in traditional public schools for 10 years and I have been very impressed, first as a parent, and now as an educator, at the Imagine philosophy. Imagine Town Center is not like any other school at which I have worked. There are similarities, but there are many differences as well. I encourage any parent that is interested to come visit us and learn more about what we offer the community, parents and students of Flagler county. I fully support the county public schools and my educator friends still there as well, however, I am proud of what we do at Imagine!

  4. palmcoaster says:

    I am not a proud taxpayer forced to pay for the privatization of our schools and education. My kids didn’t need to go to any Imagine school to be honest, substance free, successful and law abiding citizens. They just went to our good old fashion “public schools” that my tax dollars could afford, but they had their parents on their case and elbow to elbow daily watching over them. No need for any Imagine or the like there, just a good old fashion parent, teacher,(PTA) and added student association for success. Now is all about who can grab a bigger chunk of the American taxpayers contributions and give peanuts in return….until will be so depleted (high unemployment, high fuel and food cost) that will be non left to fight for and will all be enslaved by the private corporations, including these educationals also.
    http://www.policymattersohio.org/pdf/imagineschools2010.pdf
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/education/24imagine.html?pagewanted=all
    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/the-real-reason-gas-prices-are-soaring/19893347/?icid=maing%7Cmain5%7Cdl4%7Csec1_lnk2%7C52083

  5. Citizen says:

    Way to go Imagine!! This is so exciting, I can’t wait for my child to be a part of Imagine.

  6. gmemom says:

    Palmcoaster,

    Did you watch the video? Imagine “requires” parental involvement. If a parent has to spend 20 hours at the school, don’t you think they might be more aware of what their child is learning vs. “it’s the school’s job to teach”. Unfortunately, most parents don’t watch over their kids daily. ISTC is a good old fashioned school, trying to keep the kids focused.

    I admit the articles you quote look bad, it appears that profits have been made…but visit this school; see what I see when I take my children there. The district schools are wonderful, but felt too big for my family. I see new buildings with lots of windows filled with student’s work, winding sidewalks that take you from grade to grade – past brothers and sisters, teachers from a variety of grades who know my children and talk to them about their accomplishments (sometimes their weaknesses), and a sense of calmness that carries over to confidence.

    Is it perfect? No. There are changes I would like to see happen and I can have a dialogue with Principal O’Grady to speak my mind. Will things change…maybe, but only with parental involvement at the local level. If that many parents show up on a Thursday night at 6:00 pm to hear a construction meeting, imagine what this school can accomplish?

    Please go visit the school, but not during FCAT testing! LOL

  7. palmcoaster says:

    gmenom I do respect your poin of view and I sure believe you care for the best for your children.
    I did not watch the video simply because I figured that “as a good pep rally tool will focus only on the perfect points” and not the few seriously failing ones. My daily work leaves me somewhat restricted time to research issues and find different information sources. Looks like these charters rely on the parents involvement and I totally agree with that…now why is not the same policy used in the rest of our district schools, sure beats me. Did you volunter in our traditional public schools while your children attending? I imagine that just not any student is accepted in charters..am I correct? Then, if so our public schools will be left to deal with the more trouble kids. Also though my kids paid for their lunch at school as the family could afford it but there were kids that could not afford it, then:
    http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/2010/11/california-charter-schools-problem-with.html
    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/06/new-orleans-accused-of-failing-disabled-students.html
    Taxpayers we will soon see demand for more taxes to fund charters, as shown below and as soon as everyone will swallow this bait:
    http://www.plunderbund.com/2011/03/22/charter-school-students-cost-ohio-taxpayers-2-5-times-more/
    I do not favor any entity sustainned by us and our government and at the same time not ruled by the same laws and not enforced with records transparency.

  8. Mrs. Long says:

    Palmcoaster, I am putting my child in Imagine for the first time this up coming year and I learned that Imagine does take any kind of child. I also heard that they are allowing all children who’s parents sign them up. It’s a free charter school. They allow it to be free because the parents either volunteer their time or they donate 10 or 20 dollars per volunteer hour. weither a child is put in this school or in public school it’s up to the parent. I chose imagine because the area I live in is rough and do not want my child in that kind of enviroment!

  9. Kevin says:

    Palmcoaster: Gee, and look how brainwashed you turned out to be given your public schooling education. LOL!

    “….until will be so depleted (high unemployment, high fuel and food cost) that will be non left to fight for and will all be enslaved by the private corporations, including these educationals also.” …the writer of this, Palmcoaster, seems to forget that we are pretty well enslaved by more public and government organizations than we are by private. And lets not forget the fact that jobs and money to pay for the public sector and their jobs come from the private sector. Spoken like a true red socialist Palmcoaster…:o)

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Mrs. Long its fine that you have a choice and take advantage of it…but while your child will be in charter please do us all taxpayers funding it a favor, monitoring as Ronald Reagan said “Trust but Verify”
    Lets do not just go for the outside and shinny colored candy but look the ingredients that make it.
    Also keep in mind that we all in nowadays society live in a “kind of a rough area” even the wealthy and distinguished get robbed or killed in high end places today including Palm Coast. The only difference is the shelter we provide to our children when non is school and is called “home, and our parents and siblings” Every family meal should be a reunion motive around the table with conversation and sharing our daily experiences in school and at work and a moment to laugh of funny events through out our days. No texting, no phone calls no laptops. Our children need to know that their school daily experiences are as important as our work issues and more important than outsiders problems. Family good communication and values are two thirds of the ingredients that will make our kids successful. Do not expect any school to resolve it all.

  11. Mrs. Long says:

    if you had the chance to put your child in a school that had uniforms and were the teacher didn’t have to worry about if this kid or that kid had a weapon wouldn’t you put your child in that kind of school? I like the fact that my child will be able to go to school and not have to worry if the kid sitting next to her in class is going to beat her upor call her names for what she is wearing. so called public schools have gotten out of hand whether the parents are in the childrens lives or not. I have not and will not ever depend on my childrens teachers to completely teach my children.

    My rough area might be a little different then someone from that rough area going into a high end area and robbing killing someone. Just look at the new headline on flaglerlive. a 15 year old brings a gun to school! my “rough area” you can’t even go to the new park without worrying if your going to be robbed.

    I am also a taxpayer you can’t act like you and everyone like you are the only ones paying for the charter schools in florida. I know some of the teachers there and know there work. so unless you have put your children through this school research before you speak.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Kevin as you write “And lets not forget the fact that jobs and money to pay for the public sector and their jobs come from the private sector” That would have been fine if many of these private sector corporations would not be driven by the unlimited greed that is eroding our middle society. With opinions like yours is when we will all go back to the feudal system again. When anyone dares to rise a direct questioning of any extreme conservative cartel, immediately the uncalled for socialist red tag, is conveniently affixed.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    Mrs Long the charter school actually will be one choice for the armed student that you mentioned, as reported below.
    “Because of the felony charges he now faces, he is not likely to be back at school. “If a student is facing a similar situation,” Orndorff said, “he or she would not be likely to return to their home school.” The student would face two alternatives: attending the district’s alternative school (Pathways Academy) or expulsion”.
    Charter schools are not exempted from violence either;
    http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/teacher-beating-video-highlights-school-violence/story?id=10634450

  14. Stacey M. says:

    palmcoaster, several years ago I would have agreed with you. However, I have changed my tune having been frustrated with how politicians have ruined public schools. With any other tax-funded program that I can think of there is choice. With education, you generally must go to your neighborhood school unless you are lucky enough to be one of the few that is allowed school choice to a different school. Whether the problem parents have with their local school is particular to that school, or the general high stakes testing issue, or the very large sizes, or any other issue, I fully support these parents having the ability to make a choice for their children.

    I wish that public schools were able to exert local control as charter schools are. I wish that all parents could choose among ALL the local schools, however that is not how the state has set it up. I am tired of letting my children me guinea pigs while a war is played out between adults that have not stepped in a classroom in twenty years. As a teacher, I am thrilled to be able to use my knowledge to TEACH instead of to endlessly test. I place blame for this on the state, not our district. However, children don’t have time to waste while everyone fights it out. I applaud parents that are involved enough to make an educated choice for their child.

    Pathways Academy, as far as I know, is not a charter school. It is meant for a very specific group of students. Imagine is not for specific students. The only time a child is not enrolled if there are openings is when the child’s needs can not be met there. This is generally a case where the child has extreme learning disabilities. We receive much less funding than the district, and we are very small compared to the district. Therefore, we are not yet able to offer all of the services that a large district can. I grew up in a very small state and the school districts there had the same problem. If your child had certain needs, they had to be bussed to an another area to be schooled. This is not an elitist situation, it is a matter of determining what is best for each child.

    It is unfortunate that our politicians seem to want to privatize education. I do not agree with this. I do, however, believe that the entire system needs to be overhauled. The majority of teachers I know and have worked with are outstanding, dedicated teachers who lament the direction of public education on a daily basis.

    Regarding violence, because our Imagine is much smaller than local schools it gives parents a sense of comfort to know that most of the adults know most of the children by name. Especially as children get older, this goes a long way in preventing violence.

    It is unfair to say ALL public schools and its teachers are bad. It is unfair to say ALL charter schools and their teachers are bad. It is unfair to cast any generalizations about something as complicated as public education. However, it is fair, in my opinion, to allow each parent the ability to choose when their child goes to school. I invite you to come to our school and see what we are about and decide if it is the right place for your child. Those that do not agree politically with the idea of charter schools, I say, have an open mind. Listen and learn, because the world is changing.

  15. Mimi says:

    Frankly, I am appalled at what our public schools have turned out. From reading the responses it seems that none of you know the difference between weather and whether; there, their or they’re; and your or you’re. Maybe a little closer attention should have been paid by most of you to your English lessons rather than what to wear to school on any given day.
    My granddaughter will be attending Imagine in the Fall and I am excited about the fact that she will not be hassled because she doesn’t wear the ‘correct’ clothes, or shoes. She will not be bullied by someone older or bigger than her who is crying out for attention in the one way they have learned at home to get it: bad behavior. She is also quite intelligent and I feel comfortable in the fact that she will be challenged according to her abilities rather than held back so that the least able in her class can catch up.
    And remember that your tax dollars also fund public schools so that argument is not a valid one.

  16. Gina B. says:

    palmcoaster,
    “Did you volunter in our traditional public schools while your children attending? I imagine that just not any student is accepted in charters..am I correct? Then, if so our public schools will be left to deal with the more trouble kids.”

    I am a parent of a child with several significant disabilities and am so grateful to be able to have a different choice for my child’s education. I am also a parent that was very involved with the public school and my children’s education, which we attended for four years. I logged in over sixty hours of volunteer work a year, was a regular attendee and PTO member, SAC member and mentor to children who barely hung on. I am saddened by your comments and lack of understanding or willingness to understand. The public school system wasn’t working for us and having another option was refreshing. I was no longer forced to accept that my child was being side stepped because they lacked to help the ‘exceptional child’. There was now a choice.

    If you want to talk about a system where only ‘certain children’ are accepted, well then your public education is just that. Children with any kind of disability in the public schools do not fall through so called cracks; they fall through canyons, not even close to holding on. I have been with Imagine now for two years and Imagine not only took him in but has been working side by side with me and other team members throughout the school to make his success attainable. I have volunteered and mentored children at both public and now charter schools and I beg to differ. They value my input and encourage it. I continue to mentor children ‘trouble kids’ at Imagine, so I know personally that your statement is just not true.

    “Family good communication and values are two thirds of the ingredients that will make our kids successful. Do not expect any school to resolve it all”.
    I also have great communication and values in our home, but if you are not a parent with a child that has a disability and is forced to watch their child try and try only to fail because the schools refuse to listen, I’m sorry but the understanding of having other options hasn’t hit home and your heart, like it has for mine. I expect my child to have the same opportunity to succeed and do not expect the schools to resolve it, but working as a team to tackle the struggles together is more like the family you are stating.

    You will find children and families in all walks of life and I am happy that Imagine is there willing to help if parents choose to go there. I am thankful for the choice! They have my support all the way! I am curious however, when was the last time you stepped into a classroom, public or private?

  17. Kevin says:

    I see you are one of those who like to insult others because you master the rigourous technical challenges of spelling and elementary grammar, elevating you to genious correct? You would be surprised just how stupid you can be made to look regarding other bodies of knowledge that can’t be mastered by pulling a book of the shelf and reading it once over “get it” so be more careful with that ignorant line.

    Outside of that point, I completely agree with you and your examples. Have a delightful day Dearie.

  18. PCer says:

    If schools would get back to teaching kids, this conversation would be a moot subject. As it is now, our public schools put their administrators and teachers first, not the students. They like to act like students come first, but in reality, it is their own jobs that they care about. I remember watching a local administrator break down into tears because he thought the school grade was going to get him fired. Unfortunately, he is still in the county. From what I see, Imagine seems to put students first. When this happens, you get success. Some point out that FCAT grades are not high, but those are just a portion of a student and schools success. I will be looking into Imagine for both of my children next year.

  19. May says:

    Maybe all of you complaining about “your tax dollar” should research charter funding forst. …. we imagine people should complain about paying public school taxes when our children are attending a school funded by its own Finance LLC called Schoolhouse funding LLC providing long-term real estate financing for many of the school buildings that are home to imagine’s public charter schools across the country. We do our own fundraising for school buses and computers. Our kids aren’t in nice new buses like the public county school kids are. We are ran totally different from government funded schools…just saying!

  20. May says:

    Kevin…read your own comment before submitting and complaining about someone elses grammar or spelling!…just saying!

  21. Thinkforyourself says:

    May – you are or have been grossly mislead. Your schools COMPANY may be financing it’s real estate investment but that is because it will be able to pay that off with public tax dollars from the school district. They are called PECO funds and Imagine will be getting over $200,000. This was discussed at a recent Board meeting. Also, the funding follows the child. They are tax dollars.

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