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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough charter panel slams Imagine, Mavericks



TAMPA -- A Hillsborough charter school committee is strongly opposing applications by the national Imagine Schools chain and Fort Lauderdale-based Mavericks in Education to open schools in the district.

Those applications are coming before the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday, and superintendent MaryEllen Elia could make an independent recommendation.

But her staff minced few words, saying the proposed schools' local governing boards in Tampa and Riverview would likely be little more than extensions of the companies themselves, with little of the independence required of boards under Florida law.

The committee took Imagine to task for its curriculum plans, the academic performance of its 12 Florida schools, and the amount of money its proposed Riverview school would have to borrow from an Imagine affiliate. The company runs schools in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

The panel also questioned Imagine's assertions of nonprofit status, as Alachua County officials have done.

"The Imagine Schools Non-Profit is set up as a limited liability corporation which they claim is not for profit," the Hillsborough panel wrote, describing its unsuccessful attempts to gain 501(c)(3) status. "The School Board attorney is of the legal opinion (that) no such corporation can exist under Florida law."

The committee said Mavericks' application was filled with inaccuracies, including erroneous references to opening schools in Palm Beach or Broward counties. It described its local governing board as a virtual musical chairs of members, and wondered "if there really is a functioning founding board."

And the committee said it wasn't impressed by what they saw at one of the company's existing schools. (Mavericks runs schools in Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Osceola counties.)

"When visiting an operating Mavericks school, it was evident that although students have schedules, they are not required to follow their schedules," the committee wrote. "This not only brings into question the instructional program, but also the certification of the teachers in the classroom."

Representatives from both groups told the St. PetersburgTimes that doubts about their governance model were unfounded.

Imagine's founding principal, Kathy Helean, said Hillsborough had previously approved virtually the same application, which was withdrawn last spring due to facility problems.

 “Our question is, what has changed?” she asked.

The committee is also supporting five applications, including two backed by management companies.

For more details and updates, read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times or visit the Gradebook at

-- Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:43am]


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