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Troubled Imagine Charter School in St. Pete to stay open another year

Published Jul. 25, 2012

LARGO — Imagine Charter School in St. Petersburg will stay open for another year.

After the tearful and impassioned pleas of parents and teachers, the Pinellas County School Board narrowly voted down a recommendation by superintendent John Stewart to issue a 90-day notice of termination to the elementary school.

Stewart had argued that the school wasn't making enough academic progress. The school has earned three F's in four years, with the lowest FCAT scores of any public school in Pinellas County.

But about two dozen parents, teachers and charter board members said that students' academic progress wasn't reflected in this year's F grade. They also argued that, if Imagine closed, students would be reassigned to district schools with similar academic problems. And a midyear closure — which would be likely after the appeals process — would hurt parents and students.

"It would be a great hardship for our parents," said Bishop Roderick Dunson, a member of the charter board.

In the end, most of the School Board was swayed. Board members voted 4-3 against Stewart's recommendation. Board members Robin Wikle, Carol Cook and Peggy O'Shea were in favor of the 90-day notice.

"There is such community and parent support that I want to stick with the year that we gave," said board member Linda Lerner, referring to a board vote in May to give the charter another year to improve.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at, (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.