Imani Charter still awaiting SRC word whether its charter will be revoked [updated]

Will Imani Education Circle Charter School have its charter when its central Germantown doors open for students in September? Nobody seems to know.

Despite promising findings from an independent auditor and the state Department of Education, Imani officials have not yet heard from the school district whether their charter has been renewed for 2014-15.

Founded in 1999, the K-8 charter school had 450 students enrolled last year.

Raven Hill, a school district spokeswoman, said that following a non-renewal hearing, a report was submitted to the School Reform Commission, but that SRC action is pending.

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The next SRC meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.

Points of contention

The school has been under district scrutiny for apparent financial issues for more than a year. However, Imani officials challenged those claims with an independent audit of the school’s finances which found an accounting mixup falsely created the poor financial picture.

Rev. LeRoi Simmons, a member of Imani’s Board of Directors, said the issue stemmed from the depreciation in value of property owned by the school.

Simmons added that Imani owns its building, located at 5612 Greene St., and makes additional money from leasing some street-facing space to vendors.

The district also challenged the charter school’s academic performance last year, citing a marked dip in test scores. Between the 2011 and 2012 school years, the school’s standardized test scores had a noticeable drop by an average of 10 percentage points.

However, the 2013 scores — the most recent available — surpassed 2011 numbers in most subjects. These scores contributed to a state Department of Education grade called the School Performance Profile, which gave Imani the highest rating among all elementary schools in Germantown with a 73.8 out of 100.

Simmons said the district dropped its criticism of Imani’s academic performance following these updated test scores. That’s why he is confident the school will avoid closure.

In May, Imani Charter founder Dr. Francine Fulton told NewsWorks that re-enrollment had already begun and if the SRC chooses to revoke its charter, the school will appeal.

Update and clarification

Bob O’Donnell, the attorney representing Imani Charter, told NewsWorks that the school would remain open in 2014-15 should the SRC not renew its charter, as that decision would automatically be appealed. That nuance was unclear in the original version of this story.

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