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Ball State sets closed hearings for 3 charters to appeal

– Representatives of three local charters are scheduled to appear before Ball State University officials in April to appeal the university’s decision to pull their charters.

In January, Ball State announced it would not renew the charters of the three Fort Wayne charter schools. All three charters will expire June 30. Ball State officials cited poor academic performance and insufficient improvement as reasons for the decision.

All three schools opted to appeal the decision and recently learned of their hearing dates. Imagine MASTer Academy’s will be April 4; Imagine Schools on Broadway’s will be the following week on April 16. The hearing for Timothy L. Johnson Academy will take place April 18.

The appeal hearings will take place at Ball State University and will be closed to the public. No audio or video recording of the hearings will be permitted, according to Ball State’s hearing procedures.

The charter school organizers and Bob Marra, executive director of the university’s Office of Charter Schools, will participate in the hearings.

Each party will have two hours to make its case in front of a three-member panel. Members of the panel will be appointed by Ball State President Jo Ann Gora and are required to not have previous involvement in the charter decision.

The charter school organizers will be heard first and can present arguments, witnesses, documents and recommendations. Marra will have the same chance, followed by 15-minute closing remarks by both parties.

The organizer can bring one representative each from the schools’ administration, teachers, parents and students. The organizer can ask to have additional people attend, but the request must be made in writing prior to the hearing. All documents to be used as evidence for the hearing must also be submitted in advance.

Johnson Academy Leader Steve Bollier said the presentation he recently gave to the East Allen County Schools board will be similar to what the school will present to Ball State. The presentation documented the school’s achievement on state and federal accountability measures compared with the achievement of minority students at other schools in the area.

Over the past two years, Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools had been working to revamp its charter renewal application process. This was the first year the new process was used. Marra has said the new process focuses more on the academic achievement of the schools. Other areas that officials evaluated were financial stability and school governance.

In the weeks after the non-renewal announcement, many parents rallied in support of their schools, and surprised charter school leaders said Ball State officials hadn’t indicated they were unhappy with the schools’ test scores and plans for improvement.

Johnson Academy’s presentation to the EACS board was an effort to convince the district to authorize the school instead. Both Imagine Schools have also reached out to other charter authorizers, but no official agreements have been made.

Officials from both local Imagine Schools have said standardized tests indicate the schools will see significant improvement this year and they hope it will be enough to make Ball State reconsider its decision.

“Parents value the choice we offer and want their children to attend our schools. Imagine Schools has been improving academically since opening, and we’ve seen huge growth in our students just this year,” Imagine Regional Director Rachel Cirullo said in a statement.