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Ball State pulls sponsorship of 2 Gary charter schools, 5 others in state

Updated: January 22, 2013 11:15PM



MUNCIE (AP) — Ball State University has pulled its sponsorship of seven Indiana charter schools including two Gary schools plagued by long-running academic woes.

The seven schools, which includes Charter School of the Dunes and LEAD College Preparatory Charter School in Gary, were subjected to an “extensive review” of their performance — including academics, finances and compliance — by Ball State, which denied their requests for charter contract renewals.

Two other schools -- Indiana West Gary Lighthouse Charter School in Gary and Hoosier Academy-Muncie in Muncie -- withdrew their requests for contract renewals and also will likely close their doors after their university-approved charters end June 30, said Bob Marra, executive director of the university’s Office of Charter School.

He said the 3,900 students who attend those schools can transfer next school year to other charter schools, or go to public or private schools.

“None of these schools should be surprised,” Marra said in a statement, adding that the schools had shown insufficient academic progress. “It is our responsibility to not renew the school, which usually leads to closure.

“While I understand it may cause some short-term difficulty for families, it is a decision made in the long-term best interests of their students,” he said.

The Charter School of the Dunes thought differently.

“I am completely shocked,” said Danielle Sleight, president of Charter School of Dunes School Board, “We are appealing the decision to Ball State.”

Sleight said the appeal would be heard by a three- person committee within 20 days of the appeal filing. After that, she said a decision would be made in 20 days.

Sleight said the school’s academic performance posted double digit gains last year.

Ball State reviewed the performance of 20 of the 42 charter schools it sponsors in Indiana. The 11 other schools received either 3-year or 5-year contract renewals. The university had previously pulled its sponsorship of only one charter school, Urban Brightest in Fort Wayne, in 2004.

Charter schools are alternative public schools that have had more freedom in setting curriculum, but state law was changed last year to hold charters to the same academic standards as public schools.

State lawmakers authorized Ball State a decade ago to sponsor charter schools in Indiana and Marra said the university approved the first one in 2002. Last year, lawmakers approved allowing a second office, the Indiana Charter School Board, to authorize charter schools in the state.

The Indianapolis Star reported last month that a charter school sponsor trade group, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said in a recent report that Ball State had not done an adequate job of overseeing the charter schools it sponsors.

Marra said his office’s most recent review has opened a new phase of its scrutiny of its Indiana charter schools. He said the university would review the 22 other charter schools it sponsors when their contracts come up for review.

The seven schools denied contract renewals are: Imagine MASTer Academy, Timothy L. Johnson Academy and Imagine Schools on Broadway, all in Fort Wayne; Charter School of the Dunes and LEAD College Preparatory Charter School in Gary; Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy-East in Indianapolis; and Kenneth A. Christmon STEMM Leadership Academy in Richmond.



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