Imag­ine School sup­port­ers at­tend ICOE meet­ing

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MORALES Staff Writer ABOVE: Imag­ine School in El Cen­tro. BE­LOW: Imag­ine School stu­dents are picked up by par­ents af­ter school.

EL CEN­TRO — The Im­pe­rial County Of­fice of Ed­u­ca­tion is plan­ning a pub­lic hear­ing for March 28 to dis­cuss Imag­ine School Im­pe­rial Val­ley’s ap­peal of the re­cent de­nial to re­new the cam­pus’ char­ter.

The pub­lic hear­ing will be one of two spe­cial ICOE board meet­ings sched­uled in con­nec­tion to the mat­ter. A se­cond meet­ing will be con­vened shortly af­ter to al­low the ICOE board to pos­si­bly vote on au­tho­riz­ing Imag­ine School’s char­ter re­newal.

The ICOE board also has the op­tion of not tak­ing any ac­tion on the an­tic­i­pated ap­peal, thereby prompt­ing the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to take up the is­sue, said ICOE Su­per­in­ten­dent Todd Fin­nell dur­ing ICOE’s reg­u­lar board meet­ing Tues­day.

In the mean­time, a team of ICOE of­fi­cials will con­duct a re­view of Imag­ine School Im­pe­rial Val­ley’s (ISIV) op­er­a­tions and aca­demic per­for­mance, which were heav­ily crit­i­cized by the El Cen­tro El­e­men­tary School District dur­ing its Jan. 31 vote to deny ISIV’s

“The best way to get to know us is to come to our school.”

To­mas Sanchez, ISIV as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal

five-year char­ter re­newal.

State ed­u­ca­tion code al­lows a char­ter school to ap­peal a de­nial of its char­ter to its su­per­vi­sory agency, ICOE, as well as the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion should its ini­tial ap­peal fail.

The ICOE board is ex­pected to be pro­vided an up­date at its March 12 meet­ing re­gard­ing the re­cently mod­i­fied tools to be used for ICOE’s re­view of ISIV, Fin­nell said.

Imag­ine School has un­til March 2 to sub­mit its ap­peal of its char­ter’s de­nial to ICOE, which in turn is pro­vided 60 days to re­view and make a de­ci­sion.

Should the ICOE board vote to deny the ap­peal, or take no ac­tion, ISIV would then have un­til April 2 to ap­peal to the state in or­der to pos­si­bly be granted au­thor­ity to re­main open in the com­ing fall, Fin­nell said.

Although ISIV has yet to file its ap­peal with ICOE, sev­eral of the cam­pus’ sup­port­ers ad­dressed the ICOE board dur­ing the meet­ing’s pub­lic com­ment pe­riod on Tues­day.

ISIV As­sis­tant Prin­ci­pal To­mas Sanchez ex­tended an open in­vi­ta­tion to the ICOE board mem­bers in the hope they could ob­serve the school’s aca­demic and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties first­hand.

“The best way to get to know us is to come to our school,” Sanchez said.

Prin­ci­pal and Val­ley na­tive Grace Jiminez said she un­der­stands the im­por­tance of ed­u­cat­ing lo­cal chil­dren and pro­vid­ing par­ents with ed­u­ca­tional al­ter­na­tives, a point that was fur­ther em­pha­sized by in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ist Larry Valen­zuela.

“It is be­cause par­ents ex­er­cise their school choice that we have their chil­dren at­tend Imag­ine School,” Valen­zuela said.

El Cen­tro res­i­dent and Imag­ine School par­ent Jac­kee Lopez told the board about the trou­ble she pre­vi­ously had in Ne­vada and lo­cally find­ing the right ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment for her spe­cial needs child.

A chance en­counter had led her to Imag­ine School, where Lopez said her son — who was non­ver­bal — has shown sig­nif­i­cant aca­demic progress.

“My son right now speaks Span­ish and English,” she said.

ISIV spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher Ce­cilia Fragoso also spoke about the ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port pro­vided to spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion fac­ulty in their ef­forts to work with par­ents to pro­mote both English and Span­ish among spe­cial needs stu­dents

“I think the work that we have ac­com­plished with our spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion is won­der­ful,” Fragoso said.

Sim­i­lar sup­port­ive re­marks were shared with the ECESD board dur­ing its Jan. 31 meet­ing prior to its vot­ing to deny the char­ter’s re­newal. Ul­ti­mately, the ECESD board re­lied on a re­port cit­ing the cam­pus’ poor aca­demic per­for­mance in its de­ci­sion to deny the char­ter’s re­newal.

That re­port high­lighted the fact that ap­prox­i­mately 75 per­cent of ISIV stu­dents did not meet English Lan­guage Arts stan­dards and 88 per­cent did not meet math­e­mat­ics stan­dards last year.

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