Waipahu Char­ter School Planned

MidWeek Islander (West Oahu) - - West Oahu Islander - By PAIGE TAKEYA

If it takes a vil­lage to raise a child, Sheila Buyukacar is hop­ing her pro­posed char­ter school, The IMAG Academy, can be­come that com­mu­nity hub for Waipahu stu­dents.

“I re­ally be­lieve we all need to be part of the ‘vil­lage’ in rais­ing our chil­dren, and when you’re part of that vil­lage, it’s crit­i­cal that the ed­u­ca­tional piece is there,” Buyukacar ex­plained.

But the Pearl City res­i­dent, who grad­u­ated from Waipahu High School, didn’t quite see the com­mu­nal at­mos­phere she wanted for her chil­dren in to­day’s pub­lic schools, par­tic­u­larly on the high-en­roll­ment cam­puses in West Oahu.

“It can be done at a char­ter school a lot eas­ier than at a reg­u­lar pub­lic school,” she said. “We should all have that kind of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity — and I be­lieve we shouldn’t have to pay ex­tra money for that kind of op­por­tu­nity.”

So she started plan­ning and re­search­ing a vi­sion for her own school, and thus the idea for The IMAG Academy (IMAG stands for In­no­va­tive Mind­ful Ac­cept­ing Giv­ing) was born.

The key word for Buyukacar is “rel­e­vance.” She points out that ev­ery stu­dent is ob­li­gated to learn ac­cord­ing to state and fed­eral stan­dards, but there’s a di­vide be­tween what hap­pens inside and out­side the class­room.

“No. 1 is tak­ing what we learn in the class­room and ty­ing it back to not only (class) projects, but projects that have value within the com­mu­nity,” Buyukacar said.

She cited the ex­am­ple of a school gar­den. A typ­i­cal school gar­den may share its har­vest with stu­dents and their fam­i­lies. But the academy’s gar­den would part­ner with se­niors, busi­nesses and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, and the re­la­tion­ship would en­dure and im­prove over many years, rather than just for a se­mes­ter.

Buyukacar also em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of a “school fam­ily.”

“Most times the emo­tional and so­cial and com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment of a stu­dent is left up to the teacher. Although we have character ed­u­ca­tion in schools, it’s not a ful­lon en­vi­ron­ment,” she noted.

The IMAG Academy will in­sti­tute a school­wide frame­work that will fo­cus on lan­guage use, mod­el­ing and rou­tines that teach con­flict res­o­lu­tion and a sense of com­mu­nity be­long­ing.

It’s an am­bi­tious vi­sion, and Buyukacar is hope­ful the vi­sion will be­come re­al­ity. She sub­mit­ted the first round of ap­pli­ca­tion pa­per­work Dec. 1, and she’ll hear if she got pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval in Jan­uary.

If all goes well, The IMAG Academy will wel­come its first group of stu­dents in the 2016-17 school year. Buyukacar is scout­ing pos­si­ble cam­pus sites in Waipahu.

Right now, she en­cour­ages com­mu­nity help and feed­back, par­tic­u­larly in the form of board mem­bers will­ing to share ex­per­tise in any area. But she be­lieves the most im­por­tant thing is sim­ply aware­ness.

“What I’ve no­ticed, be­cause I’m from the area, is we’re ei­ther go­ing to go to pub­lic school or go­ing to go to pri­vate school. And that’s it; we don’t have any choices. We don’t think about the pos­si­bil­ity of a char­ter school, with free tu­ition, in our area.”

Visit theima­ga­cademy.org for more in­for­ma­tion.

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