Cobb charter schools await fate

"MARIETTA — The Cobb school board will decide the fate of four charter schools later this month. After a nearly 90-day extension, the school board will consider renewals and start-ups for four charter schools in Cobb County for the 2012-13 school year at its Sept. 14 work session. Imagine International Academy of Mableton, located at 6688 Mableton Parkway Southeast in Mableton, and International Academy of Smyrna, formerly known as Imagine International Academy of Smyrna, located at 2144 South Cobb Drive in Smyrna, are asking for renewals, and Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math Academy, or STEAM, of Cobb and Turning Point Academy of Excellence Charter School are asking for charters. Locations for STEAM and Turning Point have not been disclosed. 'I have been contacted a few times from people in support of renewal,' board member Tim Stultz said about International Academy of Smyrna, which is in his southeast Cobb district. 'I still favor renewal because I support letting parents continue to make the choice of what is best for their children’s education.' However, board member David Morgan said he hasn’t had an opportunity to speak with students, parents and teachers at Imagine International Academy of Mableton, which is in his southwest Cobb district, so he doesn’t know how he will vote. He also said he has requested a meeting with the school’s principal. During the Aug. 25 board meeting, supporters of Imagine International Academy of Mableton asked board members to renew the school’s charter. 'I believe that we have a fine area and a fine system,' said Teri Kangas, a lifelong Mableton resident. 'Unfortunately, there have been some changes in the Mableton area, and I chose to send my son to Imagine International of Mableton.' Kangas said her 9-year-old son, who has attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, has been excelling at the school, exceeding in four out of five areas on the CRCT last year and maintaining an A-B average. 'Because of the inclusion model, he’s never been labeled, and he’s succeeding,' Kangas said. Tyron C. Lewis of Mableton said the school helped his daughter develop confidence. 'When I relocated to Georgia, I had several business associates who recommended Cobb schools,' said Lewis, who moved to the area from Minnesota. 'We have four children, three of them girls. We wanted them all to be able to attend the same school, so the Imagine school really appealed to us.' Lewis said one of his daughters “came out of her shell” while attending the Mableton charter school. 'She’s become an excellent student … I can honestly say that the diversity within the school, the leadership in the school and the way the children really have a distinct level of confidence and security and comfort,” he said. “I just ask that you vote to keep it open.' Imagine International Academy of Mableton, which serves kindergarten through eighth-graders, is about to begin its fourth year with about 650 students. Dr. U.S. Davidson, director of alternative education for Cobb, said board members should review the petitions during the Sept. 14 work session and consider approval at the Sept. 29 night meeting. He said he has not received any e-mails or phone calls from Cobb parents or teachers regarding the petitions. According to the Georgia Department of Education, a charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter with a state or local school board or formerly by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in May. Charter schools receive flexibility from certain state and local rules in exchange for a higher degree of accountability for raising student achievement. Renewals were granted for Kennesaw Charter School, Walton High School and Sedalia Park and Addison elementary schools last year." Article published on September 2, 2011 by the Marietta Daily Journal