On Monday, Imagine Mableton interim principal, James Owmby, met with Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Judi Jones, Deputy Superintendent Alice Stouder and Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison to tout the reasons he believes the school should remain open. In addition to Owmby, two board members, the Rev. Thaddeus Jones and Dr. Bobby Allen, attended the meeting, as did the board’s financial adviser, John Gramling.
Afterward, Stouder wrote to Owmby: “At this time, the superintendent does not intend to recommend that the board of education’s decision made on Sept. 29, 2011, denying approval of Imagine International Academy of Mableton’s charter petition be revisited,” though she thanked him for the meeting.
In September the school board voted, 4-3, with board members Kathleen Angelucci, David Banks and Tim Stultz dissenting, to approve a recommendation by Hinojosa to close the school at the end of this school year.
Owmby said the letter still doesn’t explain why his school shouldn’t exist. He added that parents and community members still support Imagine Mableton, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they show up at future school board meetings and ask to remain open.
“We have a couple of hundred parents who still tell me that they’d like to have our school be our school, so I very well imagine that they still want to present that case,” he said.
At previous board meetings, Owmby and others from Imagine Mableton have requested a one-year extension to “prove” they deserve to stay open.
Monday’s meeting lasted for about an hour, and during that time, Owmby said, they talked about the school’s academics, the “denial letter” sent to the school before the Sept. 29 board meeting explaining why the superintendent was not recommending approval, and the reported $3 million that the management company, Imagine Schools, paid off for the school.
“Their primary concern (at the meeting) was structure of our governing board, which has since been restructured. We have a full board that we have taken great pains to reconstitute,” he said.
Owmby said he also explained that the $3 million debt was forgiven and not a “contribution” from Imagine Schools as the district thought.
Academically, the district staff also asked about why some children who leave Imagine Mableton and return to Cobb Schools are not on par with other students.
“I can’t prove that they were or not but they had no visible evidence that this was the case,” Owmby said he told them. “The one thing I did know is that we have kids in magnet schools all over the county and those principals seemed happy (with transfers).”
District leaders also asked about the Imagine management company and how it runs the school.
“(It) is not a question I can answer because I work for them. We have a contract with Imagine to be a charter school management organization,” he said. “Sometimes (the district) gets the impression that (Imagine) owns the school, but in fact they are a manager of the school.”