by David Safier
The CEO of Imagine Schools, Dennis Bakke, is using the same expand-or-die model for his charter school empire he used for the energy company he ran, AES Corporation, which he nearly ran into the ground by over-borrowing. Bakke appears to abide by the motto of the shark: Keep moving or die. It may be time for Bakke to pay attention to the line in "Annie Hall" where Alvy Singer/Woody Allen says to Annie Hall/Diane Keaton about their relationship, "What we got on our hands is a dead shark." (For Woody Allen fans, you can watch the classic 16 second scene below the fold.)
Six Imagine Schools in St. Louis closed in June because of abysmal test scores. Other Imagine Schools around around the country (including in Arizona) are hemmoraging money. And all three previous Imagine Schools in Georgia have cut ties with the corporation. The latest is Wesley International Academy charter in the Atlanta area. Without Imagine at the helm, its rent has been cut from $1.1 million to $540,000 per year, and it's no longer paying management fees to the corporation, which means more of its money can go toward educating students. (The charters of the other two schools, by the way, were not renewed.)
With news stories across the country about Imagine's failing schools as well as those economically crippling rent costs and management fees, what state in its right mind would grant the corporation a charter for a new school? This could signal the beginning -- or the early middle -- of the end for Imagine.