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Penn Hills charter school deals with administrative carousel

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Students at the Imagine Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship soon will meet their fourth principal in less than a year.

Change at the top has been a constant at the 4-year-old charter, beginning with the departure of original principal Kristen Priganc in December 2012. Priganc is currently the principal at Socrates Academy, a public charter in North Carolina.

Penn Hills resident Carolyn Davis, a consultant for Virginia-based Imagine Schools, stepped in to fill the role in an interim capacity after Priganc's departure.

The current principal, Danelle Conner, is leaving in early November to take a position in New York state.

In a written statement, district officials said the departures come “at an opportune time as the board has developed two new leadership positions that are better aligned with the school's mission and culture.”

Board member Bernice Martin said Imagine Penn Hills officials will be seeking applicants to fill head-of-schools and director-of-operations positions.

“As opposed to having one administrator, we'll have two,” said Martin, who has been a board member for about two months.

Martin's son is a member of the charter's inaugural class, and is in fourth grade this year.

“He's very excited about the direction the school is going,” Martin said. “He is dyslexic, so he's in special education and he's having a phenomenal experience. The microsociety model is applying what he's learning in the classroom to real-world experience that he has.”

Board president and parent Becky Brennan said that despite the rapid leadership changes, the board has been able to maintain its vision for the school.

“Although it appears we've had a revolving door, it hasn't actually been that way,” Brennan said. “Dr. Davis and Dr. Conner both had been working with us through Imagine from nearly the beginning.”

The Imagine Penn Hills school board held a meeting Oct. 17 and discussed the new positions, but took no action to fill them.

“The recuiting process is in progress,” Brennan said. “We know it's important to all our parents that we have control of the situation and continuity for our families.”

The school is in the fourth year of a five-year contract with the Penn Hills School District, whose board had to approve its creation.

“As a startup school with only a few years behind us, we've come a long way,” Brennan said. “There have been challenges during that time, and there remains work ahead. But one thing we have clearly succeeded in doing: providing our children a high quality academic experience that no other school offers.”

Imagine is also planning an expansion, having purchased property at 1700 Universal Road where a second campus will be built.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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