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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 11 years ago


by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

A lunch box, makeup case, purse, stuff-she-should-be-doing-at-home bag and workbag sit on top of Kathy Helean’s desk. The principal at Imagine School, in Palmer Ranch, admits she hasn’t moved in yet.

“Just about everything is here — it’s just a matter of putting it in the right place, letting everybody know where it is and then remembering where we put it,” Helean says.

In 2001, Helean started developing Imagine Schools in Florida and Georgia. She has since opened 11 new schools, but instead of continuing with development, she’s sliding into school mode. Sarasota’s Imagine School will have its grand opening Aug. 14.

“I’ll see if what I’ve been telling other people is really how it works,” Helean jokes.
Imagine School will house about 280 students, 17 classrooms and three specialty teachers. Ten kindergartners have been placed on a waiting list, and finding a place for them is on Helean’s to-do list.

The school continues through the sixth grade and will add seventh grade in 2010 and eighth grade in 2011.
Helean has worked in every grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade and was once the principal of an entire school of children who had previously been expelled.

“These were kids that hated school because adults didn’t care about them,” Helean said. “My goal was to change their behavior and get them back to regular school — in two years, I had 200 return.”

Although Helean wants to help kids go as far as they can academically, socially and emotionally, she doesn’t want to send the message that everything will be perfect. She plans to be honest, make corrections along the way and just keep on going.

“The car line may be too long and lunch may arrive late, but, in the end, I want kids to love coming to school, love learning and be able to share with their parents what they did during the day,” she says.


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