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West // West Oahu Coverstory
Christina O’Connor

Mother Plans Charter School For West Oahu

For years, Sheila Buyukacar has wanted her two children to have the opportunity to learn their core academic subjects through a holistic lens. Now, she is working to create that opportunity for them on her own.

Buyukacar, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in education, intends to launch IMAG Academy, a public charter school that will focus on experiential learning in a small, family-like environment. The first step to achieve public charter status is a public hearing with the state Board of Education at 10:30 a.m. March 13. The public is invited to testify. If approved, the school will be located in either Pearl City or Waipahu. An official location has yet to be established.

“Some of the key things that I want to focus in on are that the child should always strive to be innovative, mindful of themselves and others, as well as the community and the environment, accepting of others through their diversity, and giving back to the community,” she said.

Classes at IMAG (innovative, mindful, accepting and giving) will include a standard curriculum of math, language, history and social studies. But the school also would prioritize art, world language and physical education classes. IMAG also would feature engineering, business and computer literacy courses.

“I want them to experience a more holistic educational system,” Buyukacar explained.

“Some of the things that I think students should be exposed to on a daily basis are really hands-on project-based kind of activities,” she said. “I don’t see that a lot in the Department of Education.”

Buyukacar spent years as a communications officer in the U.S. Air Force, and later worked as an IT consultant. After she retired, she led an experiential learning course in an after-school program. She was motivated to create a charter school after her own experiences with the state DOE. Buyukacar, who has twins in fourth grade, said that she hasn’t always been happy with her children’s teachers or the curriculum itself.

As a public charter school, IMAG would be tuition-free, with funding coming from the DOE. Buyukacar estimates that it would cost about $6,000 per student. Funds also would be needed for the school’s facilities.

Overall, Buyukacar envisions IMAG to be a place where students will establish strong ties to the larger community.

If IMAG receives funding, Buyukacar intends to open the school for the 2015-2016 school year.

Those wishing to testify at the hearing should submit their written testimony today (March 12).

For details on the hearing, visit theIMAGacademy.org.

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