By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Six years ago, Sylvia Imler was ready to take a sabbatical from her teaching job at Chaney High School. She even thought about retiring. "I just needed some time to rest," she recalls.
Instead, Imler became principal of New Hope Academy, a new Christian school on the city's South Side.
"I've been running ever since," she said. "It has been very taxing."
In two weeks, the running stops; Imler retires at the end of the school year and finally will get the time to rest that she sought six years ago.
"My doctor, three years ago, had told me to slow it down, and it's really difficult to try to slow down when there's so much to do," said Imler, 50.
"So, I've pushed it and pushed it, and I just can't push it anymore."
David Sabine, president of the academy's board, said the school hopes to name Imler's replacement this week. "She just knew she was called to come to this school and get it off to a great start, and she's fulfilled that mission," he said.
The academy was formed six years ago after the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown closed St. Patrick School on Oak Hill Avenue.
To keep the school open, the diocese partnered with the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown to form New Hope, a nondenominational Christian school in the old St. Patrick building.
Imler, a teacher at Chaney High School, was named principal. New Hope opened in fall 1996 with classes for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils. It has since added classes through eighth grade.
"I think New Hope Academy is the best kept secret in Youngstown, and we don't want it to be a secret," Imler said. She said one of the academy's biggest challenges has been charter schools, which are publicly funded, privately operated schools that do not charge tuition. New Hope's annual tuition is $1,465.
In the past four years, five charter schools have opened within a half mile of New Hope Academy, including three led by community religious leaders: Eagle Heights Academy, Youngstown Community School and Legacy Academy.
Because the charter schools are publicly funded, the curriculum cannot be faith-based. Imler said it has been difficult explaining that to the parents. As a result, New Hope has lost some pupils to the new schools, dropping enrollment from 165 to 116 in the past four years.