Judge reinstates Board at Florida [ex?] Imagine charter school


by David Safier

For those of you following this story (a shout-out to Floridians who are reading and commenting here on Blog for Arizona), Imagine North Port charter school is trying to sever ties with Imagine Schools, one of the main reasons being North Port is tired of sending money — it would be $890,000 next year — to Imagine and getting little in return. Tuesday, a judge said the principal, Justin Matthews, could stay on even though Imagine tried to suspend him. "He's trying to steal a school," Imagine's lawyer said in court. Today, according to an email from a parent I'm communicating with, the judge ruled the original Board, not the one Imagine tried to create in its place, will be in charge until the end of the school year, at least. The Imagine lawyer asserted, "We have the sole right to replace the Board," but apparently the judge doesn't agree.

This is a victory for the Board and what I understand to be a large majority of the parents (though one commenter said some parents are upset by the Board's move and aren't happy with the principal).

The issue of who controls, or runs, or "owns" a charter school that's part of a national chain is problematic. Is it really a local school if it's run out of headquarters in Virginia where the hiring, firing and allocating of resources takes place — and, in some cases, the curriculum is created? Is this what was envisioned when people first promoted charter schools as being close to their communities and able to create educational options that take students' and communities' needs into account?

UPDATE: More information from an email I just received from my parent contact below the fold. Imagine schools is looking ever more underhanded as this farce continues.

Here's an excerpt from the email I just received:

"As you know, Imagine fired our board and replaced them with their own.  It turns out that they met yesterday [Wednesday] in Sarasota, not North Port, and voted to terminate the employment of [principal] Mr. Matthews and Mr. Scro, his attorney. A process server attempted to deliver the termination papers for three hours before the [Thursday] court hearing, finally succeeding just minutes before the hearing began."

Tuesday the judge reinstated the suspended principal, then Imagine decides to terminate him Wednesday. It sounds like Imagine is acting contrary to the judge's order.

The meeting in Sarasota was 25 miles from North Port, and it was only announced on the parent company's website, meaning that parents didn't know it was happening.

The judge encouraged the Sarasota County School Board to take part in the growing conflict between the North Port Board and most parents on one side, and Imagine Schools on the other. The county School Board agreed and put the issue on the agenda for its March 5 meeting. North Port parents plan to be in attendance.

Stay tuned.