All eyes on charter fallout

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:02 pm | Updated: 10:47 pm, Thu May 9, 2013.

SARASOTA COUNTY - Tuesday a judge ruled the principal of Imagine School in North Port could keep his job. However, it looks as though it will be a long fight over the future of the school.

Wednesday we talked to school board and legal experts who say the case moving forward may just impact the future of charter schools across the country.

The future of a local independent charter school and educating more than 1,000 children in it was in a court room this week. "It is not a healthy situation." The judge now suggesting the local school district get more involved. Sarasota County School Board member Caroline Zucker says it's a gray area. "There is no clear cut understanding of who owns what and who is responsible for what."

The fight between the Imagine parent company and the local governing board it appointed will likely continue through the court system. It may also have a bigger impact then just here. "I would expect charter schools and school districts nationwide would be watching this case very closely. Mark Zimmerman is a local attorney who specializes in education law. He says this is what can happen when you mix public funding and profits. "Ultimately this is a contract dispute involving a business entity. That is what is difficult about charter schools run by a parent corporation. Particularly one that is out of state like Imagine is."

The local governing board wants to cut ties with the Virginia based organization. Their concern is roughly one-million dollars they pay for services they say they don't get.

"A million dollars a year going out of this community of tax payers money is not right." Zucker who sits on the state's K-12 Charter Task Force says she predicted such an issue long ago. With the popularity of charter schools growing she now hopes law makers are paying attention too. "I would hope that the state is looking at this issue and getting a better understanding of the impact it could have on a local community."

Zimmerman says the mess alone may already be playing a role. "The decision to put ones child in a charter school over a district school has implications. This case highlights that very clearly."

District staff members are making regular visits to the school to ensure the educational process is continuing as usual. The School Board plans to discuss Imagine at its next board meeting on March 5th.

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