Battle over North Port's Imagine School continues

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NORTH PORT - Imagine School in North Port is back in the headlines. For months the school's board and its parent company have argued over who is in control. Now the Sarasota County School District is weighing in.

Their attorney is stating how the district believes things should happen or the school's charter may be eliminated.

Despite the ongoing legal battle, school principal Justin Matthews says they're moving forward with new construction on the campus.  "Under the charter contract, it is our responsibility as a school to provide adequate facilities for our students from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade."

Tuesday the school district sent out a letter about that charter, saying it appears it has already been violated by the parent company, Imagine Schools Not For Profit.  In part " ...the school board is particularly troubled by the testimony of the school's principal that he was instructed to lie during an audit proceeding...."

Matthews say what he testified to is true. "The testimony on the stand related to the issues on fraudulent transactions was truthful and when given the opportunity there will be a substantial amount of evidence. It will speak for itself."

Matthews is supported by the local volunteer board, which oversees the school. They've argued the parent company has not been providing enough services for the more than $1 million a year they send them. In February they voted to breakaway. The parent company said they couldn't and tried to fire them.

In its letter, the school district says that board should be able to act independently.  If not, they say " ...the school board believes its charter will be violated."

Matthews says they are on the right track. "The school board very clearly articulated the issue at hand between the parent company and the schools governing board of who essentially should be in control of the funds and the important decisions made in support of the students that go to our program."

The school district says if a judge rules the volunteer board can be removed by the parent company, they may need to take action.  "The school board will consider all its options, including possible termination of the charter contract."

The school district is hoping for mediation rather than a trial. The two sides will be back before a Sarasota County judge with the latest dispute this Friday.

An attorney for Imagine Schools Not For Profit did not return our call for comment.