Charter school votes to break from parent company

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NORTH PORT - Those with Imagine Charter School in North Port say a lack of support has forced them to break away from the parent organization.

Mixed messages in the past few days about who is in charge have caused confusion for parents and students. They say over a lack of support, Friday the local schools governing body elected to cut ties with Imagine School Inc. School Principal Justin Matthews resigned and took over as CEO of Sarasota Preparatory School.

"They annually review the management contract through the school's governing board and imagine schools. They noticed several items that would be considered a breach of the contract on Imagine's commitment in return for the management fees they receive, the board then voted unanimously to terminate the management contract for cause," says Matthews.

Hearing the news, Imagine Corporate sent out an email to parents saying Matthews was placed on administrative leave.

The email went on to say, "There are several fundamental misunderstandings in the board's belief that they have the legal ability to make such a decision and we are working to address and positively resolve this with the board members."

As you might imagine, it has been a confusing issue for parents of the more than 1,000 students there. "Yesterday, we received an email from Mr. Rouse, the VP from Imagine Schools, and he said that that was all a lie and we should have gotten a letter from Mr. Matthews…disregard that, that was all untrue,” says Terrie Comerford.

“I am a big supporter of Mr. Matthews. I don’t think anything was really wrong,” says Kerry Nelson.

Those with the local board contend the national organization is simply collecting money and not providing adequate service. They are also sending them nearly a million dollars a year for very little. It comes to 12% of their annual budget. They say recently the national organization was unable to obtain a nearly two million-dollar loan for two new buildings, because of credit issues. The local board was able to do it on their own.

“Imagine has been unable to help with the facilities development component, forcing the governing board to act independently in order to procure the needed facilities as the school grows, and those are requirements by the charter contract,” says Matthews.

Those there are already calling it the Sarasota Preparatory School.

On Tuesday, we did get a call from the national not-for-profit Imagine Organization. They have now filed an 8-count complaint against Justin Matthews and the board. There will be a hearing this Friday in a Sarasota County courtroom.