Only in the twisted world of for-profit charter schools and their political handmaidens is this possible. From Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Gabrielle Russon:
Principal Justin Matthews eagerly awaits Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony as he looks to further expand the biggest charter school in Sarasota County.
A day later, a court hearing is scheduled as Matthews’ former bosses seek to push him from power, accusing him of a coup d’etat at the North Port school.
It is the latest part of a pitched battle pitting Matthews and the school’s governing board against Imagine Schools, until days ago the charter’s undisputed parent. The local governing board voted Feb. 15 to secede, accusing Arlington, Va.-based Imagine Schools of siphoning public tax dollars for its management fees and stunting the local school’s growth.
The school, now independent, has been rechristened Sarasota Preparatory School.
Imagine Schools quickly sued Matthews and the board for more than $15,000, alleging both defamation and contract violation. The nonprofit also filed a motion for an emergency injunction that is scheduled to be considered Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. by Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams.
“We’re doing what they should have if you have a dispute,” said Shawn Arnold, a Jacksonville lawyer representing Imagine Schools, the largest commercial manager of charter schools in the United States.
“In this instance, we’ve gone to the court and asked for relief. We will wait for the court to speak before we take any action.”
Matthews calls the nonprofit’s lawsuit “frivolous,” and scores of parents are backing him and the board.
“I have never seen a principal as involved as Justin is,” said Imagine mother Tracy Roelle, who has a first- and fourth-grader at the school. “He’s just a really solid role model for our kids.”
Since Thursday, more than 100 parents have signed a petition voicing support for Matthews and the local board, and parents expect to present it to the court, Roelle said.
“This is not in the best interest of our kids to continue with Imagine when the money can be used to better serve students,” said Roelle, a volunteer treasurer with the parent-teacher organization. “Mostly, I hear support. I really do.”
There have been a few “naysayers,” Roelle said.
“They were honest with us. They had no idea what’s going on” and declined to sign the petition after being caught in the email crossfire between Matthews and Imagine Schools.
Senator Stargell, Representative Bileca, phone your office.
Sen. Kelli Stargell (R-Lakeland) and Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Miami), sponsors of this year’s parent trigger bills in the Florida legislature, should be asked whether or not they approve of charter school parents gathering signatures and choosing their own option. No such language exists in their identical bills. Both legislators have taken campaign contributions from for-profit charter schools who would benefit from parent trigger. What if parents of a charter school want out – especially if they have replaced a public school or have taken over a school district’s building as would happen with Bileca’s charter school land grab bill?
Perhaps Stargell and Bileca are such shameless privatization zealots that such blatant hypocrisy doesn’t matter. If their motivations were purely about parental choice, they’d amend their bills to protect parents like these. What chance is there of that happening? The only thing more laughable would be if a signature dispute unfolds in Sarasota as this reflects the part of the two parent trigger bills authored by signature swindler Parent Revolution.