School board terminates contract with North County Imagine School

By Debbie Carson, Online Editor

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – A new charter school slated for Sebastian will not be opening as planned. Imagine Charter School at North Indian River County’s contract was terminated at the recommendation of Indian River County School District Superintendent Harry La Cava.

He told the school board that he felt his decision was fair, considering that the district had already given the school extra time to get its affairs in order.

The Indian River County School Board voted 4-1 in favor of terminating the contract. Board member Matthew McCain voted against it, explaining that he did not feel that extending the school’s planning time by a third year would be unreasonable. Imagine Charter School Principal Joe Mills, who oversees the Imagine School at South Vero and would have led the Sebastian school, had asked the school board to consider granting the charter an extra year to address the zoning issues that had stopped the school from opening inside Community Baptist Church on Roseland Road.

The extension would have been the charter’s second, giving it three years of planning time and just two years for instruction. The charter had a 5-year contract with the district that was supposed to include one year for planning and four years for instruction.

Mills asked the board that if it could not grant the charter an extra planning year, then to consider postponing the vote until the next board meeting – on Aug. 25 – to better address Dr. La Cava’s concerns.

Dr. La Cava also mentioned that if the board approved granting a third planning year to the charter, it would set a precedent for other charter schools that would be difficult for the district to overcome.

He mentioned that the charter did not provide the district a lease agreement with the church until June 24 this year, two months before the school was to open. And, without time to address the necessary zoning for the school to operate within the church, there was no possible way for the school to open on time – as per the charter’s contract.

“That to me is a business problem,” Dr. La Cava said, “a management problem.”

The superintendent told the school board that the charter had also changed its curriculum. Imagine School was supposed to offer the “Project Child” curriculum, which the board had approved in 2007 when it signed the contract with the charter school. Instead, Imagine School decided to offer its “Micro-Society” curriculum, which the board did not review nor approve.

Imagine Charter School at North Indian River County could decide to file a lawsuit against the school district over the contract’s termination, according to the district’s attorney, Usher “Larry” Brown.

However, Brown told board members that he felt the district has a strong case for its “good cause” termination.

If Imagine School were to file suit, the case would go before the state’s Department of Education. From their, the losing party could appeal to the District Court of Appeals.

Whether or not the charter school will file suit remains to be seen. According to Brown, Imagine School’s attorney told him that the charter would prefer to avoid a lawsuit if possible.

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