The board of the Imagine charter school in Sarasota decided to fire Imagine by a vote of 5-0 and take charge of managing the school, renamed Sarasota Prep. The board had been paying an annual management fee of $890,000 to the Imagine corporation, which is a for-profit charter chain.

The CEO of the charter school, Justin Matthews, announced to the staff that Imagine was no longer in charge.

But then things got more interesting, after the CEO sent this email:

“The almost 1 million dollars per year that was previously paid to our former Educational Management Organization (EMO), Imagine Schools, INC. will now be used directly to enhance our school’s program,” he wrote.

“In response, Imagine Schools sent its own email out to parents that said Matthews was placed administrative leave and the charter school’s board did not have the authority to leave.

“As we return to school on Tuesday, I believe it’s important to reassure you that your school and your child’s teacher remain full-fledged members of our Imagine Schools family. We are the parent company of Imagine North Port and not a management company to your campus. This means we have been here from the beginning, partnering with parents, community leaders, and the local Board to found this school. We have taken on long-term and multi-million dollar financial commitments to support Imagine North Port,” wrote Rod Sasse, executive vice president at Imagine Schools in Sunrise. “…On Friday, February 15, 2013, the local Imagine North Port board expressed an intention to sever affiliation with Imagine Schools. 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.”

Who owns the charter? Imagine or the board? Who’s in charge? Can the board fire the management company?