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Superior Schools sues Plato Academy over contract termination

The greatest concern remains student education.

Superior Schools Corp. says a group of Tampa Bay charter schools wrongfully broke a contract with the company.

Now, the service provider has sued Plato Academy Schools and wants to continue managing the schools.

“It was irresponsible of the Plato board to try to terminate the Superior contract in the manner that it did,” said Superior Schools attorney David Luikart.

“This decision could jeopardize services to the students, as we are not aware that any transition plan whatsoever is in place.”

Plato leaders on April 15 sent a termination notice to Superior, citing “incurable breaches” to the relationship.

In a letter to families, Plato Academy Seminole principal Karen Staab wrote leadership changes at Superior contributed to the decision.

“Unfortunately, based upon the performance of Superior since the passing of Superior’s founder, Steve Christopoulos, in the summer of 2018, the Plato Board voted today to immediately terminate its relationship with Superior,” reads a message sent out Saturday evening to parents.

“Our Plato Academy schools stand strong, capable, and will continue to stay true to our mission of putting students first and ensuring we all reach our highest potential.”

Christopoulos died unexpectedly while vacationing in Costa Rica last June.

But Superior leadership said the company never failed to continue delivering service even after that tragedy.

A press release from Superior said Plato leaders immediately questioned the leadership from the company after the death. A letter from Plato to Superior stated Christopoulos was “the sole reason Plato entered into and continued a long-term business relationship with Superior.”

Jenny Tsantilas, who worked side-by-side with Christopoulos when he founded Superior, took over as CEO after his death.

The Superior lawsuit said the contract between the schools and agency requires 60-day notice before termination.

Instead, the schools gave seven days notice, which ran out on Sunday.

Superior leaders filed for a court injunction allowing the company to continue management of nine Plato Academy schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

In the meantime, Superior argues the performance of schools became measurably worse even in the short time since the schism. Construction stopped on a Plato Academy location in St. Petersburg and a chapel remains unfinished at a Trinity campus.

“Without Superior, the entire educational system for those 3,382 students will implode,” the lawsuit states. “The Plato Academy Board is a volunteer board of nonprofessional school managers that have provided oversight without any hands-on management during the 12 years that Superior has operated the charter schools.”

Luikart told Florida Politics the greatest concern from Superior’s perspective remains student education and a fear Plato has no plan moving forward.

“The continuity of operations of the school is the biggest concern,” he said. “If there is a plan to transition to some other management, we haven’t heard about it. That’s concerning considering the over-a-decade relationship.”

The break also means Superior can’t access its own records because Plato poached IT personnel.

Superior has continued to run before- and after-school programs and prekindergarten services.

Luikart said the chief desire for Superior is to go through the 60-day agreed upon period before a termination and try in that time to address any management concerns Plato may have.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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