A lawsuit filed by the fired principal of Aventura, Fla.'s city-owned charter school gives a peek into the soap operatic world of such institutions…
[Katherine Murphy] claims in the 45-page lawsuit filed March 7 that Aventura City Manager Eric Soroka sexually harassed her and fired her without cause because of her complaints about his behavior and his undue influence on operations at the school, which is ranked as one of the top K-8 schools in Florida…
Murphy was fired by Soroka as principal of Aventura City of Excellence School in December 2006. When asked why she was terminated after nearly four years of employment, Soroka told her only it was in his purview…
The lawsuit alleges Soroka spread rumors among parents and to news media that she was fired for taking kickbacks from parents and stealing from a school fund for activities.
Murphy also filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit last year shortly after she was fired, claiming she never got a hearing on her termination. She withdrew that litigation after it was moved to federal court.
At an unemployment compensation hearing, referee Gene L. Grimm found in favor of Murphy, saying the city cannot claim she was dismissed for misconduct: "The city manager accused the claimant of accepting money from the parents of a student admitted to the school. The accusation was not true."…
Besides Soroka and the city, Murphy is suing Charter Schools USA, which managed the school; Nicole Monroe, the school's registrar; Teresa Soroka, the wife of the city manager who serves as the city clerk; Jonathan Hage, CEO and owner of Charter Schools USA; and Elaine Adler, president of the Aventura Marketing Council.
Murphy was paid a salary of about $130,000 by Charter Schools USA and the city. Charter Schools USA is the largest provider of charter school management services in Florida…
Murphy helped build ACES, as the school is known, from the ground up, assisting in its design and curriculum. In 2006, the 900-student ACES was ranked by the state as the sixth best K-8 school in Florida…
It was not unusual for parents in affluent Aventura to try to use their influence or money to usurp the lottery or waiting list to get their children enrolled at ACES. Murphy said she had been offered as much as $100,000 to admit a student ahead of others.
Soroka acknowledged in his deposition that he investigated her for allowing a student ahead of others as well as for missing money.
"It came to my attention that Dr. Murphy had allowed not only one, but three other children, into the school without going through the lottery," he said in the deposition…
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Aventura City of Excellence School
FIRED CITY CHARTER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL CLAIMS HARASSMENT IN SUIT. Law.com 03 Apr 2008