A woman dismissed from the St. Croix Preparatory Academy board earlier this week said the removal was retaliation for raising concerns about the school's math curriculum, board governance and financial management.
Former board member Claire Sand said she continues to support the mission of the Stillwater charter school, but her tenure on the board was short-circuited by a leadership that wouldn't tolerate dissent and wouldn't make decisions in public meetings.
School representatives, however, said the dismissal was necessary because Sand put her own agenda ahead of the school's.
The school recently came under fire for a fundraising campaign that sought an average donation of $1,200 per family, and state officials had inquired into the fees the school was charging students for educational materials, which is forbidden by state law.
School officials have since backpedaled some on their fundraising campaign, and state officials said they were satisfied with the answers they got from the school regarding its refunds and discontinuance of charging fees.
But Sand's dismissal is another tense situation for the school. Her brief tenure, which began in April, ended on a 7-0 vote Tuesday night.
Sand's disagreement with the board centered on the school's decision not to offer algebra to sixth-graders. Parents supporting sixth-grade algebra started a blog this spring, and Sand later took the issue to the organization that has oversight responsibility for the school.
"I've really been asking a lot of questions," said Sand, a college teacher, consultant and parent of students who go to the school. Sand has her supporters in the school community, though not on the board.
"I share some of the same concerns," said Michelle Allen, also a school parent.
Sand said the algebra question, because it is curriculum, should have been left to the board rather than the school administration.
But that argument, said board Chair James Markoe, only shows Sand's lack of understanding of the school and its issues.
Seven-year-old St. Croix, with more than 800 students, is past the startup stage where board members -- often founders of the school -- are actively involved in curriculum and daily operations, Markoe said. "We've worked very hard to create the institutional capacity to function as a large charter school, or a large school of any kind," he said.
Markoe added that the school is fiscally sound as well. The school's authorizer, Friends of Education, the organization responsible for ensuring its academic and financial success, also said the school is on strong footing.
"It's operating in the black," said Beth Topoluk, of Friends of Education.
Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287