Landlord seeks to evict Plato Academy charter school in Trinity over unpaid rent

The sides have been embroiled in legal disagreements since shortly after the death of Plato founder Steve Christopoulos.
The entrance to Plato Trinity Academy at 8812 Old County Road 54 in New Port Richey.
The entrance to Plato Trinity Academy at 8812 Old County Road 54 in New Port Richey. [ THOMAS TOBIN | Google Maps ]
Published Aug. 23, 2019|Updated Aug. 23, 2019

The management firm that holds the leases to the sites of nine Plato Academy charter schools has moved to throw the school out of its Pasco County campus in Trinity.

Old CR 54, affiliated with Superior Schools Corp., filed a complaint in Pasco County court seeking an eviction order against Plato Trinity, which had 308 students enrolled as of the most recent available count.

The complaint alleges that Plato had fallen behind on its rent payments, which were $39,738.33 a month until July, when they rose to $47,686 a month. It states that Plato had made good on three monthly payments since receiving a notice of default for 8812 Old County Road 54 in early August.

But the group still had not repaid the amounts for October 2018, or the months of April through August 2019, according to the complaint.

Lawyers for Old CR 54 asked the court to intervene and allow the owner to repossess the property.

“Filing this action was a difficult decision to make. Before filing we attempted to resolve this without involving the courts,” said Superior CEO Jenny Tsantilas.

“It was only after sending numerous requests for payment, and being promised payments that never came through, we were forced to file. The Plato board has made the decision to manage the schools and part of that responsibility is ensuring that they have budgeted sufficient funds to pay their obligations.”

Superior remained open to working with the Plato board to resolve the charter school group’s problems, she added.

Plato board Chairman Elias Kolettis and member Louis Kokkinakos declined to comment about the matter.

Member John Petalas told a reporter to “ask the school district” and said he doesn’t know why Plato wasn’t paying rent. Member Chris Alahouzos said it is his understanding that the problem is being addressed.“

Based on the meeting,” he said, “within a month, everything will be up to date.”

The two sides have been feuding over control since shortly after the summer 2018 death of Superior founder Steve Christopolous.

Tsantilas, his ex wife, filed paperwork with the state to take over the company nine days later. Soon after, she began firing key staff and consolidating control.

The Plato governing board fired Superior as a management company in April.

RELATED: Plato Academy charter schools in turmoil over management, family feud

The troubles soon began bubbling over into other aspects of the charter group’s operations. Plato stopped construction at two sites, and canceled plans to expand to two others.

By mid-August, Pasco County school district officials had grown concerned enough to send a letter seeking some assurances that Plato was financially capable of continuing its operations.

“As you know, the School Board has an interest in the facilities which are utilized for Pasco County students,” superintendent Kurt Browning wrote.

He asked the charter operator to submit detailed financial information regarding lease payments, as well as any other “relevant information regarding your access to facilities.”

RELATED: Pasco school district seeks assurances from Plato Academy charter school

Browning said Friday that he had heard back from Plato’s Trinity principal that the school had made some lease repayments and aimed to have them all completed by November. He said he did not want to insert himself into the private business dealings, but noted the district remained concerned about the fate of the hundreds of students attending the campus.

Note: This post has been updated with comments from the Plato Academy board members.