But in an interview last week, Alonso-Poch and Holloman said the management contract was not competitive, though they compared prices with other charter-management companies. They said the management company was created at the suggestion of the school district, to better clarify Alonso-Pochs role with the school.
However, Tiffanie Pauline, who oversees charter schools for the district, said her office did not recommend a management company for Arts & Minds.
Some parents are supportive of Alonso-Poch, and worry that the controversy will damage the schools reputation. My child is happy there, said Jacqui Huggett, whose son is a senior. All this bad press isnt helping.
But several parents began noticing problems at the school last year. At a board meeting in January, the schools former principal, William Machado, expressed doubts about the schools practice of photocopying textbooks for the students, records show.
Holloman said Machado expanded the number of classes last year before ordering the necessary supplies, leading to the book shortage.
Tony Manning, who graduated from the school in June, said students had to purchase many of their own textbooks and were regularly given extra credit for bringing reams of paper. Manning, 18, dropped an Advanced Placement biology course after learning he would have to shell out $150 for the college-level text.
That was the norm, he said.
By April, Machado had resigned, citing his disagreement with management. He was replaced by Sawyer, who said he was not allowed to purchase textbooks and had no control over the schools finances.
I was building bridges with the parents, said Sawyer. But Manny Alonso-Poch and the governing board would not let me do my job.
As administrators leave the school, parents have begun raise questions about the board.
As recently as July 28, the school listed theater instructor Jorge Guerra-Castro as an at large board member though Guerra-Castro lives in Lima, Peru. Alonso-Poch said Guerra-Castro was one of the schools original founders, and he remained as an honorary board member after moving to Peru six years ago.
But Guerra-Castro told The Miami Herald that he has never been formally affiliated with the school and he was unaware of his purported board position until he was contacted by a reporter.
Very bizarre, said Guerra-Castro. He said he gave informal advice to Alonso-Poch when he was planning Arts & Minds, but Guerra-Castro never agreed to be on the board. I have no idea whats going on.
Alonso-Pochs response: Thats shocking to me that he would say that.
Dr. Jose Noy, a Miami physician, was also listed as a board member until July; however, Noy did not attend any board meetings for at least 2½ years, records show. Noy did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The questions at Arts & Minds have now drawn the attention of the Miami-Dade school district, which said it will examine the schools practices in the coming months.
On Sept. 22, district officials cited the school for charging fees to students for basic classes such as English, social studies and math classes charter schools, like public schools, must provide free of charge.
Arts & Minds now must account for all of the fees it collected since 2007. The school must reimburse any students who were wrongly charged, or the schools funding could be withheld.
The schools new principal, Jorge Suarez, said he believes all the fees were legitimate, but some were labeled incorrectly, making them appear improper.
Manning, the A&M graduate who now attends Florida State University, said he and his former classmates should be reimbursed.
I want my money back, he said. I want justice to be served.