Zachary March retired as director of Mizzou Academy last week, Kathryn Chval, dean of the College of Education, told reporters Tuesday. The announcement comes amid ongoing litigation between the University of Missouri and a Brazilian education services company over the online K-12 program.
Chval said she’s taking over as interim director of the program, which provides distance-learning to 5,300 students in 21 countries. Chval said the College of Education will soon launch a national search for March’s replacement.
She described March as a valued employee and said his departure was his decision. Chval said she could not comment on whether this had anything to do with a pending lawsuit over the K-12 program by the Brazilian firm, High School Serviços Educacionais.
She scheduled the interview after reporters began inquiring about reports that March had left the program.
March, who worked 24 years for MU in various roles, has not returned the Columbia Missourian’s requests for comment.
Known as Mizzou K-12 Online until this year, Mizzou Academy offers individual courses and high school diploma programs through the College of Education to students in Missouri and around the world. Chval said there are 403 in-state students enrolled in Mizzou Academy courses. Originally founded in the mid-1800s as an MU lab school, the program eventually evolved into a private K-12 school that offered correspondence courses through MU Extension. It became a part of the College of Education in 2011, according to the Mizzou Academy website.
March is one of several named defendants in a lawsuit filed against the UM System by High School Serviços Educacionais, which has been the Mizzou Academy’s partner in Brazil. HSE is alleging that Mizzou K-12 breached its contract and plagiarized copyrighted material.
According to HSE’s complaint, Mizzou Academy and HSE have been operating under memorandum of understanding since 2015. HSE paid Mizzou Academy nearly $4.9 million during the subsequent four years. The two partners fell out, the complaint said, when the university presented what HSE called a “surprise” invoice for an additional $5 million.
Since then, HSE contends that Mizzou Academy has been attempting to pirate its client list by directly soliciting high schools in Brazil to work with Mizzou Academy. HSE is accusing Mizzou Academy of intellectual property theft; the university is contesting the charge.
Chval said she can’t comment on pending litigation. The case is before federal Judge Brian Wimes in Kansas City. HSE is seeking a jury trial.