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Diocese Completes Purchase of Donahue Academy; Lawsuit Dropped

A turbulent period in the 10-year history of the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy in Ave Maria has officially concluded with the withdrawal of a lawsuit against the school's directors and the completion of a purchase of the K-12 school by the Diocese of Venice.

Collier County court documents show that on July 6, former Donahue board director Brian Lawe formally withdrew the lawsuit he had filed last summer against directors of Donahue and Ave Maria University President Jim Towey. Mr. Lawe's suit alleged alleged a conflict of interest by board members who also had close ties to Ave Maria University and also charged that there were financial and governance irregularities.

Also on July 6, the deed for the Donahue property was officially recorded in Collier County records showing that AMU sold the 48,000-square-foot building and its 10.56-acre property for $1 million. The sale price was considerably less than the school's appraised value, which in the most recent listing on the Collier County Appraiser's website is shown as $5.46 million.

The agreement for the sale of the school was jointly announced May 12. The deal appeared to get done quite quickly and came just before depositions of several key Donahue and AMU officials, including Mr. Towey and Donahue board chair Michael Schwartz, were scheduled to be conducted.

Following the purchase announcement, the diocese had already started managing the Donahue Academy and had brought back as principal Donahue's founding headmaster, Dan Guernsey, who had left in 2013 to start the education department at Ave Maria University.

Ave Maria Pastor Fr. Cory Mayer and diocesan education officials have said that no major changes to Donahue's classical curriculum are planned. Fr. Mayer also said that the purchase was fully funded by private donations, primarily from one principal donor who wants to remain anonymous, and that the parish did not incur any debt to buy the school.

The Donahue transaction is the second major purchase by the diocese of buildings that had been considered by many to be integral to the university. Earlier this year, AMU sold the iconic church in the center of Ave Maria to the diocese for $8 million.

See previous Ave Herald stories
June 1: Dan Guernsey Returning to Head Donahue Academy 
May 13: Diocese of Venice Taking Over Donahue Academy 

See columns in the Naples Daily News Collier Citizen by Ave Herald Editor Patricia Sette:
June 17: Dan Guernsey Returns to Lead Donahue Academy Forward 
May 27: AMU Sells Donahue Academy to Diocese of Venice 

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