PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The professional school consultants who run Windsor Preparatory Academy in Pinellas County are facing a world of trouble over a $1 million operating deficit and questions about $300,000 in consulting fees. Pinellas County Schools insists the district can’t account for those fees.
There are also questions about a $75,000 federal grant the school had to return because it couldn’t explain how that money was spent.
Dorothy Dulau has a child in kindergarten at Windsor. “Our staff is phenomenal. It’s not their fault. Their hands are tied,” Dulau said. “It is the management company, and it is my fear if we cannot get rid of that management company we will not have a school.”
The for-profit management company Dulau refers to is Newpoint Education Partners. On its website, Newpoint claims to have a “100% clean and positive financial track record”. But 8 On Your Side has discovered this isn’t the first time Newpoint faced controversy over its business practices, questionable finances and failing charter schools.
Florida Department of Education records show Newpoint has collected millions of dollars in management fees for running charter schools in six counties from Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle to the City of Sunrise in Broward County. In a number of cases the management of those schools has ended badly.
In 2013 the Hillsborough County Public Schools was moving to shut own a Newpoint school when the company announced it had no intention of fighting to keep the contract. A year later in 2014 a pair of Newpoint schools in Sunrise shutdown abruptly after just two weeks of operation amid a host of problems. The shutdown came after the schools received nearly $400,000 in tax funding according to the Sun Sentinel newspaper.
Newpoint has either quit or been dropped from other charter contracts in Pensacola and Panama City, hardly a 100 percent record of success that Newpoint boats about on its website.
In addition to Windsor Prep, Newpoint currently operates the Newpoint Pinellas Academy and High School as well as Enterprise High School, both located in Clearwater. Enterprise is parting ways with Newpoint at the end of this school year, and Newpoint Pinellas is considering its options.
Dulau doesn’t know what’s going to happen to Windsor but she’s quite certain of the advice she’d give any parent considering enrolling a children in a Newpoint-managed charter school. “I would say, ‘Absolutely, don’t do it,’” Dulau said.
The Pinellas district has given Windsor 30 days to submit a corrective action plan addressing its “deteriorating finances,” and wants Windsor to address a list of seven specific concerns by March 11th. The district could end up terminating Windsor’s charter school contract currently manged by Newpoint.
Numerous attempts by email and telephone, and a visit by 8 On Your Side to Newpoint’s Clearwater headquarters Wednesday have failed to elicit a response from Newpoint corporate managers.
Tuesday, Veronica Fly, the principal of Windsor Prep sent an email to 8 On Your Side insisting Pinellas County School Schools’ criticisms of the school’s finances are “grossly inaccurate” and attributed allegations of mismanagement to a small group of disgruntled parents.
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