PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The company that manages four Pinellas County charter schools currently in financial crisis says it is quitting and handing over all management to a nonprofit organization “in the best interest of the students, parents and the schools.”
Newpoint’s president Eileen Quinlan met with other Newpoint staff members at a Clearwater restaurant for several hours Tuesday but later refused to discuss what was happening other than to say a press release would be forthcoming. That press release said Alliance manages charter schools in Hillsborough County, Broward County and North Carolina.
Newpoint Education Partners is under intense pressure from Pinellas County Schools and the Florida Department of Education to explain why its charter schools are in “deteriorating financial condition,” after receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funding.
One of the schools, Windsor Preparatory Academy, is running a $1 million deficit and the school district is questioning how the school spent $300,000 on consulting fees. The school district and Florida DOE have ordered four of the schools to submit “corrective action plans” by April 5. The state is also cutting of capital outlay funds to some of the schools due to their financial instability.
Newpoint has loaned some of the Pinellas charter schools it manages, for a fee, hundreds of thousands of dollars but has refused to disclose the terms of those loans to 8 On Your Side despite repeated public records requests. In its letter to parents Tuesday, Newpoint claims it “has agreed to write off a large portion of the amounts owed.”
The nonprofit company taking over Newpoint’s charter schools, Alliance Education Services Inc., was formed by Jennifer Lucas and Justin Matthews in 2013 and is currently operated by Jonathan Simon, Victor Rebman and Christy Bryans in Sarasota, according to state records.
Rebman was formerly associated with Imagine Schools in Northport, a charter school management company that has been the focus of financial controversy in the past. Jennifer Lucas, one of the Alliance leaders scheduled to meet with parents Friday, was formerly employed by an Imagine charter school in Manatee County. Justin Mathews, another Alliance leader scheduled to meet with parents at Windsor Prep, was also formerly employed by an Imagine school in Northport and later became entangled in a lawsuit with Imagine.
The letter sent by Windsor board chairman Robert Pergolizzi Tuesday says, “The board looks forward to working with Alliance to make our schools successful for the long term.”
It’s not clear how the Windsor Prep board could have discussed the transition since there was no mention of it at the board’s last meeting and the next one doesn’t take place until March 17. Under Florida law all school board business is required to be discussed at public meetings. Tuesday’s announcement came as a complete surprise.
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