Parents seize control to save St. Petersburg charter school

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – It appears Windsor Prep Academy is a million dollars in debt and heading to the graveyard of financially failed charter schools in Florida. But on Tuesday there’s hope.

“I think there’s a huge sense of hope and I won’t accept anything less,” parent Abbey Millis said. “Once we saw the school had been run into a ditch, we just all kind of banded together.”

Abbey Mills, left, and Dorothy Dulau
Abbey Mills, left, and Dorothy Dulau

Windsor Prep had indeed been run into a rather deep ditch by its professional management company, Newpoint Education Partners. NEP has operated the taxpayer-funded charter school since its inception three years ago.

Newpoint collected 22 percent of all the money the Pinellas County School District gave Windsor as a fee to operate the school. The company suddenly quit March 8 after a financial crisis reached its peak.

Since then, two parents have taken positions on the Windsor board and together with other new members — a teacher and an accountant — have seized control of the school’s finances from Newpoint.

“We have control of the checkbook,” parent and board member Chris Wenzel said. “And we have control of the accounting firm.”

Chris Wenzel
Chris Wenzel

Wenzel and the rest of board ordered an operational audit to determine how Newpoint handled millions of taxpayer dollars and how the school landed in debt to Newpoint.

Meanwhile, other parents have revived the school’s PTA. “We have a powerhouse PTA,” parent Rick Tra said. “That’s where we begin.”

PTA Vice President Dorothy Dulau is among the parents who are determined to rescue the school amid scrutiny by the Pinellas County School District and the Florida Department of Education over the school’s deteriorating finances and questions about lavish spending on school consultants and outside vendors.

Technically, Newpoint remains the management firm of record, but parents are undecided whether to hire another management team for next year or to take on that job themselves. Either way, they’re passionate about saving the school from closure.

“We’re really gonna do this,” Dulau said. “And we’re going to show everybody we did it and we’re going to be the best school around.”

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