(WFLA) – Newpoint Education Partners has failed at managing charter schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Broward and Bay counties, and is now under indictment for financial crimes in Escambia County.
But none of that has discouraged the charter boards at two schools in Jacksonville from severing their business ties with Newpoint. “They’re doing an excellent job with us, and we’re proud of that,” San Jose Academy and High School Board Chairwoman Bonnie Arnold said.
Last Friday, San Jose’s board, led by Arnold, discussed what to do about Newpoint in light of a grand jury indictment in Pensacola and a much-publicized financial meltdown at Windsor Prep in St. Petersburg, which occurred while the school was managed by Newpoint.
Still, not even the threat of criminal convictions for grand theft, money laundering and white collar crimes could dissuade Arnold from her loyalty to Newpoint, a company she has partnered with in Jacksonville since 2012.
“I think it’s a shame,” Arnold said. “But I don’t know the facts so I don’t know whether it will end up being dismissed or something will come out of it.”
Newpoint’s CEO Eileen Quinlan announced on March 8 the company was quitting four charter schools in Pinellas County — Windsor Prep, Windsor Academy, Newpoint Prep and Newpoint High School. At the time, all four charter schools were in turmoil. The Pinellas County School District had declared three of them to be in “deteriorating financial condition.”
The Pinellas County School District has since put all of the schools on a 90-day notice of termination — tantamount to a shutdown.
Parents at Windsor Prep are now fighting desperately to repair the financial damage down caused by Newpoint and to keep their charter school going next year.
On Friday Quinlan called into the San Jose board meeting to ease board members’ fears about the indictment.
“The indictment is very vague in nature,” Quinlan said. “The charges have not been detailed. I can rest assure you that our attorney and Newpoint Corporation will vigorously defend the charges.”
The Escambia County state attorney has not filed charges against any individual managers at Newpoint but alleges the company has cheated Pensacola schools out of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars for “supplies, equipment and services.”
Prosecutors allege Newpoint worked in concert with three vendors and “laundered the proceeds of the thefts through multiple bank accounts to conceal the criminal activity.”
Despite that shadow of alleged criminal behavior, the San Jose board agreed to maintain its contract with Newpoint. The district pays the company 18 percent of all the tax dollars to fund the two charter schools in Jacksonville.
“Our focus is here, and we’ve not had any issues,” Arnold said.
Even so, the San Jose board members are also looking into a “plan B” in case troubles deepen for Newpoint. They said they don’t expect that to happen based on their own annual audit, the current backing of the Duval County School District and the encouragement of Quinlan.
“They haven’t been convicted of anything,”’ San Jose Charter School Director Amy Printy said.
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