Parents fight to save 3 Pinellas charter schools

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 17, 2016

The fight to save three Pinellas County charter schools continues.

Pinellas school board members voted Tuesday to shut down Windsor Preparatory Academy, East Windsor Academy and Newpoint Pinellas Academy after 90 days.

The schools are caught in the middle of a financial disaster all because of its management company. Newpoint Education Partners was indicted May 5 by a grand jury in Escambia County, near Pensacola, on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime.

Now with little cash to run the schools, the board voted to shut them down, but parents teachers, and students aren’t giving up hope. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said parent Theresa Jacobowitz.

After hours of pleading and presenting new evidence to Pinellas County school board members Tuesday, the board told advocates rallying to save Windsor Prep they didn’t have enough information needed.

“We do not have budgets that show these schools can open and remain open next year,” said Pinellas Schools Attorney Heather Wallace to school board members. The board unanimously voted to issue a 90-day termination notice.

Upset parents, teachers and students stormed out of the room. Many of them were angry, others were hurt and cried, while some gathered to pray.

“We’ve come this far, and we will continue to fight,” said parent Dorothy Dulau.

Parents say they’re paying the price for the wrongdoing of their management company, leaving its Pinellas Charter Schools with no money to operate.

“You have been victimized and its upsetting and sad, and quite frankly it makes me mad.” said Pinellas board member Dr. Ken Peluso.

Board members told parents they sympathize with them but say they haven’t provided enough evidence to prove they can stand alone.“The releases that I have received to date still leave me with questions as to whether all the debt has been released,” said Wallace.

Parents told the district they formed a new board of directors for the charter schools, balanced their own budgets and have severed ties with their corrupt management company.

“We had an emergency meeting last night and we got it all under control. We submitted everything to the county today.” said Windsor parent and board member Chris Wenzel.

“We are financially viable. We have surpluses in all three budgets and currently we have money in our bank accounts,” Wenzel said.

But the school district disagreed. They said if parents can’t prove this to them in 90 days the schools will close.

Parents say its a challenge they accept.  “We will get it together. We will get what they need,” said Jacobowitz.

 “We’re working hard. We’re aware of the problem. and you know what we will never ever let it happen again,” said parent Toy Walker.

If the schools close parents will get the opportunity to put their child’s name on a waiting list for any of the other Pinellas County Schools.