Pinellas charter schools fight to stay open

- Four charter schools in Pinellas County are now going to have to prove they should stay open.

Tuesday, the school board voted to issue 90-day notices of termination on the district's charter agreements with Windsor Preparatory Academy, East Windsor Middle Academy, Newpoint Pinellas Academy and Florida Virtual Academy Pinellas.

The first three schools have spent much of the last year embroiled in a financial mess, after their former management company, Newpoint Education Partners left them more than a million dollars in debt.

With an all-new school board of directors, no debt, new bank account and severed ties with Newpoint, 42 speakers pleaded with the school board for a fresh start.

"Simply put, they fooled us," said former Windsor Board Chairman Robert Pergolizzi. "We unknowingly let them do it but that's all changed. The cancer of Newpoint has been eradicated."

"Many teachers have offered more time, blood, sweat, tears and love than I have ever seen at another school," said Kimberly Spivey Diaz.

PCSB members offered support and sympathy. "No one is trying to harm these students, no one is trying to harm these schools," said Superintendent Mike Grego.

But, ultimately, the board decided financial and legal proof that these schools are on solid ground is lacking.

"It would be irresponsible for us to allow it to continue without positive proof that things have changed," said school board member Carol Cook.

It's a tough blow for parents and teachers who've already gathered more than a thousand signatures on a petition. After the decision, they held an emergency meeting to plot their next move.

"I am not going to stop fighting. What's the phrase? It ain’t over till the fat lady sings," said Windsor Prep parent Jessica Ismoilov.

That's their mantra, at least for the next 90 days

"We have 90 days to show them everything Windsor is made of, to show them we bleed maroon," said Windsor School Board Secretary Megan Smith.

Through prayer and planning, the staff, parents and students are staying positive.

"We will get in that board meeting, we will check those things off one at a time, we will ask for the help, the school board said they are going to be there for us, so we are going to pull the trigger and make sure they are there," said parent Toy Walker.

"We are getting a handle on the budget and we are going to go forward from there and make this a financially viable school, all three schools," said Chris Wenzel, Windsor School Board Chair.

The Windsor Board is submitting an appeal to Pinellas County School Board, asking for a hearing. They're planning to work closely with them to make sure they can satisfy every one of the district's concerns.




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