Pinellas School Board to vote on fate of 4 charter schools

- The Pinellas County School Board is considering terminating the charter agreements of four charter schools, three of which are associated with Newpoint Education Partners.

The board votes Tuesday on whether to issue a 90-day notice to the schools, but parents, teachers and students at those schools are not going down without a fight.

On the chopping block: Windsor Preparatory Academy, East Windsor Middle Academy, Newpoint Pinellas Academy and Florida Virtual Academy at Pinellas.

Enrollment between all four schools totals about a thousand students.

The news has hit students hard. Some of the youngest students have drawn cards cards with tear drops and broken hearts, asking the school board to reconsider.

Lauren LeRoux, a teacher at Windsor Prep read a letter written by her second grade students.

"Dear Pinellas County School Board, we have heard you might close our school next year. This makes us feel sad, disappointed and irate... if you close our school, we won't have a school to go to anymore and we will lose our friends."

"They are 7- and 8-years-old and they are crying in my classroom because they are afraid of being sent back to a school where they didn't feel safe, and that terrifies me," LeRoux said.

Windsor Preparatory Academy, East Windsor Middle Academy and Newpoint Pinellas Academy share one commonality: they were managed by Newpoint Education Partners, which left them more than $1 million in debt.

This month, Newpoint was indicted by the state attorney's office in Escambia County for grand theft, money laundering, and aggravated white collar crime in connection with management of schools there

The Pinellas County School District worries similar financial issues remain for the local charters.

The Windsor Board of Directors said that's in the past. They answered that concern Monday night, officially cutting any ties with Newpoint.

"We now have a legally binding agreement with our former management company, Newpoint Education Partners," said Board Chairman Robert Pergolizzi. "We don't owe them a cent, our budgets are in surplus, the schools will be in a good financial situation."

Pergolizzi, who's been on the board since the school's beginning, also offered to resign, in hopes all-new leadership will sway the school district.

"It is about the schools and not about me," he said.

At the end of the meeting, parents brainstormed their best ways to reach the Pinellas County school board. Though there's a lot of emotion involved, they hope to focus on facts.

"We need to communicate that we want to work with them," said parent Jessica Ismoilov.

A petition to the school board already has more than 1,000 signatures, and it's growing. Just like the sign outside the school, parents, students and staff are holding a lot of "Hope for Windsor."

"We have children that are thriving. We have teachers that are incredible. Our parental involvement is unbelievable," said parent Abbey Mills.

"We could be the best school around and we just want the last year of our charter agreement to prove to them that our new board can do that, that we can turn things around," said parent Dorothy Dula.

Tuesday's Pinellas County school board meeting is at 10 a.m. You can expect a packed house with a long line of speakers wearing maroon Windsor shirts.

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