Pinellas superintendent open to possibilities for endangered charter schools
Pinellas County Schools superintendent Mike Grego has received a letter sent by the board of Windsor Preparatory Academy and East Windsor Middle Academy, two St. Petersburg charter schools facing termination, and said he is open to the possibility of converting the schools into district-run magnet school.
The board, which met Thursday to discuss that option with school parents, sent a letter to Grego on Friday with the agreement that the schools would voluntarily terminate their charters effective June 30 and a list of six suggestions. Those suggestions include working with the schools' landlord to obtain an acceptable lease, giving instructional staff at Windsor and East Windsor preference for positions at the new school of choice and grandfathering students currently attending Windsor Prep and East Windsor for the new school.
The board also asked if they could serve the school in an advisory capacity to ease the transition from a charter into a district-run school.
"None of it’s unreasonable," said Grego of the suggestions.
The boards have been racing to save their schools from closing after they were issued 90-day termination notices in May because of financial, governance and curriculum issues by sending revised budgets and a "corrective action plan." Many of those issues have been blamed on the schools' former management company, Newpoint Education Partners, which was indicted last month on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime. The schools' enrollments are currently bleeding: about 280 students have enrolled in other district schools.
Possibly the largest hurdle Windsor Prep and East Windsor face before becoming a "project-based learning lab environment" in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year is the schools' current lease with their landlord, Joe Rauenhorst. Windsor Prep currently pays about $65,000 a month in rent for the property at 5185 45th St N.
"If we run into a dead end with the owner, all bets are off," Grego said.
Rauenhorst said "everything is in flux" and that he did not have enough information to comment.
"The School Board and the school have a lot more information as to what's going on than I do," he said.
Grego said he would assign district staff to reach out to Rauenhorst and bring back "every aspect" of running the schools. Then, he said he would schedule a workshop to hash out the details.
"I know our board will try to make a situation that is kind of unfair with the management company, maybe try to make this a win-win," he said.