Unable to document how money was spent, a charter school company pays it back
Newpoint Education Partners, the company that owns and operates five charter schools in Pinellas County, vowed earlier this month to produce a “complete expenditure report” detailing how it spent a $75,000 federal grant designated for one of its schools.
Newpoint imposed its own deadline of Nov. 15 to get the report regarding East Windsor Middle Academy in St. Petersburg over to the Pinellas County school district. Instead, a check was sent Monday to the district in the amount of $75,000.
Eileen Quinlan, Newpoint's executive director of operations, said in an email Wednesday that East Windsor had difficulty getting the required information from its former accounting firm.
"Following the complete review this month, it was determined the former accounting firm had not followed all the necessary procedures in documenting expenses for the grant," she wrote. "This resulted in none of the expenses being grant eligible."
The Florida Department of Education awarded the grant to East Windsor Middle Academy in December 2014 from the Charter Schools Program, which helps cover opening costs for charter schools. Though the money came from the federal government and is administered by the state, district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said responsibility for keeping track of it falls with the district as the sponsor of the charter school.
The district asked East Windsor for documentation of its grant expenses in September. The district hadn't heard a response by late October and told the school to reimburse the funds.
“From the district’s standpoint, our priority is compliance,” Wolf said. “We will continue to monitor East Windsor Middle Academy and all of our charters to make sure grant money is spent correctly.”
Newpoint is also being investigated by the Florida Department of Education after officials found items in Escambia County schools that were purchased with Charter Schools Program grant money awarded to schools in other counties, which violates grant requirements that say the money must be spent at the school that won the grant. Officials say at least 80 items were found that were purchased with Charter Schools Program grant money awarded to schools in other districts, including Pinellas.
The state, which says Newpoint is being cooperative, is still working on compiling an inventory list of the items found in Escambia.