Sen. Brandes joins fight for embattled charter schools in Pinellas

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Parents and board members at Windsor Prep charter school will have a new champion when they meet Tuesday night in an ongoing effort to save their school from a threatened shutdown by the Pinellas School District. State Senator Jeff Brandes (R) Pinellas is joining the fight.

Windsor has been given a 90 notice of termination due to ongoing questions about deteriorating finances left behind by its former management company Newpoint Education Partners. A grand jury in Escambia County recently indicted Newpoint for grand theft, fraud and white collar crimes involving schools it managed Pensacola.

“This management company was committing fraud,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes, a strong supporter of charter schools and a newfound champion of Windsor’s attempt to stay afloat for another school year. “People are going to jail and they should if they’ve committed crimes they should go to jail.”

Newpoint claimed that it loaned Windsor and two other Pinellas charter schools $1.8 million to keep the schools operating and the company was collecting interest. But an investigation by 8 On Your Side revealed there was no record of those loans by Newpoint or any approvals by the charter school boards.

Brandes is now jumping into the fray between the Pinellas School District staff  –which has recommended terminating Windsor– and two other Pinellas charter schools formerly managed by Newpoint, and the parents of those schools who are desperately trying to keep their schools open amid a myriad of financial and budgetary questions.

“We have parents, we have students, and we have teachers who want to know what their future is at those at these schools and I’m here to help fight for them,” Brandes said.

The senator has been a key player in legislation that has empowered more charter schools to operate in Florida and he is a vocal support of giving parents a choice when public schools fail.  The Newpoint debacle has become the focal point in the state’s ongoing debate that pits charter school advocates against those who insist charter schools are a misuse of public education funds.

“I’m here to make sure taxpayers are protected, but that students and parents and teachers also have options and choices and that’s something I’m standing by and working towards,” Brandes said.

The Windsor Prep Board meets at the school at 5175 45th st. N. in St. Petersburg at 5 p.m. Tuesday  to discuss its plan to keep the school in business and satisfy the financial concerns of the district. Brandes said he can’t be at the meeting due to a schedule conflict, but insists he will have several members of his staff present for tonight’s discussion.

“To the extent that I can serve as a bridge or an advocate with the state I think that’s my role.” Brandes said. “We have parents we have students and we have teachers who want to know what their future is at those at these schools and I’m here to help fight for them.”WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON RIGHT NOW: 

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