Shuttered Clearwater charter school accused of leaving unpaid bills, rent

in Local Courts by

Pinellas West Coast Academy, a Clearwater charter high school that closed permanently in December 2016, is now being sued by its landlord for months of unpaid rent.

West Coast Academy – also known as 21st Century High School of Pinellas Inc. – was formally Newpoint Pinellas High and originally managed by Newpoint Education Partners.

Newpoint education is a charter school company with locations in several Florida cities; due to financial troubles, it was recently forced to close four of its five schools in Pinellas County.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report on the closings: “Newpoint Pinellas Academy, which shared a site with Pinellas Westcoast, closed about six weeks into the school year, and Windsor Preparatory Academy and East Windsor Middle Academy voluntarily terminated their charters over the summer. Enterprise High School, which separated from Newpoint in 2015, remains open.”

In May 2016, an Escambia County grand jury indicted Newpoint, accusing it of “fraudulently billing schools for supplies, equipment and services with federal startup grant funds for charter schools and laundering that money.”

The following month, the Pinellas County school board approved a one-year renewal of Newpoint’s charter, as well as its name change to West Coast. Typically, charter renewals are either for three or five years, but because of Newpoint’s financial difficulties, the Board only allowed an extension of a single year.

Plaintiffs Clearwater Collection 15 and Clearwater Plainfield 15 are two limited liability corporations owned by Colorado-based GDA Real Estate Services, which owns dozens of shopping centers in multiple states.

Court documents show Pinellas West Coast signed a 5-year lease in 2012 on a Clearwater shopping center location. The center was later purchased by the plaintiffs.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 24 in Pinellas County Civil Court, the two plaintiffs accuse Pinellas West Coast of failing to pay rent since October 2016.

They are asking the court to help them collect unpaid rent, as well as “all other charges due under the lease, special damages, late fees, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees and court costs.”

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.