Inweekly has reviewed a May 2004 internal audit report of the Jackie Harris Pyramid School of Learning (JHPSL)- currently called Jacqueline Harris Preparatory Academy. The report raised several questions about how school principal, Celestine Lewis, and her school handled the purchase of the Agnes McReynolds School.
In August 2002, the Escambia County School Board approved selling the school property to JHPSL for appraised market value. Instead, the school was sold to a newly formed for-profit LLC, Creative Projects LLC, that had two managing members, Celestine Lewis and Pensacola Family Care for Youth & Family Services, Inc. -which was voluntarily dissolved by the Florida Secretary of State in 2005. Lewis was listed as the president of Pensacola Family Care for Youth and Family Services.
Lewis had the school sign a lease agreement with her Creative Projects LLC – $10,000/mo. for ten years, plus pay property taxes and maintain fire and casualty insurance on the building. The school paid $139,147 in security deposits to Creative. The first deposit – $79,147 – covered the closing costs and down payment listed on the closing statement of the sales documents on the McReynold school.
It appears Lewis got to own the property but had the school (taxpayers) put up all the money. Then the lease established for her an income stream of $120K a year to cover the mortgage, and she could pocket the remainder.
Plus, the school paid $295,782 on renovations on the building – and it doesn’t appear the school recouped the renovation costs when Creative Projects sold the building in 2014.
The district auditor wrote, based on the school paying all the closing costs, renovation costs and the parties of the corporations being the same, “The lease payments may not be an arm’s length transaction.”
The Escambia County School District did nothing.