McReynolds Switcheroo: How to make money on a charter school


Jacqueline Harris Preparatory Academy: In August 2002, the Escambia County School Board voted to sell its McReynolds school property to the charter school for its appraised value.

School founder Celestine Lewis switched the sale of the McReynolds property to a for-profit company she formed the day before the closing, Creative Projects. The school, operating under the nonprofit New Road to Learning, then signed a 10-year lease for the property – $10,000 per month.

Internal auditors for the Escambia County School District reported on the switch in 2004, but nothing was done.

In 2009, the school signed a new charter agreement with a specific conflict of interest clause. The school district didn’t enforce the clause. Subsequent audit reports highlighted several related party transactions.

In June 2013, school agreed to an 10-year extension of the lease with Creative Projects, $11,000 years.

In March 2014, Creative Projects sold the McReynolds property to Durga Das Trust and took a mortgage. The lease was assigned to Durga Das Trust. The lease payments – if paid out for the remainder of the lease – would have nearly reimbursed Durga Das Trust for its purchase price.

In 2017, school moved to Pensacola Boulevard but still had to pay lease on McReynolds property.

In May 2019, Durga Das Trust agreed to $350,000 buyout of the lease. School had to borrow money to make the payment. Durga Das Trust paid off its mortgage with Creative Projects. School was demolished September 2019.

1. Inweekly Outtakes and Cover Story.
2. Lease Agreement between New Road to Learning and Creative Projects: 2002 lease
3. Internal Audit Report – Compliance
4. Internal Auditor Notes – Audit notes
5. 2009 Charter Agreement,Conflict of Interest clause on page 27 – PRR #1100 09 Charter
6. Audit reports 2012-2018, Related Party transactions – Related Party Notes
7. Lease extension – Board Minutes 2013, Lease Amendment
8. Durga Das Trust Warranty Deed & Assumption of Lease –
9. Durga Das Mortgage – Durga Das Trust Mortgage
10. Lease buyout, Minutes, Check Register, Mortgage Satisfaction –  buyout


4 thoughts on “McReynolds Switcheroo: How to make money on a charter school

  1. Yes she is 100% politically protected, every corrupt person follows and supports her, most of them are lying for some benefit, and if it’s not a benefit, it’s because she is terrifying!!!! I worked there in 2011/12 and amidst several racist remarks, maltreatment and countless other corrupt things they did… I opted to get out fast, went to Vicki Mathis and several teachers and I told her about all of this. She turned a cheek and got us all cushy new jobs. Thank god! But seriously… I’m mostly distraught that she’d say Boone has brought this to her attention. We even tried taking it to the news stations …. nothing. It’s sickening. I’d love to further discuss this with you and I know a few others who’d love to weigh in on their experiences. Celestine is Corrupt to the core, evil, and sinister human. The way she treated her employees was 100% abusive. This goes beyond the money scheme.

  2. RIck

    I’ve read all of your articles on this school. Its an incredible story.
    How in the world has this principal and her board not been arrested yet? They actually “stole a school” and millions?

    Is she politically protected?

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