Bradenton's Prep Academy closing upper grades amid controversy

kbergen@bradenton.comDecember 6, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Two weeks after reports that embattled school owner Hendrik Lamprecht is once again not paying the teachers of schools he has owned, parents are reporting that at least part of The Prep Academy is closing.

An email sent to parents Nov. 28 from Head of Schools Gail Brito revealed that the school will end classes for middle and high school students as of Dec. 21. It also addressed the $57,000 in back rent that property owner John Rekkas is currently suing Lamprecht for.

The email said:

"In our process to keep you informed of developments I would like to let you know that our negotiations to find a sustainable solution to securing the investment that we have made on the landlords property is proceeding...

"At this point we continue to proceed as normal with pre-K through 5, but will be closing 6 through 12 with effect December 21, 2012 in order for your child to earn the credits for this semester. We will offer supervised accredited online classes for 6 through 12 for the next two years. Pre-K to 5 will then grow into classes 6 upwards."

But Prep Academy parent Christine Estef said today when she pulled into the school parking lot, two teachers informed her that Lamprecht had announced to staff this week that the entire school would close. Former Prep Academy Principal Theresa Kern, who left the school in October after not being paid for the month of September, confirmed that she also had heard from a teacher that the entire school would close.

A call to The Prep Academy, at 7700 Cortez Road, went answered, but officials would not confirm or deny a closing.

"Ma'am, I have nothing to say. Thank you. Goodbye," Brito said before hanging up.

Lamprecht was reached by telephone late Thursday night, but would not confirm or deny if his school was closing.

"Whatever I say you will write the lies you need to sell your newspapers," Lamprecht said. "I have no comment."

Former Prep Academy parent Jennifer Otto pulled her son out of the Voluntary Pre-K program last week, along with two other parents. She also received a letter stating that the school would stop offering classes for older students.

"That guy's a crook. There's something really off about him," Otto said. "When I told him my son was leaving, his eyes turned to steel and he walked away."

Estef said that the idea of offering only online programs for middle and high school students is unfeasible for her 14-year-old child, who has special needs and is at a second-grade reading level.

She's been looking for other schools for her daughter, but is struggling to find a school that can meet her daughter's needs.

"Where do you go?" Estef said, "What do you do? The teachers there were great for her."

Lamprecht has operated four Manatee schools under different names since 2010. The first three were shut down due to foreclosure, lack of funds or other controversy.

On Nov. 21, the Herald reported that Prep Academy teachers had not been paid for the month of September, even though the school had collected more than $13,000 of state money through a voucher program for kids with special needs.

Lamprecht is also being sued by three other parties who are seeking money they say they are owed.

Twelve former teachers say he owes them more than $200,000 in unpaid salary for their time at The Bradenton Prep, the first school he operated in the county. That lawsuit has stalled in court as Lamprecht has objected to handing over documents and changed attorneys.

On Nov. 2, Prep Academy property owner John Rekkas filed a civil action complaint against Lamprecht, saying he has not paid $10,383 monthly rent since March. Included in the rent are property taxes amounting to $1,250.

Court records show that Lamprecht has recently denied being the director and manager of the Preppies Preschool and The Prep Academy. He also said that the lease he signed was not the lease that Rekkas provided in court.

Lamprecht has recently stated otherwise.

During a recent call in which a Herald reporter asked a question about The Bradenton Prep, Lamprecht angrily replied, "I own the Prep Learning Academy, and we took the 'Learning' out. I never owned The Bradenton Prep. Get your facts straight."

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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