Discovery Learning Academy in Niceville announced Tuesday it would be closing, effective immediately, following recently-discovered "financial viability issues."
NICEVILLE – Parents picking up their children from the Discovery Learning Academy on Tuesday were greeted with a shock – a letter taped to the front doors from owner/manager Ashlei Bruewer stating the DLA was closing, effective immediately.
The closing appears to be related to a lawsuit filed by Bruewer’s trust fund against DLA co-owner John C. Barranco, in Johnson County, Kansas, earlier this month.
DLA was scheduled for a half-day on Wednesday before the Thanksgiving break.
"It is with a heavy heart that the ownership/Manager of Bluewater Discovery Learning Academy have decided to cease operations effective November 27, 2019," Bruewer stated in the letter. "The ceasing of operations is due to financial viability issues that were only recently identified. We sincerely apologize for the suddenness of this notice and the difficulty this makes for both families and staff."
DLA, which opened in January 2010, was founded by Bruewer ’s mother, Terresa Teutenberg, who died along with her husband and five young children in a plane crash in July 2011.
The DLA employs about 30 full- or part-time employees and has 160 children in its various programs from 6-weeks up to 9-years-old.
DLA Director Brittany Pearson declined comment on the closing.
Bruewer indicated that the money being used to run DLA has been "illegally diverted from another source" for an undisclosed amount of time.
On the DLA website, John C. Barranco Sr. is listed as one of the company’s owners, as is John C. Barranco Jr. Barranco Sr. is Bruewer’s grandfather and Barranco Jr. is her uncle.
A temporary restraining order was issued against John C. Barranco on Nov. 11, and in a court appearance on Nov. 22, the court appointed as the fund’s sole trustee.
"Bluewater Discovery Learning Academy was established by my mother years ago, and I am very sorry that it has to close so suddenly," Bruewer said. "It was only late last month when I was provided with access to any information the finances of Discovery, and I was shocked to find out it has been running with money being illegally diverted from another source.
"We had no choice but to immediately close down Discovery. This misuse of funds is the subject of a lawsuit in another state. It is tragic so many families and good employees are affected by this."
Terresa Teutenberg, her husband, Fred Teutenberg, and their five young children; Will, 10 years-old, Brendon, 9, Ellie, 6, Peyton, 4, and Emma, 2, died in a single-engine plane accident in July 2011 outside of Demopolis, Alabama, while returning home to Niceville from a family reunion in St. Louis. Bruewer, who was in St. Louis at the time of the accident, was 16.
Fred Teutenberg was the pilot of the plane, and the National Transportation Safety Board later ruled pilot error was likely the cause of the crash.