'Prime Time' says Prime Prep students being 'punished'

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 15 at 10:18 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

The state is taking action to shut down Prime Prep Academy, the troubled school co-founded by former Dallas Cowboys star Deion Sanders.

Following an eight-month investigation by Texas Education Agency officials, it was announced Tuesday that TEA commissioner Michael Williams is moving to revoke Prime Prep's charter. The school has until the end of this month to appeal, but News 8 has learned that the revocation decision will be difficult — if not impossible — to reverse.

Prime Prep Academy opened its doors on two campuses in 2012 — an elementary school in Fort Worth and middle and high schools in Dallas.

Immediately after it began operations, questions were raised about improper transfers by athletes. Soon the charter school withdrew from state-sanctioned athletic competition.

Then questions about finances started to surface.

News 8 embarked on a year-long series of investigative reports uncovering numerous financial irregularities, most of which were tied to the alleged mismanagement by school CEO and co-founder D.L. Wallace.

There was evidence of missing money, improper payments, poor building conditions, poor academics, and missing (if not stolen) laptops computers.

The NCAA is also investigating whether the school's curriculum is sufficient for athletes who graduate to be eligible to play college sports. The association has already found that English IV, economics, U.S. government, pre-calculus, earth science, physics and sociology cannot be counted toward an athletes' initial eligibility.

Earlier this year, students were evicted from their classrooms by a landlord who claimed he was not being paid.

While co-founder Sanders helped orchestrate the ouster of D.L. Wallace, the damage had apparently been done.

In a letter sent to the chairman of Prime Prep on Tuesday, the TEA outlined the irregularities it found, and the state education rules that have been violated.

Most problematic, we are told, is the revocation of federal school lunch program monies which were allegedly misspent.

One TEA insider tells News 8 that in itself is usually the death knell for any state charter school.

According to the state, 67 percent of Prime Prep's students are eligible for free or reduced-price food programs -- neither of which are available at the school now because of mismanagement. The state says $45,000 is owed back to taxpayers "due to the fact that no documentation was provided on the review date to support that the claimed reimbursable meals were served for the months of September, October and November 2013."

Deion Sanders told News 8 he is sickened by these developments, saying he blames co-founder D.L. Wallace. In a post on Twitter, Sanders called Wallace "a crook" and "heartless," adding that the school is "still suffering from his Devilish ways."

In an interview Tuesday night, Sanders said: "And somebody's doing what? Stealing money? Mismanaging funds? To the tune of $45,000, which is nothing to sneeze at? It's ignorant. It's ignorant, and the kids are getting punished."

Sanders said he is confident that the Prime Prep charter will be restored in time for this coming school year.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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