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News 8 Investigates

DALLAS -- One day after the resignation of co-founder D.L. Wallace, state education officials confirm they are investigating allegations of mismanagement at Deion Sanders' Prime Prep Academy.

Complaints against top school administrators continue to mount as a News 8 explores new questions about the charter school's operations.

The outrage over operations at the taxpayer-funded Prime Prep Academy had been simmering for months. This past week, it began to boil.

Parents, teachers, and now students began speaking.

The face of Prime Prep Academy, co-founder Deion Sanders, Monday called for the resignation of his business partner, Executive Director, D.L. Wallace. Wallace was allegedly putting students at risk through academic mismanagement and overall incompetence.

Teachers and administrators were being laid off. Wallace claimed it was due to a lack of funds.

One former top administrator, who asked not to be identified, was allegedly let go for budgetary reasons just weeks after school started this year.

'The administrative staff was asked to come together and decide which teachers would not come back next year based on income,' he said.

At the same time, according to Prime Prep financial records obtained by News 8, Wallace has been paying $5,700 per month to rent classroom space in a Fort Worth church. That, despite Wallace's assurances to state education officials and to News 8 Prime Prep was not paying rent.

An e-mail from Prime Prep officials to News 8 spelled it out: 'The facilities are being provided by the owners at no cost.'

News 8 also uncovered reimbursement checks to Wallace for miscellaneous expenses signed by his wife, who was in charge of Prime Prep finances.

News 8 has also discovered two mechanics liens filed against Prime Prep Academy, and the fire alarm company said it cut off monitoring service due to unpaid bills.

The Prime Prep charter to operate was approved in 2011 by the State Board of Education. One of the supporters on the board at the time was Mavis Knight of Lancaster.

One year ago, based on a News 8 report about conditions at the newly opened school, Knight responded, 'I am absolutely horrified to hear that the promises that were made to us [...] have not been fulfilled.'

Now, one year later, the situation has apparently gotten worse.

Based in large part on our series of reports, the Texas Education Agency has opened an investigation into conditions at Prime Prep, including a financial audit.

It's worth noting that the investigation is being conducted by the Texas Education Agency staff, which two years ago, tried to warn the state board that awarding Prime Prep Academy a charter would be risky. One evaluator warned Prime Prep's Charter application was 'long on rhetoric and goals, but short on details.'

Now, two years later, State School Board Chair Barbara Cargill said the complaints have been noted and she expects the TEA to take action.

'We are listening to the parents and I know the commissioner is moving forward on having something done,' Cargill said. 'It's been very frustrating.'

After months of not responding to our calls and requests for comment, two days ago, we caught up with D.L. Wallace in Fort Worth. He brushed past News 8's Brett Shipp and again declined to answer any questions.

The next day, he resigned.

Now, it remains unclear as to who is in charge at Prime Prep Academy, although Prime Prep School Board Chairman T. Chris Lewis tells News 8 he will be filing a transition plan with the Texas Education Agency next week.

Whatever happens, State School Board Member Board Mavis Knight believes state officials should become involved soon.

'I will make certain that I follow up with the Texas Education Agency to make certain that they are staying abreast each little issue that is occurring,' Knight said. 'They should take the necessary emergency steps to deal with the situation.'

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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