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FORT WORTH The grounds surrounding Trimble Tech High School are clean and trim. Jesus Ojeda helped get things in shape this summer.

'We'd be sweeping, buffing, mowing yards and doing straight yard work,' he said.

Jesus was told he'd be paid $8 an hour, 30 hours a week, for 15 days of work. He was among about 100 students who worked outside and in at more than 20 Fort Worth Independent School District campuses as part of a Good Hands Crew program created by The Rev. Kyev Tatum.

'Approximately 7,500 hours,' is the time Tatum estimates students worked, 'at roughly about $70,000 for staff and students.'

But Tatum said the district is now refusing to pay the 70-grand because there was no signed contract for the work.

'They are hiding behind the legality,' he said. 'So you tell me what it's about, if it's not about race?'

Tatum said he received verbal permission for the program from former Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Walter Dansby, who left the district in early June.

But the district provided News 8 with a rejection e-mail sent in May. It says, in part, 'the program was not approved,' and 'the maintenance department cannot fund the program.'

Fort Worth ISD spokesman Clint Bond said they are now investigating who let the students on campus this summer.

'Principals may not have been at the campus, and the campus may only have been monitored by a by custodian,' Bond said.

The school spokesman said while the district feels a moral obligation to pay the students, it also has an obligation to taxpayers.

The district cannot hire underage workers. It would also need school board approval for a program that costs $70,000.

Parents showed up at the administration building Tuesday morning to fill out complaints and ask for an explanation.

'These kids, they deserve to get paid,' said Aisha Waller.

'Just do the right thing for the kids,' urged W.L. Pinchback.

Jesus Ojeda said he is $750 for his labor.

'I was planning on using it for my community college and helping my mom pay some bills,' he said.

Jesus and other students and parents hope they don't have to learn an expensive lesson.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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