Prime Prep Academy, A Troubled Charter School, Shutting Down Today | KERA News

Prime Prep Academy, A Troubled Charter School, Shutting Down Today

Jan 30, 2015

The troubled Prime Prep Academy, co-founded by football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, closed its doors for good today.

The charter school’s board of managers, recently installed by the Texas Education Agency, decided there wasn’t enough money to continue operating.   

Both the Fort Worth and Dallas campuses are closing immediately.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams agreed with the decision, saying "the financial resources simply aren't there."

The TEA is giving information packets to Prime Prep students and parents about how to get student records, and how to transfer to other schools. Resources for parents and students are also available at the TEA website.

Staff members have been told about how to apply for unemployment benefits and how to buy health coverage.

Prime Prep opened in 2012. But almost from the start the charter school had management problems, board fights, and failed to comply with various state laws. 

Williams, the Texas education commissioner, says the school doesn’t have enough money to continue operating. He says he’s directed Texas Education Agency staff to help families find new schools in the middle of the school year.

“In light of what we now know, such upheaval could have been avoided by the previous school leadership had they acknowledged their financial issues and worked with us toward an orderly transition that put students first,” Williams said in a statement.

In the statement, Williams also said:

“After reviewing the financial information discovered over the past week, I agree with the Prime Prep board of managers’ decision to cease operation immediately. I recognize this was a difficult decision for board members to make. While there was hope this charter could survive through the end of the school year, the financial resources simply aren’t there. It is unfortunate that those who remained committed to learning on these campuses – the students and teachers – are the ones who will be affected most by circumstances out of their control.”

Last week, Williams appointed a board of managers and an interim superintendent to oversee Prime Prep, a charter held by Uplift Fort Worth. That comes after reports of the school being in bad financial shape.

On Tuesday, the school was supposed to appear at a state hearing. But school officials didn't show up.

KERA's Bill Zeeble reports:

The troubled charter school co-founded by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders has been under scrutiny for quite some time. On Tuesday, it was supposed to appear at a state hearing, but school officials never showed. 

The final clock started ticking on Prime Prep last summer. That’s when the Texas Education Commissioner sent the school, run by Uplift Fort Worth, a letter saying it was out of compliance with nutrition rules and also had accounting problems.

Informal appeals failed. Tuesday’s hearing in Austin was a last chance effort in the State Office of Administrative Hearing, known as SOAH. Texas Education Agency spokesperson Lauren Callahan was there. 

“Their lawyer made a motion to withdraw,” Callahan says. “No one from the school was present at the hearing. And so our lawyers here at TEA asked the judge at SOAH for a motion of default. The judge did grant that motion for default.”

That’s the same as the school conceding defeat. Just a few weeks back Prime Prep officials admitted they were practically out of money. In the past year, hundreds of students had left. 

Prime Prep Academy was awarded its charter by the state in 2011. In August 2012, the school opened, TEA says.