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Column: The Prime Prep saga.. time to move on

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By George Harvey
Special to TexasHSFootball.com

To the surprise of virtually nobody, Deion Sanders’ Prime Prep Academy is set to be shut down for “improper financial management and not complying with state education code,” according to a Dallas Morning News report.

The school, which was co-founded by Sanders, has provided numerous examples of why the former National Football League (NFL) star should not have ventured down this road.

Sure, he may have had great intentions in his heart (debatable), but in reality, it was not the best business decision.

The charter school, which has branches in Dallas and Fort Worth, has been controversial since opening.

The school has seen Sanders fired and removed from the campus, co-founder D.L. Wallace “pressured” into resigning, the football team barred from participating in the University Interscholastic League, negative publicity for holding no open meetings and had the Fort Worth campus, for lower school students, ranked last out of 1,608 schools in the North Texas rankings of public and charter schools produced by the nonprofit Children at Risk.

At one point, the Dallas Observer reported that Sanders desired “a bigger role, and bigger salary at the school.” The newspaper reported that Sanders was making $40,000 while Wallace collected $120,000 and that Sanders demanded more money. In a recording obtained by the Dallas Observer, Sanders tells Wallace, “I’m going to get more money, or there ain’t going to be no school, that’s just flat out how it’s going to be”.

Wallace claimed Sanders attempted to choke him and another employee, per the Dallas Observer. Numerous claims have been reported regarding Sanders getting verbally, or physically, abusive with school employees.

Clearly, this alone shows that Sanders really was not fit to run the academy. But, allow me to give a few more examples.

In March 2014, the landlord for the Fort Worth campus evicted the school, according to WFAA, an ABC affiliate. The station reported that the school “stopped paying the $18,000 per month rent”.

Jumping to the present day, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced its intent to close the schools.

The school has been ineligible to participate in the federal free-and-reduced-lunched program and cannot participate in child nutrition programs, financial issues have yet to be corrected and has not followed “generally accepted accounting standards”, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Texas Department Agriculture (TDA) has demanded repayment of $45,830.92 the school received for subsized meals in 2013, but provided no documentation the meals were served, according to the newspaper.

Sanders took to Twitter to provide comments of the situation. Sanders said in several consecutive tweets, “My former Co-Founder [D.L.] was a [c]rook and [h]eartless and we are still suffering from his [d]evilish ways. TEA informed Prime Prep [t]hey would revoke the charter pending appeal for the Food Program that Wallace hustled the state out of [$] 45,000. We will appeal immediately. I feel bad for this nonsense of yesterday affecting today and the potential of tomorrow for our students and new administration. We will [f]ight this like we have all the other battles that we’ve faced. [The school has had a] 100% graduation rate [two] years straight and 15 scholarships awared [i]n only [two] [y]ears of existence. In no form or fashion has me or my administration done any wrong regarding feeding or educating our students. Truth. I will play the [$] 45,000 myself to right [D.L.] Wallace[‘s] wrong to the state if they will accept it. Don’t punish our kids for this [f]ool. Truth.”

Sorry Mr. Sanders, it really does not work like that. I mean, the money was kind of requested a few months ago and you and your school failed to pay it off.

Truth be told, the situation should never have happened in the first place because you should have not opened, or continued with, the school.

Look, I know you are thinking about the children. I get that. And I think it is awesome that you are considered about the children getting an education – well, the report of you demanding more money suggests otherwise – but, there are other ways you can help the children.

How about scholarship programs? Clearly, leading a school is not working out in your favor.

Hit up local schools – whether lower or upper schools or even colleges – and say you would like to help pay off tuitions for the students that need it the most. In my opinion, it would be way easier to just write checks in that scenario then to continue running a very unsuccessful institution.

Or, you can even teach the most important form of education – character traits.

What a fantastic example you have set for the students that look up to you. Start a charter school to help the children, demand more money and bully your way around.

I can only imagine how many student-athletes are going to command excessive amounts of money when they get to the pros – assuming any of them will.

Oh, and let us not forget about how all the blame has always been placed on other people within the program. Sorry, but if you put your name on something and it goes awry, you kind of have to take some responsibilities here and there.

Then again, maybe you are already teaching them life lessons. I can already hear parents telling their children at the dinner table, “Now Johnny (or Suzy), Mr. Sanders has set a prime – some pun intended – example. If you are going to affiliate yourself with something, be prepared to face the music if something bad happens. And always, always, be respectful of others and be careful who and what you affiliate yourself with.”

Nonetheless, let’s just get this whole mess over with Mr. Sanders and allow the charter to be revoked and let us all move on with life. Honestly, how many people are going to be jumping to enroll, or reenroll, their children after seeing negative report after negative report?

With all due respect, this was not the prime (pun intended) situation for you to be involved with.

About Christopher Lyke

Christopher Lyke is the Contributing Editor and Founder of TexasHSFootball.com, which has been in operation since 2001.