State to revoke Prime Prep charter

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — An administrative judge cleared the way Tuesday for Texas education officials to revoke the charter of a Dallas school co-founded by Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

The judge granted a default judgment against Prime Prep Academy’s appeal Tuesday in Austin after no school representatives appeared at a hearing, The Dallas Morning News  reported.

All that is left for the Texas Education Agency to formalize the charter’s revocation is to present an order for the judge’s signature. In the meantime, a board of state-appointed managers has scheduled a meeting for Friday in Fort Worth to vote on when to close.

The campuses in Fort Worth and Dallas will continue to operate while the board and its state-appointed superintendent review the school’s troubled finances.

The state has provided more than $8.5 million in aid to the school, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid. The school received nearly $175,000 in private donations in 2014, with almost all coming from Sanders, the newspaper reported.

The sports programs of Prime Prep have faced scrutiny for recruiting and eligibility allegations. The school also has fought employee turnover, and last April had to  repay more than $45,000 it received for providing subsidized meals in 2013 because the school provided no documentation those meals were served.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams earlier this month announced that he would appoint a board of managers to run the school, effectively placing it under state control.

The Dallas school founded in 2012 is in financial straits after years of management disputes that led to a state takeover. Prime Prep could close in the middle of the semester if found insolvent.

T. Christopher Lewis, board president of Uplift Fort Worth, which holds the Prime Prep Academy charter, had told the newspaper before the hearing that a default judgment against the school had been expected and that the nonprofit expected the revocation.

“We as a board fought as hard as we could to turn the ship around,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day, we just couldn’t overcome the obstacles.”

In a statement posted on his Twitter account Monday morning, Sanders said he hoped the TEA and the school’s board would allow the school to complete the school year.

“While I remain proud of the many accomplishments made during my tenure at Prime Prep, I realize this is the best way forward and I wish the newly appointed management team much success in the future,” Sanders wrote.