Texas’ Prime Prep Academy Plagued by Financial Woes

Prime Prep Academy, a Texas charter school founded in 2012 by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and business partner D.L. Wallace, is failing.

Prime Prep started in an effort to bring tuition-free academics together with a highly ranked athletics program for underprivileged youth.  For some, the school is their shot at obtaining an athletics scholarship and a college degree.

“It started from a vision,” Wallace, then the school’s CEO, told Sanders in an informational video about the school featuring the partners, “and most of that vision came out of your head. And we took that vision, put it down on paper.”

The school boasts a nationally ranked men’s basketball team and a litany of athletic scholarships for its basketball and football players.

The academics however, are not up to standards, nor are their admittance criteria.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) conducted a  seven-month investigation into the school, and is now recommending the state revoke the charter of Prime Prep’s parent organization, Uplift Fort Worth.

According to the TEA, the federal National School Lunch Program that offers free or reduced-priced lunches for students in need is no longer giving funding to the academy.  The funding was dropped when the school could not account for more than $45,000 of money that was meant to go toward the program.

The academy is also facing severe financial issues.  Uplift Fort Worth owes contractors associated with the school, such as PepsiCo, hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Earlier this year, the academy reported 200 laptops had been stolen and sold.

“It’s a world-class failure when it comes to academics,” said Bob Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk, a nonprofit that ranks the quality of Texas schools. “This is a bad school.”

Problems have occurred not only within the school walls but also between the two co-founders.  Sanders was unhappy with Wallace’s six-figure salary.  Exchanges between the two took place in front of state Sen. Royce West, with reports of Sanders trying to choke Wallace, who resigned in November of 2013.

Despite Sanders being revoked of his role at the school twice within three months in 2013, he has rejoined the school under new superintendent Ron Price.

Upon hearing of the TEA’s recommendation, Sanders took to Twitter to lay the blame for the school’s problems on his former partner, calling him “a crook” and “heartless.”

Sanders has since offered to pay $45,000 of the debt he attributes to Wallace.

“This is a whole new management,” Sanders told Roland Martin on his radio show last month. “We’re getting punished for what [Wallace] did back in 2011.”

Officials still remain uncertain as to what Sanders’ role at the academy is.  Stories surfaced about student athletes acting out in class and leaving campus whenever they wanted.  According to the stories, Sanders would step in before they could be disciplined.

“Deion Sanders had been interfering in the attempt to discipline the kids,” said Prime Prep board member Okey Akpom, who added that the board has been catering to the needs of Sanders and T. Christopher Lewis, the school board’s president, at the expense of the students’ education. “My concern is we shouldn’t have Deion Sanders sitting in board meetings telling us what to do. It shouldn’t be that way.”

An appeal on the recommended revoking has been put in motion by the school, whose future still remains unclear.

“The school is called Prime Prep Academy,” Sanders told Roland Martin, referring to his nickname being a part of the school’s name. “That’s like Ronald and McDonald. They’re never separating.”