We so often associate Prime Prep Academy with its co-founder Deion Sanders that we often overlook all the little people who helped make the school such a dysfunctional place. If it wasn't for Prime Prep's school board, for instance, Sanders may have remained permanently fired from the school, removing the threat of future employees ever getting choked again.
The school board that helped Sanders get rehired after his firing last fall was lead by T. Christopher Lewis, an Arlington-based attorney who once vouched for Sanders' commitment to kids. "I think he [Sanders] is an asset to the school and I think, if there is a new superintendent, I think the new superintendent should rehire him immediately," Lewis said one year ago. But Lewis and his two fellow board members were nowhere to be seen last night at 6:30 when they were supposed to be holding their final public meeting. On the agenda was the surrender of Prime Prep's charter; the school board was expected to vote to give up on the school, in a meeting open to anyone who wanted to watch the spectacle. But in the end, the school board couldn't even give Prime Prep the dignity of an official goodbye.
The address provided on the meeting agenda indicated that the meeting was to be held, somewhere, inside a huge, dark, semi-deserted parking lot in East Fort Worth. After a confusing drive in circles around the block, I finally found the right building, at just the time the meeting was scheduled to start. Taped to the door was a sign that said: "TONIGHTS BOARD MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELED 1/26/2015."
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It was a reminder of another Prime Prep board meeting I attended just over a year ago, held when Sanders was staging his coup to regain control of the charter school that he had been fired from not long before. Lewis had emailed a group of reporters in the late afternoon to tell them that Prime Prep was holding an emergency board meeting at the school's Fort Worth campus in two hours. But upon the reporters' arrival, Lewis and the two other board members wouldn't tell anyone the actual room the meeting was in. The reporters wandered around the campus for a really long time, at one point past hundreds of children lining up to perform in a Christmas concert and their parents, and then got locked out of the building. A school administrator with keys finally came for us and led us to the secret classroom where the school board had hunkered down. In the course of the meeting, the nice man with keys then announced to everyone that Sanders had once called him the N-word and choked him, perhaps explaining why the school board didn't want reporters to be there.
Last night's meeting could have brought more interesting revelations, making its cancellation all the more frustrating. Lewis didn't return two voice mails I left on his cell yesterday, though he did give The Dallas Morning News a statement about why there was no meeting. "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." Like numerous other statements various officials have given about Prime Prep in its troubled run, those words say little but sure sound nice.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.