Deion Sanders' Bitter and Violent Quest to Retake Control of His Crumbling Charter School

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Sure, he was a celebrity, and sure, the school was named after him. But from where Vera Cole sat, Mr. Prime Time couldn't have been more down to earth.

Cole was the academic counselor at Prime Prep Academy, the controversial charter school co-founded by NFL Hall of Famer Deion "Prime Time" Sanders. She worked long hours in the front office at the campus in southern Dallas, a run-down building that doubles as a church, scheduling classes for students. With a salary of $42,000, she made more money than Sanders himself, whose only official role was football coach.

"Hi, Miss Cole," Sanders would often greet her, sweetly. He was always cordial, Cole says, at least toward her. His temper was well known, but she hadn't experienced it firsthand.


Deion Sanders

Email the author at amy.silverstein@dallasobserver.com.

Until October.

There was a staff meeting. Sanders wanted to know why Prime Prep's Dallas campus was underfunded. He thought the lower school, in Fort Worth, was getting more money. And he wanted answers from Kevin Jefferson, the school's chief financial officer.

"I want you to hear this. You in the back," Sanders yelled, according to Jefferson. "Why can't we get what they have in Fort Worth?"

Jefferson claims he had no idea what Sanders' gripe was. He asked him to elaborate, but Sanders kept yelling: "This is my name on the school, my kids." Jefferson stood up. Facing each other, Sanders grabbed him by the collar and pushed him against the wall, Jefferson would later tell police.

About a week or two later, a Dallas Police Department detective visited Cole at her office. She related what she witnessed on the condition that word wouldn't get back to Sanders. (She declined to discuss the details with the Observer, only indicating that she saw some sort of confrontation between the two.) There were other administrators in the office that day, people who saw her cooperating with the investigation, but she trusted her coworkers not to gossip.

Not long after, Sanders was back in Cole's office. He talked to a student, like he'd so often done before. Then he looked at Cole, glaring silently.

"I was like, 'OK, maybe he had a bad day,'" Cole says.

But things only devolved. Sanders stopped greeting her, and soon parents seemed surprised to still see her there. "I heard you were getting fired," they'd say. Sanders was "out to get" her, they said.

She went to Shelley Robinson, the Dallas campus' principal. Robinson suggested she have a one-on-one conversation with Sanders. Cole refused. "Why would I have a conversation with someone who gets very emotional and reactive when they're upset?" she says.

She developed a sinking feeling that Robinson was not on her side. "At first she was like very neutral, but towards the end, she was not. She was like Team Deion." (Robinson did not respond to multiple messages left with a secretary and an email.)

A few days before winter break, Cole went home early. She told Robinson that she felt as if she was being bullied, and it was making her feel physically ill. Not long after that she got a phone call. It was from a parent in Las Vegas, where Prime Prep's basketball team was playing in a tournament. "I heard you got fired for real this time," the parent told Cole.

The parent repeated word for word the conversation Cole had earlier had with the principal about feeling sick and bullied. All the coaches knew, the parent said, and Sanders knew, too.

Technically, Sanders didn't even work at the school at that point, having been fired by the school's superintendent after the alleged assault on Jefferson and other incidents, all of which had only added to Prime Prep's reputation as supreme mess and a stand-alone argument against charter schools. But Sanders and his supporters were not going to let some no-name educators boot him from the school — and, more important, the teams — bearing his name. He was on a quest to re-take the school, leaving behind frightened former employees, numerous assault allegations and a lawsuit accusing the school board of conducting its business in secret.

They would come for her eventually, Cole figured. But for the moment, she held onto hope.

"Not to my knowledge," Cole said into the phone. "I'm not getting fired."

Thirty miles away from Cole's office, in Fort Worth, parents and teachers at Prime Prep's lower school would have had little clue that the leadership team of their school was about to crumble if they hadn't been watching the news.

Sanders is rarely seen on that campus. The poached athletes, the news crews, the reality television cameras — that all happened in Dallas. The Fort Worth campus managed to stay out of the fray. Parents preferred it that way.

"We don't want our children on television," says Sabrina Franklin, who has three kids at the school. "We don't want our children displayed like zoo animals."

According to parents, the Fort Worth campus seemed to operate under the control of D.L. Wallace, who co-founded the school with Sanders in 2012. Soft-spoken where Sanders is loud, dressed in tailored suits while Sanders came to school in sweats, Wallace gave an air of someone important, sleek and quietly powerful. "You could tell he was corporate America," one teacher says.

But while Wallace isn't a celebrity, he's also not an educator. So he wasn't the guy teachers and parents in Fort Worth turned to when they needed something. In Fort Worth, the person who had things functioning like something resembling a school was Prime Prep's assistant superintendent and de facto principal, Rachel King-Sanders. (She's not related to Deion Sanders.)

King-Sanders has been certified by the State Board of Education since 2007 to teach regular and special education and work as a principal. Prime Prep performed poorly on Texas Education Agency's recent curriculum test, parents acknowledge. But so had the other public schools nearby.

"I could email her, I could call her. Her door was always open for parents," says Nina Roberts, a mother at the Fort Worth campus. "I think she did an excellent job."

Another mother sent her 9-year-old daughter there after getting an automated phone call. She didn't make the Deion Sanders connection until a friend pointed it out. "I didn't want her associated with him," she says. But she also didn't like the public school her daughter attended. So Prime Prep it was.

And at first, she loved it. The teachers put her at ease, and she liked King-Sanders, too. "She was phenomenal," Webb says. And dedicated: While juggling the involved parents and young teachers, she also taught speech therapy and special education. She worked long hours, colleagues say, often going home for just a few hours of sleep.

She was rewarded for that work last fall when Wallace promoted her to superintendent of both schools. And when word got out to police and the media that Sanders may have assaulted a school employee, she did what any responsible superintendent would do: She fired him.

In Fort Worth, news that she'd booted the school's namesake didn't much affect her reputation. It was just another news story about that bizarre campus in Dallas, the things teachers and parents in Fort Worth tried their hardest to ignore, even as more teachers began leaving and the school seemed to grow more disorganized. The teachers still working at the school in December were happy to hear from King-Sanders that she would be back at the Fort Worth campus more often.

"We were excited because we thought we got her back," a teacher says. But as they and their beloved principal would soon learn, Dallas was where the power was, and Dallas had what Fort Worth didn't: big-time high school sports.

In a country that worships athletes, under-prepares its kids for college and overcharges them to go, having your kid go to college on a sports scholarship might be some parents' last chance at attaining the American dream. And it's a dream that Sanders and Wallace have sold before.

In 2010, they joined forces to create a book called the PrimeTimePlayer Pages. For a fee, parents could put their student athletes inside of a "look book" that would be sent to more than 500 colleges and universities.

The project fell apart. The books never went out, and Sanders and Wallace got hit with a $1.8 million fraud lawsuit from investors.

The case was eventually dropped and the controversy melted away, as they always do with Sanders. And soon, Sanders and Wallace were back in Dallas' poorest neighborhoods, selling parents on that same dream, only with Prime Prep there was one major difference: This time, taxpayers would foot the bill.

For many of the parents, Sanders was not an unfamiliar pitchman. He's been claiming to groom kids for college sports since 2007 through his Prime Time Association, a nonprofit that organizes a sports summer camp and an elite private sports league called Truth. For $250 each season, parents say, kids can be coached by one of the NFL's greatest players.

"We totally believe in the vision. We've seen firsthand what he had done with our son," says Catrina Henderson, the Vice President of the Prime Prep Academy's Prime Time Sports Academy in Dallas.

Henderson didn't hear about Prime Prep from an automated phone call. She heard about the school directly from Sanders. Her son played football in the Truth sports league. He already went to a good school, but he transferred to Prime Prep anyway. "We'd seen what he had done with countless other kids," she says.

The concept, as Sanders and Wallace pitched it to state regulators, would be a school that helped top athletes get into college. It impressed Charlie Garza, who at the time served on the State Board of Education. His committee approved the charter. Shortly after, Wallace hired Garza away.

As principal of the Dallas campus last year, Garza quickly bonded with Sanders. He, too, supports Sanders' vision. "He believes, to his core, that some kids are very athletic but don't have the academics to go with it," Garza says of Sanders. "His vision is to combine the two." Garza was honored when Sanders asked him for a favor at the close of Prime Prep's first school year: "'Will you call me Prime?'"

Whatever Sanders' vision, the execution has been infamously sloppy from Day One. The initial charter application claimed corporate partnerships that didn't exist, plagiarized other schools' applications and included a scam by Wallace to pay himself rent with taxpayer money. State regulators caught the problems and approved the charter anyway.

Things only got worse once the schools opened. In its first year, four top boys basketball players were ruled ineligible by the University Interscholastic League, which oversees Texas' high school sports, after they transferred illegally from Arlington Grace Prep with their coach Ray Forsett, whom Prime Prep also poached. In response, Prime Prep withdrew from the UIL and switched to the Texas Christian Association League, a league primarily made of charter schools and private schools. And when two of those players graduated and were ready to accept college scholarships, the NCAA ruled them ineligible, citing problems with Prime Prep's academic curriculum. The NCAA's ruling nearly cost the students their scholarships, though the players successfully appealed.

It's not just top athletes being failed. Parents expected Prime Prep to be a polished college preparatory school, as the name suggests. Instead, Henderson says, they found the lights in the hallway were dim and sometimes flickered, reminding her of a less odorous Abercrombie & Fitch. The paint on the walls was peeling away. A sign on the side of a building, attached by duct tape, warns visitors that a side door is broken.

Tasha Avery's son got three football scholarship offers, she says, but she's not sure he'll have enough school credits to major in chemistry. Lillian Young's son had to retake a math class online to graduate on time.

"The school does not look like a preparatory school, it doesn't feel like it," Henderson says.

The Texas Education Agency, which approved the school's charter application, opened an investigation into both campuses in December, alleging that the school may not have been conducting criminal history reviews of employees; that potential financial conflicts of interest have not been released; that board meetings "may not be held as announced"; and that the teachers may not be "highly qualified" under the No Child Left Behind Initiative, among other allegations.

But none of that has tarnished Sanders' reputation on the Dallas campus. Among the parents whose kids' scholarships seem to rest in Sanders' hands, it has always been D.L. Wallace, the non-athlete in the suit, who was standing in their way.

"The visionary of this school is what made me bring my kid here," says another mother, whose child, a football player, commutes from Plano to the Oak Cliff campus. She accuses other administrators, including Wallace, of purposely trying to sabotage Sanders' school: "It was almost like they were rebelling against the vision that the visionary set for the actual school."

Technically, the parents were right: It was Wallace who was in charge. He had appointed the school board. He was the top staff member. His name, not Sanders', graced the school's application, and when reporters asked Sanders about the school before it opened, he deferred questions to Wallace. On paper, if not in the school's identity, Sanders was little more than an employee.

But as the school got off the ground, it became clear that Sanders answered to no one, and that any deference to Wallace was a facade, a thing of the past, or both. One afternoon, he casually dropped his children off on campus as he was followed by a camera crew, Garza recalls. He was filming a docu-series about his life, scheduled to air on the Oprah Winfrey Network this March.

Wallace claims he knew nothing about it. He wrote a letter to parents arguing that Sanders "would obviously make an undisclosed amount of money" from the show, "but the school would not receive any benefit whatsoever."

Meanwhile, Sanders' temper continued to cause trouble across the Dallas campus. Late last May, Sanders brought some former NFL players to the fieldhouse at the Dallas campus to train, says Sean Allen, a former administrator at the school who worked at both campuses. Allen suspected that the NFL players hadn't signed in, as visitors are supposed to do.

"They didn't get field passes," Allen says. Worse, their presence in the fieldhouse meant that the school's own students couldn't use it. Allen asked Sanders to send the guys away. Sanders said no. Allen suggested that they share the workout equipment with the children, offering a teachable moment in both fitness and compromise.

Sanders wasn't interested. He looked to the other men who had walked in with Allen, including Wallace. "'You better get your nigga," Sanders told them, according to Allen.

"I'm not a nigga," Allen shot back. Sanders ran toward him. He pressed his chest against him. Allen pushed him away, he says, but Sanders put his hands on Allen's throat. Wallace and others pulled the men apart as Sanders challenged Allen "take this to the fieldhouse and finish this up like men do." (Allen later related the story to a small crowd of parents, reporters and school administrators but never went to the police. "I did not call the authorities. I was afraid," he says.)

The next month brought another blowup. Sanders' feud with Wallace was intensifying, and Sanders seemed to be growing insecure about his role at the school. In June, his attorney sent Wallace a series of long complaints, demanding more respect as a business partner.

First there was money. Wallace's salary was $120,000, dwarfing Sanders' $40,000. Sanders also wanted access to the school's budget. He wanted a say in who got hired. He wanted to be "in the loop." He was becoming marginalized, according to his attorney, and he wanted new board members in place: "The board of this institution is composed of 'your people,'" the attorney complained. He vaguely demanded that "a new operating agreement needs to be drafted."

Sanders offered a solution, which he apparently had kicked around with Garza and George Hegamin, the ex-NFL player who was a coach at Prime Prep at the time. They could split the Fort Worth and Dallas campuses, with Sanders taking over Dallas and Wallace getting Fort Worth. "I thought it was a great idea, given that we couldn't do anything without Wallace telling us what to do," Garza says.

Wallace didn't agree. He thought Sanders was trying to run the Dallas campus as a private business, he said in a letter to parents, with little regard for state law. Still, he agreed to meet with Sanders again in the fieldhouse.

Outside of Prime Prep, the popular opinion is that Sanders doesn't care much about the school anyway, that's it just a money-making scheme. And it's true that Sanders did want to earn more money than what Wallace had offered. But the feud went deeper than dollar bills. Sanders also desired power on campus. Answering to Wallace, who he thought was his partner, hurt his pride. That's clear from the meeting between Wallace and Sanders at the fieldhouse. The Observer obtained an audio recording of the meeting.

"I'm going to get more money, or there ain't going to be more school, that's just flat-out how it's going to be," Sanders is heard telling Wallace.

It's not clear who else was in the room when Sanders made that remark. Asked about the meeting, Prime Prep Board President T. Christopher Lewis recalls once witnessing a "heated discussion" about "equity of decisions of the school between Deion and D.L Wallace," but he declined to comment further without hearing the recording himself.

"I don't remember that exact verbiage," Lewis says.

In the meeting, Sanders acknowledged that he didn't really need the money. "With the money I'm getting, I turn around and stipend my coaches. Because God has blessed me, I don't really need it. But I'm going to get it, because it's mine and my name is on the building. OK, that's just fair. I don't know who you can look in this eye in this room, and say, 'I'm going to give myself 120 Gs, and I'm giving Prime 40.'"

Wallace didn't flatly reject Sanders' request for more money— not in the recording, at least. He just wanted to know what Sanders would do to earn it.

"Now you tell me then: What position?" Wallace asked.


"What position?"

"HNIC," Sanders responded. (That's "Head Nigga in Charge.")

"How are you going to give yourself something, but I can't give myself something?" Sanders went on.

In a separate recording, apparently from the same meeting, Sanders alluded to getting help from politicians to get Prime Prep off the ground in the first place.

"You don't even really know how we got this school in Austin, you don't really know, so let me tell you, it ain't because all these inflated words and wonderful things we said, it was another way. Senators, political leaders that you hooked me up with, that you put me down with, that's how we got the school," Sanders said, before repeating what many in the public have wondered for quite some time: "How in the world do you think we got a school?"

Sanders reminded Wallace that he once trusted him, but lately he felt disrespected. "I always had your back," Sanders said. "I feel like throwing this chair at you and breaking your damn neck right now and I don't even use profanity. But I'm going to let it ride, because I'm pissed off, because I love kids. You look at it as business, nigga, I look at it as kids. ... I got to ask you to hire, nigga? I gotta ask you to get a kid in here? I gotta ask you like you my daddy for a check, nigga?"

They were still trying to reconcile in August, this time in the office of state Senator Royce West, emails between the senator and Wallace show. But things only escalated. Sanders said he was "sick of this mess," according to Wallace. That, Wallace says, is when Sanders attacked him.

Sanders stood up, walked toward Wallace and pushed Wallace in his swivel chair, according to the account Wallace wrote to parents and Senator West. Wallace rolled back. Sanders followed the chair and pushed Wallace again. A wheel broke off. Wallace fell backward to the ground, the short back of his chair not able to support the force. Sanders approached Wallace as he lay on the ground, his legs in the air. Again, Wallace says, Sanders went for the throat. The senator pulled Sanders away. Wallace jumped to his feet and Sanders left the building.

Afterward, Wallace wrote an email to the senator's personal email account, thanking him profusely. "I am very thankful you were able to restrain him because I don't know how much more harm would have come to me if you had not intervened." Wallace declined an interview request, but he indicated to parents that he didn't call police because he wanted to keep the school out of the news. West did not respond to numerous email and phone messages.

In an apparent last-ditch effort to keep some normalcy at the school, Wallace hired an attorney, who promptly fired Garza. With that, Sanders had lost his biggest ally. It was another setback for Team Deion. In the parallel pseudo-reality universe of Sanders' life being captured for OWN, Garza had become an important hero of the story, the educator allied with Sanders. Awhile after he had been fired, Garza says, he got a call telling him he should go to Prime Prep's homecoming football game. He went. Students ran toward him and hugged him.

Openly defying Wallace's wishes, Sanders' reality television crew was there too, swooping down on Garza during the embrace. "That's just priceless," Sanders told Garza, as cameras rolled. "You can see how much the kids know you care about them."

"To me it was a good exhibit of what to show, of what Prime Prep could be, of how much better it could be," Garza says.

Back in real life, the story was becoming less inspirational, with more people claiming to have been attacked and bullied. Sanders began leaking news to WFAA. "D.L. Wallace is no good. He's a snake," Sanders told WFAA's Brett Shipp in October. "He ain't no good. All he is there for is money."

That same day, news leaked about Sanders' fight with Jefferson, the CFO, who was pursuing assault charges against Sanders. Sanders defended himself on Twitter. "I won't sit and witness my Prime Prep kids receive 2nds when they deserve the best education! There was no assault, but a definite confrontation," he said. Sanders was charged with a misdemeanor. He pleaded no contest and received a $200 citation.

King-Sanders promptly fired him. But hours later, her decision was undone. With Fox 4's cameras rolling, Wallace and Sanders hugged, then stood together with Board President T. Christopher Lewis. They'd made up. Sanders would be brought back, the men announced, with an "expanded role" at Prime Prep.

The make-up session didn't last. Sanders took the feud back to the media again in November, openly telling WFAA about his plans to overthrow Wallace. Wallace resigned three days later. In a letter to parents, he detailed the allegations of abuse against him and Sean Allen and worried openly for the fate of the school.

"I am very concerned that Deion will run off anyone who is not willing to break all the rules so he can get his way," he wrote. "It is almost impossible to serve the best interest of parents, students and the Texas Education Agency and battle Deion's renegade tactics at the same time."

Sanders came for King-Sanders next.

It was December 6, about two weeks after Wallace's ouster, and the ice storm had shut down just about everything. But board President T. Christopher Lewis went ahead with a meeting to "review" King-Sanders' job performance. "When I see reports that our kids are failing, and we have upset parents, I think something's got to be done, so that's what we're trying to do," he said. And those problems were King-Sanders' fault, he said: "Basically the majority of the power in this school is given to the superintendent to do everything."

Only a couple months before, Lewis had embraced King-Sanders' firing of Deion Sanders. "I write in support of the decision to end the relationship between Prime Prep Academy and Mr. Deion Sanders," he wrote in a press release after the firing. But that sentiment, too, was short-lived. Now Lewis and two other board members had defected to Team Deion, and only they and their allies seemed to be clued in on the times and dates of their board meetings. Fort Worth parents and teachers, the ones who liked King-Sanders, say they knew nothing of them. They have no idea who Lewis is. Another board member stopped showing up to meetings because he says Lewis "is a person who has gone rogue." That board member, an attorney named Okey Akpbom, recently filed suit against Lewis, accusing him of violating the open meetings act.

Among the few people who did make the meeting that night were some of Sanders' associates, including Reginald Calhoun, who greeted parents as they came in. Calhoun has been identified by WFAA as a former Prime Prep parent who pulled his kid out of the school. But records show that Calhoun is also the co-director for the Prime Time Association, Sanders' nonprofit. (Calhoun denies that he is an associate of Sanders. "I'm an advocate for kids, that's it," he says.)

Lewis, the board president, began the meeting with a few subtle digs at King-Sanders. "Unfortunately, our current superintendent is not present to give us an update on NCAA compliance," he said. "I was hoping for an update from our superintendent, but she's not here."

True, but an attorney she recently hired, a woman named Kimberly Carlisle, did come. She stood up. "There is no quorum present," she said. They needed at least four board members, she said. "There is ice and snow outside, there are lots of people who would like to be here," Carlisle said.

The crowd was frustrated by the interruption. They wanted a meeting. The first to challenge Carlisle was Omar Jahwar, another friend of Sanders'. (When Sanders and his ex-wife, Pilar, were locked in a custody battle in March, Jahwar testified on Sanders' behalf.)

"I'm not playing tonight, we're going to have a meeting," Jahwar yelled from the back of the auditorium. "We're not going to play the game ... until everybody get their crew," he said, referencing the missing board members, "and then you get your crew, and then we get our crew. Because it's going to be a different type of crew."

The meeting dissolved, and Carlisle returned to her Lexus to find the windows busted out, according to the complaint she filed with police.

At the next meeting, 10 days later, Sanders himself appeared, dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt. He sat with parents in the Dallas auditorium. They joined hands for a prayer: "We thank you for the spirit of integrity and truth."

The coup itself was anticlimactic. Lewis and the same two trustees quietly mumbled their way through a confusing agenda for a few minutes. Then they left for 20 minutes. They returned.

"Is there a motion regarding, uh, the employment, or performance, of the superintendent, Miss Rachel Sanders, King-Sanders?" Lewis asked.

Yes, there was, the trustees quietly said. Barely audible, they announced that King-Sanders resigned, "effective immediately."

That was it. "At this time, we are going to close, um, this meeting of Prime Prep Academy," Lewis said.

"Do what?" a parent yelled.

"At this time, I'd like to close the meeting," Lewis replied.

"Why are we here?" the parent yelled. "No one can barely hear you."

Another trustee, Mary Panzu, spoke in a tense, high voice. She said that parents could come to another meeting in January. "I really do encourage you all to keep coming back," she said.

Carlisle was back, accompanied by a man, who yelled at the board. "These parents showed up, on time. You say, 'Come back.' Come back for what? To be disrespected? Over and over?"

Sanders, noticing that the complaint was coming from an enemy, stepped in. "Hey parents, don't go for that," Sanders said, his distinctive voice booming through the room. "Don't go for that. What he just said, don't go for that."

The board told the parents that they'd hire a new superintendent soon. They were accepting résumés. And then, the president had an announcement that seemed to warm the suspicious crowd over.

"I also want to acknowledge our co-founder, Mr. Sanders," he said. "I'm glad that for all the things we've gone through, that he's still with us. And I think that's one of our largest and most valuable assets, is his role at this school. So Deion, thank you."

The room erupted in applause. Someone whistled. A quiet woman's voice said, "Yay," as the applause died down.

"Is Miss Sanders relieved from her duties?" another parent double-checked.

Only a few days later, the board announced that it had hired a new superintendent, a process that takes most school districts months. Ron Price, a former Dallas ISD trustee, would take over the schools.

"I saw the news stories like everyone else," Price said in an interview about a week later, after a town hall meeting at the Fort Worth campus. "Then the next thing you know, I saw people smiling and hugging or something. So I don't know."

Price said he'll probably hire Sanders back as athletic director. "I know Mr. Sanders has a vision, he was the founder and he really wants to concentrate on athletics, and that's where he'll be," he said.

Everyone else starts from scratch, he said. He said he'd order the administrators to reapply for their jobs. "As long as I think that you care about kids, you're on the team."

Sanders made a rare appearance at the Fort Worth campus that day. He was friendly, charming a group of moms and posing for photos with teachers. Approached at the meeting by the Observer, he waved off allegations that he attacked Wallace.

"Oh my God," Sanders said. "God bless, God bless you." He quickly walked away.

Jefferson, the CFO, was among the first of Sanders' adversaries to fall. Over winter break, just two weeks after Price was hired, all of the administrators hired by Wallace, including Jefferson and Sean Allen, found they could no longer log into their email accounts. They were done.

But Cole, the counselor who'd testified to Sanders' comments, didn't hear anything over the break. So she came back to school, hoping for the best. It was 8:30 a.m. The first person she saw was Robinson, the principal. Robinson stopped her.

You're not "authorized" to be here, Cole was told. When she asked why, the principal hesitated. She was silent for a few moments. "I just heard you weren't supposed to be here.'"

The principal called the new superintendent, Cole says. He didn't answer, so she called Calhoun, Sanders' associate, who had no official role at the school. Calhoun said he'd come soon.

Cole's keys still worked, so she stayed on campus, waiting for an update. It wasn't until after 4 p.m., when she was ready to go home, that she heard a knock on the door. It was Calhoun.

Calhoun and Price, the new superintendent, told Cole to go next door, to another office. It was Calhoun, she says, who asked her why she went home early on the day of December 19. She told them she knew that Sanders didn't like her, and that she knew that was why her job was in jeopardy. She told them how unfair it all was. She threatened to sue and talk to the media.

"My job has been taken away because of retaliation, because someone didn't like me personally," she recalls thinking. She didn't bother asking for any second chances or groveling for her job back. There was no point. It was obvious how the meeting was going to end.

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