At the close of Prime Prep Academy's first year, Deion Sanders was already unhappy with his role at the charter school he co-founded with D.L. Wallace. Sanders' attorney John Nation sent Wallace a letter expressing concern that "Mr. Sanders is becoming marginalized from the very institution that represents his vision, his commitment, his sacrifice." Also, he wanted more money.
His attorney included in the letter a list of demands such as "Mr. Sanders must have an equal say on all financial allocations" and "Mr. Sanders' pay should be equal to yours." At the time, Wallace's annual salary as CEO was $120,000 while Sanders was taking in $40,000.
Sanders did not get his wish, and this past August, Texas State Senator Royce West agreed to host a meeting between the two embattled business partners. It did not go well.
In a letter, Wallace describes being viciously attacked by Sanders in front of the senator. "He pushed me so hard that the back wheel broke of[f] the chair and I fell backward to the ground." It was at that point, Wallace writes, that Sanders tried to strangle him.
"Deion proceeds to reach for my throat in an attempt to choke me but as he was grabbing for [my] throat, Senator West intervened and restrained him."
It was not the first time that Sanders had been accused of attacking other school employees, and Wallace writes that he was "becoming increasingly concerned very uncomfortable [sic] about this pattern of behavior from him."[jump]
We've left messages with Nation, Sanders' Truth sports league, his business partner Reginald Calhoun and Sanders' Twitter account seeking a response, but have not heard back. Senator West also has not responded, though Wallace printed out emails he sent to West discussing the alleged attack.
Wallace also declined an interview request. He made the accusations in a letter that a school administrator showed to the Observer and several parents yesterday along with emails and the letter from Sanders' attorney.
The documents describe an intense, growing division between the school's two campuses. Wallace claims that Sanders wants to run the school's Dallas campus as his own "private enterprise" while showing little interest in the students at the Fort Worth campus.
It's easy to forget that there are two Prime Prep campuses, because it's usually just the sports-focused high school in Dallas, with its top athletes, NCAA troubles and Deion antics, that makes the news.
But parents and staff describe major differences between the campuses. The Fort Worth campus, which has only grades K-6, is a relatively normal, quiet school, parents say, with devoted teachers, a minimal focus on sports and rarely any Deion sightings. They would like it to stay that way. "I believe the academic part was actually pretty good," says Nina Roberts, who has two children in the Fort Worth school.
Wallace is now accusing Sanders of threatening to destroy both campuses in a power grab.
Among Wallace's allegations:
- Calling another school administrator named Mr. Allen the "N" word and then shoving him on campus on May 31. (In a meeting last week at Fort Worth, that same administrator told a similar story to reporters and parents, though he declined to give his name at the time).
- Attempting to commit the school to appear in a reality show on Oprah's network, "where he would obviously make an undisclosed amount of money but the school would not receive any benefit whatsoever." (Fun fact: The Observer might be on the show.)
- Undermining former Superintendent Rachel King-Sanders (the administrator who fired Sanders, twice) including calling her to tell her whom she couldn't fire because they were "untouchable"
- Making threats to destroy the entire school if he does not get his way, such as saying, "I'm going to get more money or else it won't be a school -- period."
- Attempting to put new board members in place who are more supportive of Sanders.
Sanders was famously fired from Prime Prep by then Superintendent Rachel King-Sanders (no relation) in October after Chief Financial Officer Kevin Jefferson reported to police that Sanders attacked him during a meeting. He was soon rehired. But King-Sanders fired him again in December with little public explanation.
Wallace resigned in late November.
Lately, it seems that Sanders has found success with at least one of his goals -- gaining sympathy with the president of the school's governing board, an attorney named T. Christopher Lewis. In a meeting the board held at the Dallas campus during the December 6 ice storm, Lewis criticized King-Sanders and expressed hope for a new administrator to come on and rehire the athlete. "I think he 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 told Unfair Park at the time. The Dallas parents who attended that meeting, many of whom know Sanders through his Truth sports league, agreed with that position. At another meeting 10 days later, Lewis' board announced that King-Sanders had resigned.
Last Wednesday, just several days after her apparent resignation, Lewis emailed members of the media informing them that his board was hosting an "emergency meeting" at the school's Fort Worth campus in about two hours.
It was at that meeting that Lewis announced that they would be hiring a new superintendent, former Dallas ISD trustee Ron Price.
Yet parents and teachers at Fort Worth say that they liked King-Sanders. For them, news of her resignation was a surprise. "She was phenomenal," says Bridgett Webb, who has a fourth-grader in the elementary school. On the other hand, Webb says that she was never thrilled with the idea of having her daughter enrolled in a school associated with Deion Sanders, but will probably keep her there in spite of that. "My daughter absolutely loves Prime Prep. Even at the end of last year, there was no doubt that she was coming back. ... I know for me, something would just drastically have to change for me to change my mind."