Monday's news that Prime Prep Superintendent Ron Price is resigning at the end of January marked the beginning of the end (for real this time, we think) of Deion Sanders' troubled charter school. His resignation was followed with an announcement from state officials that the Texas Education Agency is appointing its people to oversee Prime Prep.
And now one of the parents who had enthusiastically sent her son from out-of-state to play football for Prime Prep has given up on the school, too. Netori Johnson, the Prime Prep football standout who was recruited from Atlanta to live in an apartment with other students and coaches, has moved back home, his mother said when reached on the phone yesterday.
"I just thought it wasn't a good situation for us anymore," says Tara Stroud, Johnson's mother. She heard from her son that teachers were on strike and that enrollment is down.
We first interviewed Stroud in August, when we discovered that there were two off-campus apartment units in Dallas housing Prime Prep athletes that had come from other states and the Caribbean, living with coaches as the adult supervision.
Though it sounded like a potentially troubling living arrangement, reminiscent of the housing situation that lead to a DISD student athlete's murder a few months earlier, Stroud said at the time she was confident that her son was in good hands. She compared the athletes-in-apartments scenario to military academies, where teenage students also move away from their families and live with their instructors. Johnson had a troubled childhood but had excelled in sports. He needed a school like Prime Prep to guide him, Stroud said at the time.
News that the TEA was planning to revoke Prime Prep's charter had already broken at that point, but Stroud was under the impression at the time that the school's troubles were in the rear-view mirror thanks to Sanders. "Mr. Sanders told us he's taking care of everything," Stroud said in August.
But that was then. Now, Stroud says, she hasn't been able to speak with Sanders recently. "I haven't spoken with him personally in over a month," she says. "I know he's busy. I just felt that the best thing for me to do for Netori was to bring him back."
The father of David Been, one of two athletes who had been recruited from the Caribbean, had also told us in September that he had only heard good things about Prime Prep and was happy to send his son away to attend the school. And a coach in the Caribbean who had fostered the recruitment said that Sanders told him the school would get out of its TEA troubles simply by paying a fine.
Parents aren't the only people that Sanders' and his Prime Prep appear to have misled. The Dallas Morning News reports today that the school canceled health insurance benefits for teachers without notice.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.