Charter school suddenly shut down

December 4, 2008 3:47:36 PM PST
Nearly 200 students don't know where they'll go to school tomorrow. Their charter school, Jesse Jackson Academy in southwest Houston, is now closed until further notice. This closure is a shocker for students, but teaches were worried it might be coming. They haven't been paid in months. The Texas Education Agency blames the school's founder and CEO for being more than a year overdue on a critical financial report.

Student Jefia Henderson cried, "This is my school. I love this school!"

Just hours after Jefia got to class the school, she loves shut its doors.

She said, "I had plans from here. It hurts. How are you just going to take that away?"

The TEA suspended the charter school operations at Jesse Jackson Academy due to lack of proper financial reporting. As teachers cleaned out their classrooms, the 17-year-old and nearly 200 classmates digested the devastating news.

"I'm going to college. I want to be a registered nurse," Jefia explained. "I'm trying to do something in life."

"You know we had, like, nowhere else to go," said student Larana Smith. "This is, like, our last option."

Teachers and staff are equally distraught.

Teacher Yvonne Mitchell said, "I do feel empty because they do make my life what it is."

Mitchell's commitment was so deep to her students she, like other teachers, worked without pay for the last 2 1/2 months.

"I just told them we are going to be here with you. "I'm not going to leave you," Mitchell said.

The state cut off funds to school in September because the CEO, Artie Jacksonc never filed the annual financial audit, according to the Texas Education Commissioner. At a TEA hearing last month in Austin, no one from Jesse Jackson Academy even showed up to represent the school. Still, some of the staff question TEA's timing.

Assistant Principal Gwendolyn Brown explained, "Our hope was that TEA would have let us stay open for these kids until they got their complete credits."

Kids like Jefia who now face an uncertain future.

"Like they said, they wasn't getting paid, but they still came every day and it hurt," Jefia said.

Jackson said she does hope to reopen the school as soon as she sorts out her business with the TEA. There's no telling how long that would take. The Jacksons also ran another charter school in Fort Worth. That school was shut down in November for the same reason.

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