School special ed scandal price tag

March 11, 2009 10:25:42 AM PDT
A state audit issued Tuesday finally puts a price tag on the special education scandal in the North Forest Independent School District, but are the children paying the real price? "I would like for them to step up and do what's right for these kids," said Tiffany Jones who is an angry North Forest ISD parent. "We the parents are our children's voices, eyes and ears."

It's a plea to the state capitol from Imani's mom. Imani is one of the kids cheated because of last year's North Forest special education scandal.

"These kids need help, they need an education and a good one and a safe school environmental, just like everyone else," Jones told us.

But this year Tiffany Jones tells us Imani has come home from her middle school with chunks of her hair cut out, ripped clothes and her diapers unchanged.

"This is abuse and neglect," she said.

Our call for help to the state a few weeks ago got Imani's mom promises of more supervision. But the misspending at North Forest will now cost Imani and hundreds more like her, even more.

Tuesday afternoon state auditors announced they want to withhold more than $300,000 from new special education grants after confirming widespread abuse of federal money before. That's the family affair we first exposed last year.

"Investigative reporter get the truth," said North Forest ISD special education director Ruth Watson. "Quit with all of this foolishness."

The truth was that now former special ed director Ruth Watson had directed grants to her family and friends - consultants who were clearly not qualified.

"What is this a black and white issue here you got now," asked North Forest ISD special education consultant Willie Hall. "You're fixing to get under my skin now man, now you know that!"

"I think you are a mess maker," said Watson.

Watson has been suspended since last fall with pay. She's making $7,000 a month of your money.

"She needs to pay all the money back and provide the services, the care, the equipment that these kids need," Jones suggested.

State auditors questioned almost every invoice submitted by Lester Houston's company. They were paid more than $400,000 to supposedly help parents of special needs kids.

I approached Mr. Houston to talk with him about the money he had made from the North Forest School District.

"No comment sir," he replied.

I asked Watson if she had a private relationship with Mr. Houston.

"I have a very, very private relationship with all of my contractors," Watson replied.

The district attorney began investigating in October 2007, but to this day, no one has been charged with a crime. No one forced to pay back a penny to taxpayers.

"So everything is just ok that they keep the money, no one can give the money back," asked Jones. "I'm sorry, I'm just at a loss for words, I'm just shocked."

The DAs office told us weeks ago they were still investigating. The new superintendent at North Forest refused to talk with us.

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