Prime Prep closure leaves staff members frustrated

For the first time since it closed, Prime Prep employees are going public – former administrators and teachers claim they haven't been paid since December.

They blame the T.E.A. for leaving them without any plan for employment after shutting down the charter school co-founded by Deion Sanders.

Ebony Phinisee, the former principal of the Fort Worth campus, says she started noticing red flags in October when payroll checks came in late.

"We asked about the budget for reasons such as how was our title I money should be spent, how campus budget monies are, what are we using for supplies and materials at the campus level," said Phinisee.

On Friday, a state-appointed board revealed Prime Prep only had $60,000 in the bank and $710,000 in debt, including January payroll.

In addition, FOX 4 has previously reported the charter school was not paying into the teacher retirement system, so Phinisee says her former employees can't access those monies to help with bills.

"They're gonna have to make a claim through the T.E.A. and they've got good cause to go to the Texas Workforce Commission," said Albert Black, President of the Board of Managers. "That's one of the top casualties coming out of this matter."

The announcement of the school's closure came at 2:45 Friday afternoon.

Phinisee said her employees had until 8 p.m. to collect their belongings and leave, with no plan for beyond.

"Plans were put in place for the students," she said. "We had this great packet of information for where our students should go, and I'm glad we took care of our babies, we had schools, charter schools and public schools for them to go to, but they didn't think about those things in terms of the staff."

In total, 54 employees lost their jobs with little recourse.

Phinisee says she sent a certified letter to the T.E.A. Commissioner, and plans to file a complaint.

In the meantime, she's spending her days writing references for her former employees so they can collect welfare benefits.

"Every single day, whether they were paid or not, they came, they showed up, they did their jobs," she said.

Former Prime Prep teachers plan to meet Thursday morning to seek restitution for the monies they're owed.

Phinisee says most employees aren't eligible for unemployment benefits until Feb. 18, making it six weeks since they've had a paycheck.

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