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Judge stands order to close Outreach Academy

By KBell
Aug. 4, 2011 at 3:04 a.m.


BACKGROUND

In 2002, the State Board of Education created Outreach Word Academy, which concentrates on humanities and foreign languages

By January of the next year, the school failed to turn in its yearly financial audit, a practice that will continue throughout the school's operation

Other financial problems include delinquent taxes, failure to pay payroll and misdocumentation of federal funds. The school blames the problems on a subpar financial management system and lack of support from the TEA

The TEA announced its intent to revoke the school's charter in July 2010

A judge ruled the TEA should revoke the charter in July 2011

A judge stood by her decision to recommend the state close Outreach Word Academy a day after the charter school filed its rebuttal to the ruling and requested to be allowed to operate at least one more year.

In her letter to the Texas Education Agency, Administrative Law Judge Pratibha Shenoy also wrote that Outreach Academy should not be allowed to submit new evidence the school says was not available during the May hearing.

The school's attorney, Joseph Soliz, of Houston, submitted 16 pages of documents he argued proves the school has taken steps to improve its years of financial problems. The documents also prove the school has more assets than what was originally presented at the hearing and that the school is working on developing a payment plan with the IRS, Soliz wrote.

The TEA's response, written by attorney Chris Jones, poked holes in each of the school's arguments.

Jones said the documents, which include financial statements, correspondence and hand-written notes, are not usually used to determine a business' financial state. Instead, the latest financial audit is the best evidence, he said.

The judge agreed, writing, "many of the submitted documents appear to be unverified, incomplete and/or of limited probative value."

Both the TEA and Outreach Word Academy agreed the school's academic performance was never an issue in the case.

According to its website, the school plans to open Aug. 15 and is hosting an open house Aug. 12.

A spokesperson for TEA said on Thursday that the agency had just received the judge's letter. The TEA will review the case, and a final recommendation will be sent to the commissioner for a decision soon.

The TEA did not know when a decision may be made but said the school is free to operate until the final ruling.

Representatives from Outreach Word Academy could not be reached for comment.

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