Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why We Must Abolish the Texas Education Agency

I, Vida Belford, being over the age of 18years of age, of sound mind and competent to make this affidavit, hereby depose and say that the following is true and correct according to my personal knowledge.

ACLSC Charter School is an alternative to an alternative school of choice within Greater Houston metro area and surrounding counties. ACLSC has made many positive contributions to improve the educational opportunities to thousands of at risk urban learners caught up in anti-social and sometimes criminal behavior. ACLSC has a proven track record of success in meeting the social, developmental, and educational needs of these students. Having a free day care on campus provides young teenage parents, primarily adolescent girls, with an opportunity to continue their education free of worries about inadequate or unaffordable child care. The school provides parent training, child nutrition and developmental classes designed to teach these students appropriate parenting and child nurturing skills, while at the same time, enhancing their understanding of their overall responsibilities as parents. Juvenile crime and anti-social deviance is a serious problem in most major urban areas including Houston metro area. Many of these youth eventually wind up incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities and correctional institutions. ACLSC has an innovative and comprehensive educational curriculum designed to steer at risk urban learners away from destructive anti-social behavior.

ACLSC offers an array of programs and educational activities, including accelerated learning, that will help rehabilitate these youth and guide them into more constructive life choices. Since many students referred to ACLSC have been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents by the juvenile courts, the school serves as a juvenile justice, welfare, and prison reform program in the community and Greater metro area. School staff works cooperatively and in collaboration with law enforcement agencies in the Texas criminal justice system, including the criminal courts and probation departments serving Harris, Fort Bend, and surrounding counties. ACLSC serves as a community service site for these agencies. Representatives and officials with the juvenile parole and probation departments visit the school on a daily basis, and the school staff routinely appears in court to serve as advocates for some students and to report on individual student progress as appropriate. Many students are referred to ACLSC from the Texas Youth Commission, and the staff work closely with TYC to monitor and evaluate individual student progress and performance. The school offers individual counseling in anger management, behavior modification and chemical dependency. ACLSC has a prison reform intervention program. Students who experience on going disciplinary and truancy problems are referred to the program for counseling, mentoring or other services. The initiative is to educate these students about the risks and personal destruction that invariably results from criminal behavior. The student receives counseling and may attend one or more court sessions. Students will also visit a penal institution to see and experience, first hand, a prison environment. We believe upward mobility is important for the success of our students. Along with the more traditional educational curriculum, ACLSC also serves as a job-readiness and employment site for at risks urban learners. The school provides free transportation, tutorials, and extracurricular activities. Students can take classes in driver’s education, woodshop, auto mechanics, carpentry, computer literacy, drama, dance, home economics and music production. Given the current popularity of pop music, the school has a recording studio designed to teach students the fundamentals of sound engineering and music production. Our goal is to rescue each and every student, one by one if necessary, before it is too late.

ACLSC is disputing the preliminary investigation report and alleged funds owed in 2005-2006, 2006-2007, and 2007-2008. The school was in litigation over funds TEA stated were owed and the Independent Consultants performed an audit and verified the school was in compliance with the Accounting principles of attendance, the report reflected the school was 95.5 % accurate with a 4.35% error rate. The school encountered a great financial hardship; the school was not provided funding for ten months, although there was a court order to ensure funds were provided to the school until the scheduled hearing date. The school provided the required documents to verify the students were in attendance, along with the independent audit report. TEA dismissed the hearing and never settled the dispute of funds, but continues to withhold funds to the school. TEA alleged in a preliminary report dated October 27, 2007, alleging the school owed funds, stating the District Summary Report, the Attendance Report, is less than the Summer Submission.

The District Summary Report is the actual attendance being reported every six weeks to the agency; the school was reporting the attendance, although the funds were being withheld to the school. TEA was in violation of the Public Information Act, the school nor was the public provided the amount of neither monthly nor annual funds that were expected or were paid to the school. Nora stated they had to manually calculate the funding due to the court order. Leo provided the first breakdown of the funds, upon the Superintendent’s request. The request to review the monthly calculations were ignored and never provided by Nora. The Summer Submission was sent to be in compliance with the deadline to re-submit the data, due to lack of staff and financial hardship. The school Summer Submission was pending after the original date sent of June 22, , followed by several approved re-submission dates, until August 31, which means the submission was in pending status for June, July, August, September and October. At the start of school the submission was still in pending status, which the procedures, as explained by Nora Rainey, in Formula Funding, if the school does not send in an estimate, the school will be paid on an average of the total six weeks attendance reports divided by six, the number of reporting periods, which means the school was not paid on the Summer Submission numbers. The month of October and November is the actual attendance reporting, the school reports, to be paid through the system. This means addressing numbers and funds for the summer submission is not relevant, because it would not be paid in a pending status.

I addressed this question to Nora, if the school has approved re-submission dates; it means the data is pending. There are expected dates to resubmit, which means the information submitted, is not final. She responded it is in pending status, which cannot generate funding. The staff and contractors, who are responsible for this area of reporting to the school, could no longer afford to work, the PEIMS software Consultant agreed to submit the Summer Submission. He demanded funds in order to submit. The school contacted the agency and requested funds to pay the necessary debts for mandatory school operations. The PEIMS Software Consultant stated he would send data, which is normal for all schools, and will review and check all information at the time of re-submission. Due to no funds received, he did not re-submit after August 31. The school does not owe funds for information in a pended status. The information discussed is the explanation why the number reported in the district summary was less than the Summer Submission. The school was paid on the actual attendance reported during the school year.

During the beginning of 2007-2008 school years the school was still utilizing the Eclipse PEIMS Software. The Consultant, after hiring a Computer Security Specialist with X-Systems, had provided the school skeletal software. Meaning the school could input the data of the school, the basics; it could not generate the necessary reports to generate attendance reports. The conversion process had not been performed on the software, which calculates the data in numbers and statistics needed by the agency. I reported this dilemma to my State Campus Intervention Team, Ms. Patterson and Ms. Key and alerted them of my problem. X-System began working with the Eclipse Software Consultant and the proper process began on the proper installation of the software to prepare the school to submit reports. The School began researching new software and determined RSCCC software with Region 4 Education Services would be the best PEIMS data reporting software to obtain. The school began the transition. X-Systems contacted Region 4 John Syers, a conference was scheduled and the process began around the month of November. During this time, the data was transmitted to the new software and training of the required staff began, unfortunately, the school is still confronted with back debts, which have never been settled and it constantly interferes with moving forward in our current school year. The school was scheduled to pay the debt for the new software, which postponed continuous training to successfully complete the transition. The school submitted the first and second six weeks attendance reporting using the Eclipse software, after many checks and balances.

The Texas Education Agency Attendance reporting screen accepted the second six weeks submission, but there was a defect on the first six weeks report. The school contacted the agency and after several attempts to submit, was notified it was an internal technical error problem within the agency. The e-mails stated they would have their technicians repair the problem and notify the school, when the repairs were completed. The school was contacted and notified by telephone it was scheduled for a Federal visit. The school was focusing on meeting the State and Federal Representatives requirements, and preparing for the Federal visit. After a successful Federal visit, the school again attempted to resubmit the first reporting of attendance and the system again was flawed. The school contacted the agency through e-mail and telephone conversations, with the outcome of finally completed the submission with the assistance of the technician on February 21, 2008.

The school successfully submitted the third attendance report; the school had informed the agency of the software transition, which during the transmission of the data to the new software, all of the needed data does not transmit. Many important factors of the data must be inputted manually, for example, student details, courses, grades, etc. The school had spoke with the agency during the crisis with the first attendance report, but the contact person, Nora Rainey did not express the school must submit the third submission at the time of the conversation. I asked her what was needed to ensure the school received the Foundation School Program funds. The agency would not take into consideration the tasks of the transition of software and the checks and balance of the accuracy of the data, which is a voluminous task, consisting of all of the data of the school. To ensure an accurate report. The school CPA checked the Finance website of the agency around February 20, 2008 to discover the school was reported as no funds to be administered for the month of February, which is released to the school’s bank account on the 25th of each month. The Ledger screen had a balance of zero, with no adjustments amounts. I telephoned the Attorney’s to contact the agency to explore the reason for the school zero amount with no adjustments noted, no prior form of notification of this adjustment and to find out how the matter could be resolved. Ms. Dumfisher stated the school would not receive any revenue, for February until the March date of the 25th of the month. I expressed the financial crisis of the school, the staff needed to pay their monthly expenses and the school operation. It was to no avail.

The Associate Commissioner, Dr. Johnson intervened and tried to provide assistance in resolving the matter with the agency. The school received an average of $2500.00 in March for the month of February, which was never posted on the Finance website and was informed on the agency’s Finance website it would receive an average of $2900.00 for the month of March. The school operations are unable to operate on this amount of funding. The school was responsible for administering the TAKS tests, transporting and feeding students, paying the staff to meet the educational and social support needs of the students, paying the facility rent and utilities, along with supplies and other educational needs with this amount of funds. During the fourth six weeks attendance submission, using the new RSCCC software and the assistance of the Region 4 Representative John Syer, the school again, encountered an internal technical problem with the agency’s reporting screen. Again the process of contacting the agency through e-mails and the Computer Security Expert from X-Systems contacted the agency and contact was made by the technician, who assisted the school with the repairs and the process of submission of the data. At the present time, the school is still awaiting a response for the needed funds to pay the school debt to continue to operate for the school year.

The school has been corresponding back and forth with TEA, concerning the finances, the review of documents to substantiate the findings of the settle-up and the recalculations of the settle-up, due to data of the staff not being calculated to calculate financial totals, a repayment plan until the numbers were verified, funds to be provided to the school to continue the school operation, and requested due process during this process. Again, TEA has withheld the funds, as in the school year 2005-2006, and not allowed the school the proper due process, to resolve the matter properly. The school continually tries to resolve the financial issues with the agency, and through the courts, to no avail. It is very difficult to operate, without any financial revenue provided to the school.

The School was reporting student attendance, during the school year, through the six weeks attendance report on the agency’s website. The school was funding from the Foundation School Program and financial adjustments were made, based on student attendance, during each six weeks report in the Foundation School Program Reporting System. The school had lost several critical faculty and contracted staff, several in the reporting of the school data. The attendance records were updated in the system but the final six weeks attendance submission was not reported. Routine procedures for the agency, is if the attendance report is late, the school is paid on the last attendance report the school filed. The school was paid on the six weeks submission based on the fifth six weeks report. The students last day of attendance was the twenty-fifth of May. The Peims Software Consultant, filed the Summer Submission on the twenty-second of June to meet the deadline date and to be provided a resubmission date, which is a normal procedure for the agency, to complete the reporting of the data and check for all errors. The school continued to experience financial hardship, due to the agency non-payment of funds. The school requested and was approved several re-submission dates, due to the financial hardship and lack of personnel. This meant the Summer submission data was pending until the final was re-submitted. The school requested a final re-submission date approved, for the thirty-first of August, which is outside of the reporting parameters, due to the financial hardship.

The re-submission, which would have been the final data, was not submitted. The school was never paid on the Summer submission data, due to the pending status for resubmission, which means the discrepancy in the actual data reported in the District Summary, during the school year was correct and the Summer submission, which the Consultant filed for a resubmission date, was never applied in a financial manner to the school. At the beginning of the school year, the school is paid by the total of six weeks submissions, divided by six, which is the number of reporting cycles, and paid on the average calculated. If the school does not send in an estimated number, the school will be paid on the calculated average. The school Summer submission was still in pending status. The school did not receive revenue, until the month of November, which is the actual number reported in the school student reporting system, the school had the finances manually calculated by the agency due to the litigation and a court order of funds agreed to provide the agency up to $50,000.00 a month until the Administrative hearing, or expiration of the court order.

I., Vida Belford, Superintendent, telephoned the agency for verification of the schools calculated funding and the breakdown of the court order. Leo provided the breakdown on the 28th of November, verifying school revenue and the calculations of the court order deduction. Charter Schools are not tax based; therefore ACLSC is paid a different dollar amount based on the school district, because of the amount of tax dollars received into the district. The reports and investigations did not provide the breakdown, providing these critical components.

The school requested all documents for review, the lack of funds, and funds being withheld without allowing constitution rights of due process. The school was addressed for settle-up, which means to settle-up all finances, unfortunately, the school was not granted the opportunity, and Al Johnston from TEA stated the school was owed funds because the staff data was not calculated. The data was in the PEIMS, but not in the Foundation School Program. The staff reported in PEIMS, would mean the school was owed and estimate of $40,000 to $45,000.00, which means the estimate of settlement is definitely incorrect. The school is paid different dollar amounts per school districts, which means all of the calculations need to be reviewed. The school was not provided the necessary documents, although the agency collected the debt, with these important relevant factors not being addressed. The staff and school operations are in a critical financial hardship state, the majority of the staff is single parents who are the sole financial support of their homes. They have the rent to pay, car notes, utilities, food and many other financial debts they are trying to meet. There is several staff, who is parents of several of the students. We provided employment to enhance parental involvement. One parent had her car reposed from the school property for non-payment.

There is several other staff that is in the same situation. Two of the staff have critical situations, where one parent has three sons in the criminal justice system, one of her sons, who is sixteen years old has been certified as an adult for three felony cases, she has obtained an Attorney to represent him, an has not been able to meet the financial arrangements of the Attorney agreement, due to non-payment of her payroll check, and past dilemmas, due to non-payment. The Attorney contacted her and stated if she is unable to make the current payment, he will withdraw from the case; he is unable to continue to provide services, if she cannot render the agreed payments timely. Another staff has a son on death row. He has exhausted his appeals. His IQ has justified his status as mentally retarded. Unfortunately, the Attorneys she had on the case missed the deadline for filing, she has tried to obtain an Attorney to properly address the matter in court. She has been before the courts and her son’s execution date, will be given at the upcoming court date. She is in desperate need for her payroll check to try and rectify the legal problem, along with meeting her financial obligations of rent, utilities, etc. Many staff has individual critical financial obligations. The school is behind on the financial obligations for school operations, and is in desperate need of payment of the rent on the facility, utilities, payroll, contract labor and vendor services, in order to continue to provide the necessary educational and support services to the students, agencies, courts and the community.

Please help, Justice is all we asks, just an equal opportunity, as all of the other schools, to educate our children, it would be in the best interest of assisting the school districts, the community and positive for all, especially the crime and drop out rate, it would be a win, win for all. Due to the financial crisis, the school lost the CDL truck driving, free drivers education, the stand alone daycare, for our teen moms, the school uses one room, and it is located on campus, offering child care, child development and parenting to the teen moms and it assists students who encounter CPS, and meets their educational needs, free day care, taking away the desperation to find child care to attend school. The school woodshop, carpentry, which build the school benches and cabinets, auto mechanics, the students worked on the school buses and service cars, from building engines to oil changes, home economics, which prepared the students to cook and sew, foreign language was offered for employment enhancement and competitiveness. The school is in a serious critical financial situation and we serve the potential and official dropouts in the city. The school would like to be afforded the fair and equal opportunity and protection for the rights of the youths, who are in desperate need of our services to survive.

Vida Belford

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