Former KC contract school can't make last payroll

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An organization that ran an African-centered campus under contract with the Kansas City school district can't make its final payroll.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/PoL5dM) reported that Afrikan Centered Education Taskforce Inc. chairman Ajamu Webster told staff in a letter that the organization intended to file for bankruptcy Friday and still hoped to pay staff.

Kansas City Public Schools ended the contract with the organization that ran the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus at the end of the last academic year, saying the deal wasn't financially feasible. The district then took over the campus, renaming it the African-Centered College Preparatory Academy. It opened Monday with about 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

When the campus was a contract school, its students were considered part of the Kansas City district, but the school controlled its staffing and curriculum. The school curriculum incorporates the study of African culture and perspective into its college prep-oriented approach to teaching.

Webster blamed the organization's bank for the payroll problems in the letter, which was dated Wednesday. He said the bank removed $111,000 from a payroll account to offset an outstanding loan balance even though the task force was staying current on its payments.

He said the organization hoped to "use the power of the bankruptcy court to recover the monies from Liberty Bank and Trust." But he said it would be at least 60 to 90 days before the payroll could be paid, the letter said.

Liberty Bank and Trust Regional President Sidney King said Thursday that the letter contained numerous inaccuracies but privacy laws prevent him from discussing details.

"This situation happens all the time," he said. "They say things they know are inaccurate and we can't discuss the rest of the story. The bank is not the bad guy. The reason they can't pay teachers is apparently they did not manage money properly."

Webster's phone rang unanswered Friday. The former head of the school campus, Audrey Bullard, said her job didn't involve finances but that the payroll issues were "upsetting."

Asked about the payroll issues at its former contract school, the Kansas City district responded with single-sentence statement.

"KCPS does not comment on the employment practices or employee relations of external organizations," district spokesman Andre Riley told the AP in an email.

The situation marked the second time in a little over a year that a Kansas City-area school has struggled with payroll.

Now-closed Don Bosco Charter High School asked for donations in June 2011 to help pay teachers through the summer. It faced financial problems after the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education accused the school of failing to follow the rules for spending federal money and withheld money.

Vici Hughes, director of the Midwest Center for Charter Schools at the University of Central Missouri, which sponsored the school, said in a written statement that funds ultimately were obtained and teachers were paid.

Since then, the state has approved a charter school law that requires more financial oversight of the publicly funded schools.

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