Former African-centered education program is struggling with its payroll

The organization that until recently ran Kansas City’s African-centered education program can’t make its final payroll, according to a letter addressed to the staff this week.

Afrikan Centered Education Taskforce Inc. chairman Ajamu Webster blamed its banking institution in the letter, saying the bank had removed $111,000 from the task force’s payroll account to offset an outstanding loan balance.

That happened, Webster wrote, despite the task force staying current on loan payments.

Liberty Bank and Trust regional president Sidney King, who had obtained a copy of the letter, said Thursday that it contained numerous inaccuracies.

“They’re looking to put their poor management on the back of the bank,” he said.

Privacy laws prevent him from discussing any details of the account, King said.

“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.”

Calls to Webster and to the former head of the school campus, Audrey Bullard, went unreturned Thursday.

In the letter to the staff dated Aug. 15, Webster said the task force intends to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy today and “use the power of the bankruptcy court to recover the monies from Liberty Bank and Trust.”

That filing will include claims on behalf of each employee who is owed money, but it would be at least 60 to 90 days before the payroll could be paid, the letter said.

Members of the task force board “had hoped this would not be our fate or yours, but we are still fighting to honor our obligations to our staff,” Webster wrote.

The task force was created by the founders of the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus program, which had strong parent support and had been one of Kansas City Public Schools’ more successful academic programs.

School district officials had entered into a contract for the task force to run the program on the campus of the former Southeast High School, culminating what had been a two-decade struggle to establish the ethnic-centric program in Kansas City.

School district administrators, however, complained of many problems with the contract and ended it at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 school year.

That decision spurred protests by many parents and other supporters of the task force’s management of the school, but the district carried forward with its plan to take over management of the African-centered program.

The campus opened with about 1,200 students Monday.