Despite Fraud and Illegal Recruiting, Choice Learning Academy Administrators Still Working With Kids
This week's New Times feature, "Talent Trap", tells the story of Choice Learning Academy-- later named Center of Life Academy-- a tiny school in a homeless shelter that defrauded the state of learning-disability education funds and illegally recruited basketball players from around the world to board them in an Opa-Locka house. The school's administrative director took out a restraining order against its head teacher, for Christ's sake. It could be argued that virtually no adult appearing in the story should be working with children.
And yet they all still are. Here's a list of CLA's main characters, their transgressions as detailed in the feature, and where they're working now. (Photos from Facebook.)
Choice Preparatory School, founder
The nomadic South Miami school, which is still in operation, pre-dates CLA. Former pro football player Wright has been banned from at least one local high school campus for poaching players for his "diploma mill" schools.
Title at CLA: Founder, executive director
Sweeting ran CLA when the Department of Education proved that it had defrauded at least $14,000 in state scholarship money earmarked for disabled childrens' tuition. (The school returned that amount). An e-mail shows that he was aware of the dangerous housing of teenage basketball players under limited supervision.
Title at CLA: Administrative dirctore
Christopher's wife was the day-to-day operator of the school during the scholarship shenanigans. She also, according head teacher Sheldon Brown, mocked him as "gay" in front of the students.
Title at CLA: Director, principal, basketball head coach
Currently: Director of Grace Christian Prep in South Miami
Wright-- no relation to Antron-- was named in the DOE investigative report concerning the scholarship money. He was integral in the scheme to recruit international basketball players to his team. He also founded Urban Youth Foundation, a non-profit that used the school address and was barred from working in stadiums in three counties after thousands of dollars went missing.
Title at CLA: Registrar
Currently: Registrar, Grace Christian Prep
Roberts was responsible for attendance rolls, many of which had forged parent signatures as part of the scholarship scheme. She was also sued by the Sweetings for allegedly sabotaging CLA in order to start her own school, which never materialized.
Derrick "Hevy" Williams
Title at CLA: Athletic Director
Currently: Athletic director, Choice Preparatory School
Williams claims he had nothing to do with international players being recruited. He was co-founder with Bernard Wright of Urban Youth Foundation, and was sued along with Roberts in trying to start the new school.
Jerome "J" Smith
Title at CLA: Assistant coach
Smith was the most imporant actor in bringing overseas players to Miami and their housing. He now lives in Atlanta, but its unclear what he does for a living.
Title at CLA: Assistant coach, history teacher
Currently: Tutor, Jackson County Public Schools, Mississippi
A former Los Angeles Raider who often slept at the homeless shelter adjacent to the school, while employed at CLA Jackson allegedly started punching a man he met on the street while rifling through his pockets. The charges were dropped after the supposed victim refused to cooperate.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.