Questions swirl around new school
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING A new drop-back-in program for high school dropouts started Monday in Sebring, but with conflicting information and no teacher or books or instructional materials, Highlands Today decided to drop in to learn more about the new school.
Published: January 9, 2013
Published: January 9, 2013
Jamaal Mobley contacted Highlands Today on Dec. 28 to announce the new, nonprofit Highlands Technical Institute that would offer a program to help high school dropouts earn the credits they need to graduate.
Mobley, who identified himself as the program's CEO, said they had everything they needed to start classes Jan. 7.
"We want the people to know more about us," Mobley told his five students Tuesday in the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center.
The homework assignment, Mobley said, was what would you say to anyone, such as the media or individuals, who are questioning this program?
"We are going to be looking for outside support for this program so that we can do even more," he said.
Sitting at a table facing the students Mobley introduced Highlands Today to two individuals handling admissions, his wife, Tammy Mobley, and Antonio Brinson.
Highlands today asked Mobley about the school.
Who is your teacher?
"The teacher is not in today; I am filling in for the teacher today."
What is your teacher's name?
"The reason I don't want to give the name is because the public school board has been demanding their information and they haven't been very helpful at all.
"Not only that entity, but several entities have been trying to destroy this program in many ways. It's really disturbing to work as hard as we work and be attacked the way we are being attacked by several entities."
Highlands Technical Institute will release a lot more information at the beginning of next week, Mobley said. They will have an attorney on staff who will deal with the public speaking, etc. because it has become so hectic.
The institute's Website states, "all students are expected to make cash payments for the academic year or term set up by the Student Finance Office. Students are further required to sign a promissory note and must make payments within 10 days of billing."
You have said that the program is funded through donations from your board of directors and other entities, but your web site shows tuition and payment plans?
"That's for the March addition; we are going to be adding trade training; we are going to be a full-blown technical institute by then," Mobley said.
This program is completely free, he stressed.
The institute's Web site states Highlands Tech is registered with Florida School Choice and shows a School Choice graphic with "Florida Dept. of Education."
The Florida Department of Education's School Choice Office hasn't heard of the school and that type of school doesn't fall under their jurisdiction, an FDOE spokeswoman said.
Mobley responded, "It's a private institution; we have not stated we are affiliated or entwined with any other entity, but that logo is specifically on there because if you go under the school directory you will see our name and our school number is 6745 to be more precise,"
Do you have textbooks?
"Textbooks and everything is coming in," Mobley said. Now the students are just doing tests and focusing on a different subject each day.
You said there are 20 board of directors supporting the program?
"I didn't mention there were 20 board of directors; I mentioned there were 15 board of directors who are anonymous board of directors who support this program on a business level."
Can you tell us the names of some of your board members?
"We can't release names; I did release certain other information with some other entities and they aggravated some of the individuals," Mobley said. He is not at liberty to release the names and everything is under a confidentiality agreement.
Did you have a business venture called Salad King?
"I did have a Salad King; there was an individual that we were going to go into business together, but he was wishy-washy with it; he wasn't supportive; he didn't help us with much and he just vanished.
Highlands Today was contacted by Rodrigo Paredes who stated, "Mr. Mobley conned me out of $18,000. As soon as Mr. Mobley got my money he disappeared."
Paredes provided copies of contract agreements with Mobley for a Salad King to open Oct. 29, 2012 in Tampa.
Mobley responded, "That's false accusations; accusations have been made about that, but if that was precise accusations I would be in a courtroom right now."
Mobley claimed that Paredes tries to ruin other people's reputations for money.
After the interview with Mobley, a caller identifying himself as Dr. William James from Okeechobee contacted Highlands Today.
"I am the vice president and I was actually the individual who hired Mr. Mobley," he said. "The reason that I hired Mr. Mobley was because of his past and his current education and his zeal to help those individuals obtain their credentials."
Mobley and James have remarkably similar voices.
School Board of Highlands County Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger said the district had no contact with Mobley, until a check of the institute's web site showed a Highlands County School Board logo.
Hollinger said Mobley said he would check with his web master to have the logo removed.
"I asked him who his instructors were here in Highlands County, because accreditation would have to be done in order to grant credits," Hollinger said, Mobley replied that they tried to recruit teachers in Highlands, but that all of their teachers are from Polk County.
For more information, check the institute's web site: www.highlands-tech.org.
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