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Starkey Academy Raising Money to Pay Off IRS Debt

Published: May. 2, 2007 at 12:28 AM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2007 at 9:07 PM CDT
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Photograph by: Jeff Gray/WAFB-TV
Photograph by: Jeff Gray/WAFB-TV

A desperate fund-raising effort by parents is being launched to save a local private school that has fallen on troubled times since one of its teachers was caught having sex with a young male student. Now, the school in Central is facing a $100,000 tax bill from the IRS. Administrators at Starkey Academy say they owe on past due taxes and other penalties, dating back three years ago. The principal tells WAFB 9NEWS worst case scenario, the school would close, but parents are already making sure that doesn't happen.

While first graders at Starkey Academy are learning how to count money, this school is brainstorming ways to get the dollars and cents to pay the school's six-figure debt to the IRS. That $100,000 debt dates back three years ago, when enrollment to the school dropped, right after a teacher at the school was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student. The school says the IRS had allowed it to pay the money over time, until Principal Steven Whitlow says, "They switched auditors, agents. We were forced to deal with the entire back due taxes at one time. That's where we are, having to deal with that."

Not even the parents or students knew about the issue with the money, until a meeting Monday night. Dinah Courtney says, "It was a shock, but I know it happens. We found out late in the show, but I'm glad we found out." Principal Whitlow says until that meeting, he thought worst case, the school would have to shut down. Whitlow says, "Worst case now is that we'll just have to negotiate with the IRS the best deal that we can."

That's because Tuesday morning, parents started sending in checks, to make sure their children will have a school to come to. Whitlow says, "As a matter of fact, we've raise just a little over 12 hours, $15,000 from donations and some pledges." Some of the students' moms and dads say it's money well spent. Courtney says, "My son only has one more year, but I have plenty of friends who have kids here and they want to see them graduate from Starkey, too."

Starkey Academy says it will probably write the IRS a check for $100,000 in about a month.

Reporter: Tyana Williams, WAFB 9NEWS