Birmingham ends contract with dropout recovery group

The Birmingham City School District has ended its contract with a dropout recovery organization in the midst of allegations that the organization reneged on agreements with another dropout prevention group and had failed to pay its employees.

The program began just three months ago with high hopes and excited support from the district. Superintendent Craig Witherspoon called the J. Vincent Group's "Excelsior Program" one way to "provide more diverse learning opportunities for students."

Under the program, former dropouts were eligible to attend accelerated classes at at least six locations across the city. Birmingham school officials told Alabama's 13 News that they would continue providing services at two locations.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas shortly after J. Vincent's deal with Birmingham was announced alleges that the company's founder copied the program from his former employer, Alternatives Unlimited, and sold the "new" program to school districts that AU had developed relationships with over a number of years in violation of employment and severance agreements.

AU president Stuart Berger told The Birmingham News that J. Vincent's director, Jeremy Brown, "assured me he was not in Birmingham but was in Houston sitting in his recliner," she said. "He said he couldn't afford to start a program like that."