The leader of one of Texas’ most troubled charter schools was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for tampering with government records.Linda Johnson was convicted of issuing false high school transcripts as principal of Gulf Shores Academy, a charter approved by the state in 1998.Prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said Johnson granted class credits in exchange for $150 and a few class assignments.Johnson’s attorney, state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, could not be reached for comment Thursday. He has previously argued that the Texas Education Agency unfairly targeted the school, which served mostly low-income blacks.After a decade of academic and financial problems, the Texas Education Agency declined to renew Gulf Shores’ charter in July. The school still owes the state about $8 million for misreporting attendance, officials said.
Leaders of one of Houston's most troubled charter schools are accused of issuing false high school transcripts to undercover investigators with the Harris County District Attorney's Office.Linda Johnson, head of Gulf Shores Academy, and her daughter, Marian Johnson, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of felony document tampering. Prosecutors say they granted class credits in exchange for $150 and a few hastily completed assignments. They are scheduled to appear in court next month, officials said.State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, said the campus, which caters to poor African-American students, is being unfairly targeted by the Texas Education Agency. Dutton, a lawyer, has volunteered to represent the charter school."We've been fighting for so long for this school, it would be a shame to give up at this point," he said, adding that the Johnsons did not break the law…Gulf Shores Academy, which opened in 1998, once had more than 1,000 students and a powerhouse basketball program that produced first-round draft pick Gerald Green, who recently was traded to the Houston Rockets.But the campus has made more headlines for its record of poor academic and financial performance. Among other offenses, the school owed the state nearly $11 million for overreporting student attendance.The Texas Education Agency has been withholding funding to repay the debt, which now stands at about $8.5 million, officials said.Despite the repeated missteps, the TEA has been unable to revoke Gulf Shores' charter.In September 2006, the school became the first in Texas ordered to close mid-year. Just a week later, a Travis County judge granted a restraining order to keep the school open.In addition to their criminal court date, Gulf Shores leaders are scheduled to appear at a charter revocation hearing in Austin on April 28."It's because of material violations of the charter and also academic and financial reasons," TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.Because of the pending criminal charges and because the school is suing the state, the agency wouldn't provide specifics about the case.Registrars complainedAssistant District Attorney Anna Emmons said prosecutors started investigating Gulf Shores after receiving complaints from several area high school registrars. Students who had failed classes would return after just a few days with the credits on transcripts from Gulf Shores, she said.Two investigators were sent to the school earlier this month posing as parents whose children needed to make up classes. In both cases, Gulf Shores administrators issued credits to the parents for $150 and some class assignments that the parents handed in the next day, Emmons said.Both investigators received the same packet of assignments — even though they were seeking credit for different classes — and they turned in the same set of sloppy, incomplete answers, she said.Gulf Shores employees never saw the students or verified their existence, she said."Common sense says within 24 hours, you should not be able to receive a semester's credit," Emmons said.The Johnsons were arrested March 18 and released on $10,000 bonds.