North Miami school accused of not paying teachers

Teachers at Challenger School say they haven't received paycheck in 3 weeks

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – Teachers at a North Miami school claim they haven't been paid in weeks, and Local 10 News learned the school president is running for elected office.

"I love what I do. I love working here, but bill collectors are calling me," Willie Pearl Gittings, a teacher at The Challenger School, said.  

Love doesn't pay her unpaid bills, and Gittings said The Challenger School hasn't paid her in three weeks. Florida Power & Light has since turned off her electricity, and her daughter has had to pay the rent.  

"We're just frantic," Gittings said. "Going on three weeks -- it hurts."

"They haven't been paid since the 10th?" Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg asked the school owner, Beverly Hilton.

"Paid on 10th, 17th and 24th, but because of the mix-up there, I don't know what's going on," Hilton said.  

Hilton is the owner of The Challenger School.  She is also a candidate for North Miami Council, as is clear by her name tag and campaign signs at the school.

"I spoke with someone from Early Learning (and) she said it was processed," Hilton said.  

Hilton blames the Early Learning Coalition, the agency that disperses state funding monthly to providers of free pre-kindergarten. She said there must be some glitch in their payment system.

"I asked, 'What's going on with our fund and she said, 'I processed it,'" Hilton said.

Milberg visited the offices of the Early Learning Coalition and was told a different story.

"There is no glitch at all," Evelio Torres said, who also had records to back up his claims.

In fact, Hilton owes the coalition for a pre-payment she received.

"The state does not look into whether you're a viable business -- that is not part of the requirement," Torres said. "I know it doesn't make a lot of sense.  It is one of the things we need to change in state law. We should only be contracting with businesses that have a viable business plan. That is one of the flaws in current state law."

Hilton told her teachers they will be paid Friday.

"I'm upset, you know,  but there's nothing you can do," Gittings said. "You have to wait on the system to pay you."

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About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."