School of Hard Knocks

Former students of a local high-tech graphics training program paid up to $25,000 for their diplomas. Many say they didn't get the education they were promised. The school dismissed their complaints; state and federal authorities didn't.

Manthei, for his part, says there was nothing uncommon about the dismissal of the faculty members. "We just didn't have the students signing up for the classes so I laid these guys off," he says. Manthei calls instructor Todd Crooks, who also claims that his firing followed pressure from school officials about the investigation, a "conspiracy-monger and a jailhouse-lawyer type," blaming him for stirring up anti-administration sentiment among students.

"After I gave Todd his 30-day notice, he went into the classroom and started spouting off about all this foolishness and passing out private documents to students. We just had to say, 'Okay, Todd, you're out of here.'" The papers that Crooks was handing out were copies of the U.S. Board of Education's Notice of Intent to Terminate the school's license, the agency's official conclusions, and the phone number for students to call to register complaints or address questions, all matters of public record. The incident ended with Todd Crooks being escorted from school premises by Brian Klietz, Crooks says.

Soon thereafter, Crooks and Salstrom sued SCA for back wages, prompting the school to countersue, alleging that they failed to return original grade and attendance records. Ultimately, Salstrom and Crooks won and SCA's counterclaim was denied. "SCA already had copies of these records," Crooks contends. "The only purpose for recovering the originals was to alter or destroy them."

Cory Rasmussen

As far as Klietz's claim that the state and feds have a bias against small, private schools, evidence points in the opposite direction. "Our agency has been responsible for licensing small, private vocational schools since July, 1992," says Paul Thomas. "All such schools, and there are roughly 50 in Minnesota, are subject to relicensure on an annual basis. This is the first instance where we have issued a notice stating that we do not intend to renew a license." Jane Glickman from the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., says that in the past four years, the department has removed 672 educational institutions from the federal aid program, a statistic that she says bodes well for the department's improved efforts to protect students from poorly structured schools. As for finding fraudulent records, Glickman says that there's no way of knowing how common such instances are. "You know what fraud is. That's lying, and that's not as common. Of course, we only find a small percentage of those, and there are probably instances of schools that get away with it."

Minneapolis isn't the only place where Klietz has run afoul of the feds. An audit of Klietz's School of Communication Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina, filed last May by the U.S. Department of Education, found that school also "misrepresented programs... and gave erroneous information to students." Whether this is, as the school claims, another case in which federal officials are overreacting or a legitimate complaint remains to be seen. Until final resolution of the issues, both schools are allowed to fully operate and receive financial aid.

The mood in the hallways at SCA these days seems decidedly apprehensive, although classes continue as scheduled. Klietz, however, smiles broadly as he repeats his belief that in the end, both of his schools will be cleared of all federal and state charges and he will prove that SCA has been the victim of a smear campaign. "We've worked very hard to do a high-quality job," he says. "We are pioneers of multimedia. As you advance, it's only natural that you're going to have some problems."

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1 comments
RogerKlietz
RogerKlietz

http://www.living-arts-college.edu/creative/citypages.php

At that time I believed this article was part of a smear campaign against our institution which was attempting to do nothing more than deliver on the mission I spoke of above. I stand by this belief today, over sixteen years later. When reading this article without context what it alleges appears shocking. However, I provide the following information to help provide a more accurate lens to view this article from.


Please keep in mind, all students enrolled at our institution were graded according to the procedures and policies in place at the time. These procedures were the duty of our then Director of Education and other staff to follow. We were, at the time, a relatively "new kid on the block." Along the way we made mistakes, but the institution always had the best intentions of our students at the front of the administrative decisions we made. Many of the statements made in the article, while based on some morsel of truth, are without doubt sensational and exaggerative in nature. When concerns were actually brought to the attention of administration, the institutions staff were expected to act according to its published policies and procedures at the time to correct any issues.


Consider the following extract from the article:


“ ‘We just didn't have the students signing up for the classes so I laid these guys off,’ he says. Manthei calls instructor Todd Crooks, who also claims that his firing followed pressure from school officials about the investigation, a ‘conspiracy-monger and a jailhouse-lawyer type,’ blaming him for stirring up anti-administration sentiment among students. ‘After I gave Todd his 30-day notice, he went into the classroom and started spouting off about all this foolishness and passing out private documents to students.’ ”


The truth of the matter is that faculty were employed on a term-by-term basis. There was nothing hidden or sinister about this. All new faculty were made aware of this fact and were employed on this basis. While we do our best to retain faculty, if the institution did not have classes to be taught then the faculty members contract was not renewed. This is a prime example of how truth can be used to spin mistruth.


In all instances where inferior practices were identified the institution has now corrected its former practices, which were admittedly inferior, to be in alignment with its licensing, accreditation and regulatory bodies. As we did then, we continue to strive to adhere to these rules and provide the best educational environment for our students to become gainfully employed, productive members of society and to fulfill their professional dreams.


As a final note:
The article was never updated with the final resolutions of either federal or state level cases. Also, the paper in which the article appeared, is a small weekly publication. The leading mainstream newspaper in the Minneapolis area, the Minneapolis Tribune had no interest in reporting any related “news” on the school. In the end, the suit for wrongful termination of Moye failed to find the school responsible on whistle blower charges. A freedom of information request by the school provoked an inflammatory letter sent by Minnesota official Paul Thomas to government regulators. The court records reveal that Thomas and Moye were in established contact on Moye’s plan to assist in opening a competitive school.

 
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