Veritas Sports Academy could be on Thin Ice

from today’s News and Record, Robert Bell reporting:

KERNERSVILLE — Veritas Sports Academy officials said Friday the private school is strapped for cash and has been forced to make cuts in its athletics program while it seeks private donors and public grants to stay afloat.

School officials said six of the school’s original 18 teachers have quit because they had not been paid in full in recent months. Terry Moffitt, Veritas’ national superintendent, said teachers and administrators have not been paid in full since November.

“We’re helping staff with mortgages, car payments and utility bills and we’ve promised to get everyone caught up in pay, but right now we’re behind the eight-ball like a lot of other small businesses,” Moffitt said.

Moffitt described the school as suffering through a “considerable shortfall” — the result of several private donors who have withdrawn their financial support amidst the weakening economy. Moffitt would not say how much money the school has lost in private pledges, but said Veritas was “about two months behind in our budget.”

In August, Moffitt said the school’s annual budget would be $6 million.

The shortfall has forced Veritas officials to delay breaking ground on a $17 million, 109,000-square-foot building on 15 acres in Kernersville. Work was expected to begin last fall.

The school also has reined in its athletics schedule and is playing games closer to home. The basketball team, for example, withdrew from a holiday tournament in Puerto Rico. School officials and parents met Thursday night — the second such meeting in a week — to discuss ways to raise money.

The school has hired two private fundraisers and is mulling about a dozen other funding projects locally and nationally.

“Most, if not all, are extremely promising,” said Jim Beck, a school spokesman.

Friday’s revelation comes just six months after Veritas’ heralded opening. In August, officials promised a school that would offer students a quality education as well as one of the nation’s top athletics programs.

Kernersville resident Gary Newell, who founded Veritas, said the Triad school would be the first of 72 similar schools nationwide. Newell could not be reached Friday for comment.

Moffitt said four students have left the school since it opened last fall. He said some of the teachers who left were replaced by administrative employees who are certified to teach.

Moffitt said the school is working toward academic accreditation with the Association of Christian Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a process that should be completed by 2010. He said he met with the school’s roughly 50 students Thursday.

“I told them we fully expect to be here next year,” he said.