Controversy surrounds Birmingham's new plan to help drop-outs

By Sherea Harris

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  There may be trouble brewing for a program the Birmingham City School System recently launched.

The program gives people who have dropped out of high school another chance to earn diplomas. Now, the man behind the program is coming under fire. The  J. Vincent Group presented the idea to the school board. It approved a contract with the company to start the program.

The CEO of the company is accused of copying the idea from his former employer.

J. Vincent Brown says his former employer,  "Alternatives Unlimited," is also accusing him of violating a non-compete agreement.

Brown says none of this is true and he didn't steal the idea.

Brown's program targets former students ages 17 to 21 who will attend classes and earn their high school diploma using the school system's curriculum.

Alternatives Unlimited's program is called, "The drop back-in academy," which students participate in exercises to complete their district's graduation requirements. Both programs involve interactive learning. Brown contends his program is much different.

"I don't know why they are so bent on accusations," said Brown. "Our program is student centered and focused on getting students served. I can't speak on what it is they are doing at this point."

Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon and the school board are aware of the allegations. Despite it all, the school board is moving forward at least for now.

"I'm not getting involved in that allegation. That's between Mr. Brown and whomever he's involved with," said school board president, W.J. Maye.  "I don't think we need to be stigmatized by that kind of publicity. What we are concerned about is young people getting their education."

Brown says he's not aware of his former employer suing him. But he says if it comes to that, his attorneys are ready to fight back.

Dr. Witherspoon backed the program initially. However, he's not responding to this matter.

A  spokesperson for the school system says only a court order will prevent the program from moving forward.

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