CBS 4 Special Report: Broken Promises, Part II
A Mission-based technical academy is under scrutiny by former students and staff.
A former instructor at Valley Technical Academy says school officials promised job placement to students with top companies including Apple and Nexis, but did not fulfill such guarantees upon graduation.
“There was no curriculum, there was no structure. So basically from my first day of class, I made all of it on the go,” said Plaza who taught at the school for about a year.
Plaza says the program did not give students the skills to land one of those jobs nor that he was fully equipped to teach the skills promised to students.
“They advertise that they have a variety of different courses, but they don’t have instructors to teach those courses,” he said. “They just had me and I taught what I knew and that was full stack.”
Plaza says he had no formal training in education prior to being hired to teach at Valley Tech.
In August, Plaza filed a formal complaint to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) alleging that school officials advertised courses for which they did not have the curriculum or instructors.
Plaza resigned midway through the school’s second class.
But the school’s founder, Jim Smith, says these allegations are not credible and describes former staff, including Plaza, as “disgruntled employees.”
“If I’ve done something that is so awful, I wish they would have sat down with me and we could’ve talked about it,” said Smith.
Legally, the school is under his father’s name due to Smith’s financial record, which he says includes judgments that would have made the licensing of the school a difficult process.
Smith acknowledges the concerns outlined in three complaints filed with Texas Workforce Commission and obtained by CBS 4, but attributes it to the challenges of starting a new school.
“I underestimated the level of effort to run a school,” he said. “When we were starting this, I didn’t even know we had to go through TWC. There’s a lot of things we were learning as we were going.”
Smith says he had only verbal agreements with the companies to hire Valley Tech grads.
From the first cohort of students, Smith says three students were employed after graduation, two of whom are working for former instructor, Josue Plaza.
But Smith says he stands by the guarantee of job placement, even if it is no longer printed on school catalogs or ads.
“If students work with us, and we work with them, we are going to stand by that commitment,” said Smith. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I think that’s a good thing.”
But for former instructor Josue Plaza, that is not enough.
“While the vision of Valley Tech is awesome of “we want to get people jobs,” you can’t just say that,” said Plaza. “You need to be qualified and you need to establish an infrastructure that encourages success among your students.”
Meanwhile, for the students who enrolled in the previous two classes, Smith says they have the option of taking continuing classes at Valley Tech for free.
A new class of students started a course in January.
“We are focused on January,” said Smith. “We are focused on getting better.”
In a statement to CBS 4, a spokesperson for Valley Tech Academy says that if the school is “unable to successfully connect a student with an employer, regardless of where the responsibility lies, we offer a full refund to the student.”
Read the full statement here:
At Valley Technical Academy, we stand by our commitment to securing job placement for all of our students upon graduation. It is our number one priority and we work hard to ensure each student gains successful employment. If we are unable to successfully connect a student with an employer, regardless of where the responsibility lies, we offer a full refund to the student.