In Texas, state officials ignore charter school abuses, since these schools are supposed to be deregulated and “innovative.”

Thus comes the story of Accelerated Intermediate Academy, a tiny charter school in Houston whose superintendent is paid $275,000 a year, whose teachers are paid less than public school teachers, and which has two years of operating expenses in reserve and a luxury condo in downtown Houston. While $12.5 Million is stashed away, the children are taught in windowless trailers.

“For more than a decade, the leaders of Accelerated Intermediate Academy have run their small Houston charter school on a lean budget, paying teachers below-average salaries and educating kids in modest facilities resembling portable trailers.

“At the same time, the school’s superintendent, Kevin Hicks, has drawn an annual salary of about $250,000 – a seemingly outsized sum given its roughly 275 students and 20 employees. The school is also sitting on a condo appraised at $450,000 and recently reported $12.5 million in cash reserves, records show.

“Wow. He definitely could have put more into the school,” Kennessa Johnson, a former teacher at the charter, said of Hicks. “It was extremely basic in the school. There weren’t even any windows.”

“The school’s spending has raised questions about the management of the southwest Houston charter, which has received more than $55 million in taxpayer dollars since opening in 2001, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.”

Board members are chosen by other board members, not by election.

When questioned, board members seemed unaware of the school’s finances.

“Hicks’ salary of $265,553 last year was about $85,000 more than any superintendent of a district with fewer than 500 students, according to Texas Education Agency data. His pay also topped the salaries of the Texas education commissioner and several Houston-area superintendents running much larger school districts. Seven parents and former teachers said Hicks rarely shows up at the Houston campus, with two staff members saying they had never met him despite working at the school for several months.

“The charter in 2011 used taxpayer money to buy a ninth-floor, one-bedroom condominium in Houston’s ritzy Uptown neighborhood. School officials refused to say how much they paid, but the Harris County property appraiser this year valued it at $450,000…

“One of the school’s three governing board members, James Broadnax, was unaware of basic information about Accelerated Intermediate when approached by a Chronicle reporter last month. Broadnax didn’t offer any justification for Hicks’ compensation, saying he didn’t know all the facts. He said he knew the school had office space, but didn’t know it owned a condo…

“Accelerated Intermediate serves its 275 Houston-area children at a facility off Texas 90, near the Fondren Gardens neighborhood. The student population is mostly made up of African-American and Hispanic students, nearly all of whom are economically disadvantaged. A second campus, in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster, serves about a dozen students a year.

“Hicks co-founded Accelerated Intermediate after working as a teacher and administrator in Dallas ISD for 10 years and as principal of The Varnett Public School for two years. His founding partner, David Fuller, also worked at Varnett and would later open C.O.R.E. Academy, a south Houston charter that was shut down this year due to repeated academic failures.”

The founders of Varnett Public School, which is a charter school, not a public school, were indicted by federal authorities in 2015, for embezzling $2.5 million from the school.

A teacher who worked at the tiny charter for a year said she never met Hicks.

“The farthest we could go up the chain of command was the principal,” said Johnson, who left to teach at Houston ISD. “We were always told he was coming, he was going to be around, that you’d never know when he was coming.”

So what is the innovation at this charter: cut costs by skimping on teachers’ pay and student classrooms.