HOUSTON – A Houston business that marketed itself as a private high school offering diplomas in a matter of days appears to have ceased operations following a Channel 2 Investigation.
Moore High School, previously at 530 W. Gulf Bank, dispensed a high school diploma to a Channel 2 intern in four business days with a $400 payment up-front.
The intern, Noah Fromson, was handed three packets of work to complete and assigned two one-page essays by the school's superintendent, Joseph Moore.
"Just make sure it makes sense, even if you have to copy it out of a magazine," Moore told the intern.
Moore High School claims to be accredited by the Texas Private Schools Association, a real and reputable organization that has no record of Moore High School.
TPSA's sister organization, the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, is the group that actually monitors private school accreditation in Texas.
Fromson completed the "homework" within the four-business-day deadline discussed in his initial meeting with Moore.
"The work that appeared to be associated with the diploma appeared to be fourth-grade level work, and that is now what is required to graduate in Texas from any private school," said Laura Colangelo, executive director of TPSA.
Fromson returned as scheduled to Moore High School with homework in hand. Before he turned it in, he was handed his diploma packet.
The packet included two copies of a Moore High School diploma, an accreditation certification letter for prospective higher education administrators and future employers, and two copies of a school transcript complete with falsified extra-curricular activities.
"Where are you getting this Mothers Against Drunk Driving (participation)?" Channel 2 reporter Joel Eisenbaum asked Moore a few days after Fromson's last visit.
"I'm really not the one that handles this," Moore said.
Moore answered very few of our questions, could not produce his school's accreditation paperwork and directed us to the administrator of another unaccredited school for more answers.
The man who answered the phone for "Timbergrove Academy" in Dallas did not comply with repeated requests for accreditation paperwork.
Colangelo warned parents and others seeking a high school education to stay away from unaccredited education institutions that promise fast diplomas.
Bogus diplomas are often uncovered quickly by higher-education schools and employers.
"Those are most of the calls I get, from families that thought they were getting a product, and they're not," Colangelo said.
The Texas Attorney General's Office would not comment on the matter, but is aware of Moore High School.
To check out a Texas private school's accreditation status, visit tepsac.org to access an online database of accredited institutions.