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Educators Say D-Wade Dropped the Ball

A South Florida charter school company says that Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has failed to live up to his end of the deal to promote education to at-risk youth, and this afternoon it formally ended its association with him.

The company, called Mavericks in Education and based in Fort Lauderdale, struck a partnership with Wade in 2007. Back then, Mavericks President and CEO Mark Thimmig was elated to land a superstar spokesman: "Kids related to him. Parents related to him. Even grandparents related to him! He was the biggest celebrity ever to be connected with the national high school dropout crisis."

Considering Florida's abominable high school graduation rate (around 50 percent), Wade struck school officials as the kind of glamorous figure whom young people would listen to. "We need to get these kids back in school," Thimmig says in his emphatic way. "We need them to get high school diplomas! Sometimes they don't want to accept that from educators or from parents. Dwyane Wade was supposed to be the catalyst that brought them back and kept them there."  

Over the past year, the company landed government contracts to run six schools in Florida, including three in Miami-Dade County. The schools are set to open this coming fall. They were supposed to be called Mavericks High, D. Wade's Schools.  

Then Wade basically dropped off the face of the Earth.

"The contract called for him to take an active part in promoting the schools on a number of levels," Thimmig says. "At this point, he has not done that." Wade has not been available for print ads or television interviews to attract students. On top of that, Thimmig suggests the baller has dodged pleas to reengage: "I haven't been able to reach him. He knows we're here. We're not hiding." 

Without divulging exact numbers, Thimmig says that "thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been invested" in getting the schools off the ground. Thimmig waves off criticism that government dollars were being funneled through the school into Wade's pockets; the dropout rate, he says, is "a big problem that needs a big solution." The schools are nonprofits, he explains, and would be justified in spending some dollars on marketing and advertising their programs. Although, he adds, "it would have been tremendous if he had offered to do it at no charge." At this point, Thimmig says, he does not anticipate filing litigation for breach of contract. "Our message is that we're moving on." 

Thimmig had little to say about Wade's wife's recent allegations of cheating and passing around STDs  ("Although," he said, "if those allegations were true, they would not be in keeping with strong family values."). Likewise, he was largely unconcerned about Wade's restaurants going down the tubes or his wearing funny Band-Aids on his face. The biggest bummer of all, Thimmig says, is that Wade could have had a positive impact on the dropout rate. "It's a tragedy of missed opportunity. Everybody gives up on these kids. We don't want to be the ones who do."

The lone good note: Thimmig says the schools are hiring.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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