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A shuttered charter school and its former principal are being sued by an Illinois financial company for allegedly failing to pay more than $37,000 they owe for a digital printer and copier.

Theory Into Practice Academy was shut down two years ago after an Encinitas Union School District investigation concluded that the school’s board and administration violated conflict of interest laws and mismanaged its finances. While charter schools are independently run, they are publicly funded and usually overseen by school districts, which can close them if they violate the law, don’t manage their money properly or fall far short academically.

The school played a central role in my special report two years ago on Michael Hazelton, who had led three Southern California schools in four years, each of which was crippled or closed by the time he walked away, suffering deficits or battling accusations that Hazelton improperly enriched himself or corporations he founded.

The Encinitas school was led by Deborah Hazelton, his wife, who was accused of using her influence to goad the board into hiring him.

The attorney representing the Illinois company declined to comment. In its legal filings, TBF Financial LLC states that Deborah Hazelton breached a contract she first signed more than three years ago and now owes more than $37,000 to the company. Under their agreement, the school was supposed to pay $669 a month for five years to lease the equipment.

“[T]hey have failed and refused and continued to fail and refuse to pay said sum,” the lawsuit alleges.

As of earlier this month, the company had been unable to reach Deborah Hazelton to serve the complaint. The Hazeltons now work as teachers at the Academy Learning Center in Solana Beach, according to its website. So far I haven’t been able to reach Deborah Hazelton by email or on the phone; I’ll update the blog if I hear back from her about the lawsuit.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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