Highlands Technical Institute offers academics, athletics, arts, graduate and undergraduate programs, and much more, according to its new website, but currently doesn’t have a working phone number or any students.
For a brief time in January the school held classes at the Bert J. Harris, Jr. Agricultural Center in Sebring, but when Highlands Today stopped for a visit there were only five students and no teacher and no books.
The school’s CEO Jamaal Mobley led the “drop-back-in” class for high school dropouts. His wife, Tammy Mobley, and Antonio Brinson were present handling admissions.
“Several entities have been trying to destroy this program in many ways,” Mobley said Jan. 8. “It's really disturbing to work as hard as we work and be attacked the way we are being attacked by several entities.”
Highlands Today contacted the civic center about two weeks later and was told that the classes were no longer being held there and that it was rented for only a few weeks.
The school’s Web site at www.highlands-tech.org has been redesigned and looks impressive with campus photos and descriptions of programs and admissions.
A Jan. 20 post on the Website states, “Highlands Technical Institute has recently began offering creditable faith base degree programs from Associates degree to Doctorates degrees.”
The school’s academics overview and admissions statements are exactly the same statements on the website of Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.
Berkeley Preparatory Director of Communications Jeremy Canoday said, “It is indeed taken verbatim from our site. It’s funny because I helped craft one of those messages so I know it’s ours.
“We have never heard of Highlands Technical Institute and having perused the site. It looks like a mishmash of language from a variety of schools probably, that’s my assumption.”
When you search Highlands Technical Institute’s physical address listed on its website “it takes you to a house,” Canoday noted with a laugh.
Canody said he will notify his school’s headmaster about it. Berkley Preparatory has nearly 1,300 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade.
The Highlands Technical Institute’s mailing address of 2229 W. Snell Road, Avon Park, is located outside the city limits and west of the Avon Park Executive Airport. John Platt owns the house at the address, according to Highlands County tax records.
The Florida Department of Corporations website shows a business named “Rapid Marketing” at 2229 W. Snell Road was registered Oct. 15, 2012. Tammy Gomez-Mobley is listed as the business owner.
The Florida Department of Education has a listing, with an issue date of Dec. 12, 2012, for Highlands Technical School Incorporated at 2229 West Snell Road. Tammy Gomez-Mobley is listed as the owner and director.
An FDOE spokeswoman said this information is reported directly by the private school and is not verified by the FDOE, which does not license, approve, accredit or regulate private schools.
The school’s website also states “Be a CNA in less than 40 hours – Sign Up Today!!!” followed by the address 4041 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.
An Internet search of the address shows “Miller’s Murphy Bed and Home Office.”
After calling the phone number on the Miller’s Website, a woman answered “Miller’s Murphy Bed.”
She said she never heard of Highlands Technical institute.
“We sell Murphy beds,” the woman said.
The school’s Facebook page shows the following April 5 post, “HTI is closed Until August 2013. You Can Pre-Register online at www.highlands-tech.org.”
The school’s board of directors are listed as follows: Dr. Darryl Webb, president, Mr. Dave Durandis, vice president, Dr. Terry Willams, PH.D curriculum, overseer Terry Glass, business relations, and Matthew Wilson, firector of admission.
Under the “Admissions” tab on the HTI Website the name Matthew Wilson, director of admission, is shown near a photo of a distinguished looking man.
An Internet search showed the same photo at Fotosearch, which sells stock photos. The photo is titled “Portrait of mature businessman, Buenos Ares, Argentina.” The identical photo is used on a Florida Realtors webpage and on a realty website from Ottawa, Ontario.
Sutherland said she wasn’t sure if he was intending to eventually do something in Avon Park, but nothing has happened since.
Sutherland said she did not recognize any of the names of the school’s board of directors.
Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger said Tuesday he has not heard about Highlands Technical since he contacted them in January because they were using a School Board of Highlands County and Florida Department of Education logo without permission.
Checking the school’s website, Hollinger said he has never heard of any of the school’s directors.
He noted a photo of about 200 students preparing to take off on something like a cross-country run.
“The picture next to that, is that Harvard?” Hollinger jokingly commented.
Highlands Today tried to contact the school by the phone number listed on the school’s Website, but the phone has been disconnected.
The last post, April 12, on the Highlands Technical Institute’s Facebook page was a link to the school’s Website.