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Noncompete Agreement at Center of School District Dispute

Alternative Unlimited ("AU"), a Houston-based company that works in tandem with school districts, offers a computer-based program that helps high-school dropouts graduate.

J. Vincent Brown, owner of a new company called Excelsior Program, also offers a program that is aimed at the same audience and designed to achieve the same goals. He has recently signed a contract with the school district in Birmingham, Alabama.

The problem - depending on whose perspective is being solicited - is that Brown used to be an employee of AU and is now being accused by its principals of violating a noncompete agreement he signed with that company when he started working there. The agreement bars him from opening a competing business for at least 18 months following termination of employment with AU. Brown was fired by AU in February of this year.

"I warned him we would file suit if he continued," said Sylvia Jones, AU's chief administration officer. Jones and AU president Stuart Berger maintain that Brown's program is virtually identical to the one he was intimately familiar with while at AU. Berger states that it is "about 97 percent the exact same" and that Brown is telling "a flat-out lie" by stating that the differences between the two programs are merely similar.

That is exactly what Brown strongly argues, adding that, "We have a much stronger curriculum, much different technology and a lower teacher-student ratio."

The Excelsior Program is slated to begin immediately after Labor Day. The Birmingham School District states that it is actively investigating AU's charge. Brown says he plans to go forward, calling AU's threat "unnecessary and childlike."

Related Resource: "Dropout program organizer for Birmingham schools under scrutiny" September 2, 2010

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