Jul 26, 2014

Fulton Science Academy High Appeals to Keep its Charter

The Georgia Department of Education was asked to help stop an attempt by Fulton County Schools to close the public charter school.

Fulton Science Academy High Appeals to Keep its Charter Fulton Science Academy High Appeals to Keep its Charter

Fulton Science Academy High School formally asked the state to help keep the doors of the Alpharetta public charter school open.

The Fulton Science Academy High School Governing Board issued the following statement:

“The parents, students and faculty are committed to preserving the high school’s charter and the integrity of its universally recognized academic programs.  We look forward to presenting our case to the state school board as well as the facts surrounding our charter and FSA’s successes as a high-performing STEM school," the board's statement, released Thursday afternoon, said.

Fulton County Schools told the school's governing board it planned to close the school after this academic year, two years before its charter is scheduled to expire. A public hearing on Dec. 18, 2012, gave the charter school's governing board a chance to lobby the Fulton County Board of Education to stop the plan by Superintendent Robert Avossa to close the school, but it didn't change their minds.

On Jan. 16, the governing board received a letter from the Fulton County Board of Education president advising them the county plans to terminate its charter as of June 30. That's a full two years before the charter is set to expire on June 30, 2015.

The governing board's attorney, Rocco E. Testani of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan sent the Georgia Department of Education a letter that sought to refute every accusation made by the Superintendent's office used as reasons to close the school. His letter said, "there are insufficient factual and legal grounds for termination."

Testani responded to nine primary issues identified by the Fulton County Board of Education in its letter:

  1. No evidence exists supporting allegations of appearances of conflict of interest and self-dealing among members of the Governing Board;
  2. The allegation that the governing board lacks independence is contradicted by its members' testimony, meeting minutes and actions, and its full accreditation by SACS;
  3. A construction bond went into default because a separate entity, Fulton Science Academy Middle School, failed to keep its charter. The high school has no obligation to repay any bond financing and it has sufficient cash reserves;
  4. Fulton Science Academy High School fully disclosed the bond debt and the Fulton County School Board knew about it;
  5. Fulton County School Board members acknowledged on the record during the Dec. 18 public hearing that there is no evidence the school charged any student for online classes;
  6. Claims that the school failed to wholly cooperate is directly contradicted by Fulton County Schools' staff comments complimenting the school for responsiveness and cooperation during the audit;
  7. The public charter school fully complies with its student attendance reporting obligations, and follows an official process to deal with chronic tardiness and abscences;
  8. Allegations that the school failed to follow school board guidelines concerning international field trips is without support;
  9. The school's failure to meet mandatory enrollment targets is wrong in that the school's charter with the school system does not include mandatory enrollment targets or requirements. Any enrollment downturn was blamed on negativity created by t Fulton Science Academy Middle School losing its charter and statements made by Superintendent Avossa about the high school, Testani's letter said.

He also wrote "in many instances, the allegations are directly contradicted by FCBOE's own documents and statements, and in other instances, are based on hearsay or other matters that are not contained in the Charter."

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