Updated: School Board Reject State's Mediation Offer with Fulton Science Academy
Charter school's executive director responds to accusations about the school's construction process.
UPDATED JAN. 19, 5:30 p.m. Fulton Science Academy followed guidelines provided for charter schools by the state, the school's executive director said today. Ali Ozer said the school submitted a petition with documents asking for a two-year charter to meet state requirements.
Superintendent Robert Avossa told the state Department of Education that Fulton County Schools has no interest in a mediation request by Fulton Science Academy after direct negotiations that lasted four months failed.
Avossa responded to the mediation offer with his own letter on Jan. 17 to Louis Erste, Charter Schools Division director for the state DOE.
Read Avossa's letter to the state Department of Education and a letter from the state to Fulton Science Academy about its construction project posted with this article, plus documents from the charter school answering questions.
The charter renewal petition submitted to the Fulton Board of Education lacked a listing of specific waivers for school personnel, and didn't set the charter term at three years to alight it with partner schools Fulton Sunshine Academy and Fulton Science Academy High School, which are bound financially through an $18 million bond.
Other issues have been revealed since the local board voted against the charter renewal, Avossa said in his letter. Not only did the school issue the $18 million bond before receiving a charter renewal, it also spent a large portion of the money and broke ground on its new facilities without state permission.
Avossa refers to a letter to Ali Ozer, Fulton Science Academy's executive director, from Lynn Jackson, facilities director for the state Department of Education.
Ozer, however, said today that the school was following guidelines given to charter schools by the state, and found on its website as an information document. (That document also is posted with this article as a pdf file.)
That document states, "All school sites must be approved by the GaDOE Facilities Unit (FSU) before students attend school on that site," so the charter school believes it has been following that requirement.
Ozer said the charter school has submitted the plans and designs as of Jan. 13.
"It was our understanding that the building plans submittal comes after the site approval. This is why the plans were not submitted earlier. Architect of the project (Cooper Carry) provided full plans and specifications on January 13, 2012 per this request," his letter back to the state said.
Ozer said the construction project was put out for bids as required by state law in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on its website, plus online with bidclerk.com. Winter Construction of Atlanta and Columbus was selected to build the school.
Avossa said these problems are even more evidence of problems.
"This pattern of reckless, premature actions taken by the FSAMS management constitutes additional breaches of their charter contract and has also now endangered the financial health of its FSA sister schools due to their joint and several indebtedness on the bond," Avossa said in his letter.
He also said this isn't the first example of irresponsible management and disregard for the district policies by the school.
Avossa said Fulton County Schools is developing a transition plan for the 500 students at the charter school who may want to attend another school in the fall.
Fulton County Schools spokesperson Susan Hale said at this time, it doesn't appear that adding the 500 students into other schools would put any of them over capacity.
Ozer, however, expects the charter school to remain open next year.
"We believe we will be given a fair chance to for the state charter application and be approved and continue to offer education excellence to our community in the coming years. That's our goal," he said.