Fulton Science Academy Middle School Could Lose Its Charter
The National Blue Ribbon School wants more than the superintendent's office is willing to give, so a recommendation to deny its charter renewal has been made.
Fulton Science Academy Middle School, named a National Blue Ribbon school earlier this school year, could lose its charter at the end of the school year with a vote by the Fulton County Board of Education next week.
The charter school's governing board filed to renew its charter with Fulton County Schools, but the superintendent's office isn't budging on two points.
The charter school first asked for a 10-year charter and a "limited, but broad" waiver of Title 20 regulations. Title 20 requires all professional employees in Georgia public elementary and secondary schools to hold state certification.
After a report from the superintendent's office and response from the charter school, School Board Chair Linda Schultz said the charter is on the discussion agenda for its Dec. 20 meeting.
Visit Fulton County School's website to view a video of the board meeting. (Advance to 1:12:26 for the start of this agenda item.)
"After several months of discussion, we have come to a mutual understanding on all but two items. We have repeatedly indicated that the system will not grant a 10-year contract and will not grant full flexibility from Title 20, commonly termed a 'blanket waiver,'" Superintendent Robert Avossa said in a reading from the executive summary that recommends denying the charter renewal.
"It makes no sense to close the school, or handicap it with prescriptive measures that has parent and community support as evidenced by its applications exceeding its enrollment by more than double and Alpharetta's issuance of approximately $19 million in bonds to construct a new campus," said Angela Lassiter, parent representative of the charter school's governing board.
Speaking before the board on Dec. 13, Lassiter said the school was not seeking a blanket waiver. Adoption of school system policies in the charter put some restrictions in place.
Under its own charter system application to the Georgia Department of Education, individual school charters are limited to three years.
Fulton Science Academy Middle School, Fulton Science Academy High School (formerly known as TEACH), and Fulton Sunshine Academy have jointly solicited an $18.9-million bond to fund building a new campus to house all three schools. The three schools are liable for repayment of the bond. It's the Fulton School System's position that a three-year renewal would place all three schools in the same renewal cycle, ensuring adequate monitoring of the financial liabilities.
The Fulton County School System is not obligated to repay the bonds, board attorney Glenn Cook said.
The charter school's governing board said it needs the 10-year charter to ensure financial stability and enrollment, and to save millions in interest on its bonds. A shorter term for the charter would increase interest rates on the payback. Lassiter said the charter school offered a compromise of eight years to put all three schools on the same renewal schedule.
Fulton Science Academy gets almost its entire budget from taxpayer dollars through a grant from Fulton County Schools. The school system provides $3.9 million annually, according to Fulton Schools Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales.
Fulton Science Academy's governing board disputes the superintendent's office statement that previous charter schools have failed because of blanket waivers.
Victory Charter School's renewal was denied in 2005 as it had no special education teachers, its board was not bonded and the building was cited by the EPA.
Fulton County Charter High School for Mathematics & Science closed in 2004 when it revoked its own charter, citing financial difficulties.
Fulton Science Academy Middle School consistently gets the highest ITBS scores and outperforms other North Fulton middle schools, Lassiter told the Fulton School Board as she asked them to reject the superintendent's recommendation to deny the charter renewal.
- 2001 First charter contract approved
- 2006 Charter contract renewed
- Aug 21, 2011 Charter renewal application filed
- Nov. 3, 2011 Charter school, school system representatives meet
- Nov. 11, 2011 Another meeting
- Nov. 21, 2011 Final charter application
- Dec. 6, 2011 Final meeting before school board meeting
- Dec. 13, 2011 Superintendent's office recommends denial
- Dec. 20, 2011 School board schedules more discussion before a vote
- June 30, 2012 Current charter expires