CORRECTION: Through an editor's error, the original headline on this article named the school incorrectly. Fulton Science Academy High is the charter school affected, as the story stated.
The Fulton County Board of Education today, Dec. 11, approved a recommendation to start the process to close Fulton Science Academy High School at the end of the school year.
Superintendent Robert Avossa first made the recommendation to terminate the school's charter at a school board work session on Dec. 4. Avossa based his recommendation on what staff reports call "a history of insufficient governance capacity and poor decision-making on the part of the school’s governance board."
An independent audit released to the school board on Dec. 4 was said to show the Fulton School System has had concerns with the school throughout its seven-year history.
The audit also found similar management issues to those discovered with the June 2012 audit of Fulton Science Academy Middle School, which lost its charter when the Fulton School Board rejected its charter renewal. That school reopened as Fulton Science Academy Private School.
Both the middle school and high school shared governance board and staff leadership, which the audit said resulted in some of the same management problems at both schools. The audit concluded that the high school also experienced inappropriate vendor relationships, self-dealing, and conflicts of interest as well as similar financial challenges and leadership issues.
IAG Forensics concluded that operational issues have created problems for the school since its inception in 2006. The school, which first opened as TEACH (Technology Enriched Accelerated Charter High), has never achieved the full enrollment targets outlined in its charter contract. This current school year, enrollment did not achieve the 80 percent minimum enrollment level required by the contract. The school has only managed to reach the minimum for one semester in the last seven years.
The audit report says the low enrollment contributed to the school’s inability to adequately provide educational services. During 2011-2012, approximately 73 percent of the school’s seniors took online courses to have access to classes needed for graduation. In addition, 36 percent of those seniors paid an average of $500 to take some of the online courses.
“The audit raised some serious concerns about the high school’s governance and management,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “We have an obligation to proper oversight of our schools and we can’t allow ineffective operations to hamper student success.”
Linda Schultz, president of the school board, also voiced concerns. “The school board has a fiscal and civic responsibility to ensure the proper operation of all schools,” Schultz said. “We are concerned about the high school’s decreasing enrollment trend and its impact on the educational program.”
The high school’s governing board will now decide if it will accept the recommendation and begin preparations to close as of June 30, 2013, or if it will request a hearing to be conducted on Dec. 18, 2012. Although Fulton County Schools is recommending termination of the school’s charter contract, the ultimate decision rests with the Georgia Department of Education.