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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 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 , 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.

AlphaMom January 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Dr. Avossa, Linda Shultz, Katie Reevs, et. al. are bent on making sure FSA does not open it's doors next year. Given that this school has won accolades, awards, has the highest test scores in the county, AND produces some of the most well-rounded kids I know, I ask what REALLY is the reason they want to close it's doors? Seems to me that it's personal now. Mr. Avossa's picture is right on the front page of the FSA home page as the school accepts one of the nation's highest academic award. And yet he wants to close it down. Get over yourselves, Fulton County School Board. This is not about you, but the academic opportunities for your taxpayer's children (i.e. your future!).
FSA MS and FSA ES Father January 24, 2012 at 04:36 PM
In the article above Dr. Avossa says FSA MS ..."now endangered the financial health of its FSA sister schools" A year before FCBOE rejected the FSA MS's petition, Charter Liason Laura Stowell met with parents to discuss the FSA ES to FSA MS matriculation process. Without any prompting she changed the subject and told parents that we should really be focused and concerned about the FSA MS charter renewal. Given the FCBOE's ability to predict a year in advance the rejection of FSA MS's charter, perhaps Dr. Avossa can tell us when he will close FSA ES. The parents could use the extra time to: 1) Leave Fulton and take our taxes and businesses with us 2) Join the long line for Private Schools 3) Move into the limited areas in Fulton where the schools do not fall too far behind FSA MS's performance. FCBOE, please expedite your announcement of the closing of the other FSA schools.
Thomas January 25, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Sounds to me like some grownups need to grow up. It looks to me like the School Board already had its sights set to close this school. What is more troubleing is that if Dr. Avosa really belived what he is now saying this would have been said long ago in the public. Also as I understand from some parents the board meeting with the FCSB was recorded and these issues were not discussed as he is indicating. So that leads me to believe the Dr. Alvos and the School Board is intentionally misleading or lying to the public (I am sure they are now violating of their oath to office) either that they are incompetent and cannot keep up with true events. The School board and Dr. Alvos are acting like children but with a big stick. They don’t play well with others should be shown on their report card. I think they need their diaper changed before they overfill and spill on Fulton Country again.

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