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State Recommends Denying FSA Charter

The Georgia Department of Education said Fulton Science Academy Middle School was strong on academics, but weak on everything else required.

's state charter application got a recommendation for denial from the GA Department of Education.

The school "fails to meet the standard for a high-quality charter school due to governance, financial, and accountability issues and thus does not merit a state chartered special school charter," a summary of the recommendation states.

Lou Erste, director of the department's charter schools division, said the school's attorney asked if they could submit a response to this recommendation.

What do you think of the state's recommendation? Tell us in the comments below.

The state school board will be given the school's charter petition and the department's recommendation for denial at its May 10 meeting. A decision by the state school board on the charter application is expected on June 14.

A Fulton Science Academy spokesperson said the governing board is crafting a response to the points made in the recommendation for denial.

"We like to say that the charter school is a three-legged stool," Erste said.

Academic performance, financial performance and stability, and its capacity for governance are the three legs, with legal compliance holding it all together.

"In this case the school does well on the one, but not on the other three," he said.

The state listed 11 items that were problems with the charter school.

Moving forward with site and construction plans without state approval was a problem of compliance, Erste said. But the problems go beyond just this school. Fulton Sunshine Academy and are involved because the governing board entered an agreement between all three schools in the $19 million in bond sales.

"Selling bonds and trying to buy that land without even having a charter is even more of an issue," Erste said, "because they put not only their own school at risk but the other two schools."

The recommendation said the school's governing board "jeopardized the financial sustainability of FSAMS and its two sister schools when it rushed to float $19 million in bonds despite its failure to have secured a charter renewal from FCS."

The bond rating was lowered when the the middle school made to them. A bond default could make it difficult for any other Georgia charter school to float a bond.

It's not typical to sell bonds before a charter approval.

James Drinkard, Alpharetta's assistant city administrator, said initially the bond closing was supposed to occur after the charter was finalized.

"Then they made arrangements with the bond purchasers to go ahead and do the bond closing before the charter was finalized," Drinkard said.

That closing was held before the meeting by the Fulton School Board, during which the charter renewal was denied.

"We were quite honestly a little surprised that the bond purchasers would agree to that," Drinkard said.

Jim May 04, 2012 at 01:32 AM
JAH..now let me the other question you had.. What I am suggesting is that mr erste was given bad information by fulton county and failed to follow up on some very basic issues and several of those points could've been easily explained if he had only asked. One point he mentions is not being able to account for the $6 million. I have it on good information that the $6 million was simply in another account that was for allocated funds as opposed to the other account for unallocated funds and if he had simply asked the school in their interview last week they would have explained this him . don't you find it curious that a point like this was not even brought up in the interview or in the weeks the State had their position. Do you really think the School was just hiding six Million dollars hoping the State and nobody else would find it? If you do I have some swampland in Florida to sell you....... Instead this info. was just released to the press ...sounds like someone's playing politics instead of putting the kids first and resolving issues before they're sent out to the press I'm afraid that is the definition of a witchhunt.
Jim May 04, 2012 at 01:33 AM
. Put any school in Georgia under a microscope and see if you can cant come up with reasons why they should be closed. Imnot saying FSA is perfect, no school is, but lets look at hopwell middle school just down the road from me....that school had a teacher abusing a student under the nose of the administration and then covered it up! Seems like a pretty good reason why that school needs to be closed but i dont see the uproar from fulton county school board, state of ga or people like you to close it. how long do you think it would have taken fulton county to close FSA or any orher charter school if the same thing happened there.... Is that enough?
Jim May 04, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Ok How about the fact i spoke personally with a student who attends hopowell middle school and who has witnessed illegal drug use at the school or the fact i have information from the father of another student who has witnessed students having sex at the school. thats 3 pretty good reasons to close a school....weigh this vs one of mr erstes reason that the governing board is "combative" Answer me honestly, JAH, f someone was trying to kick you out of your house would you just say "ok"...here are the keys" or would you spiritedly defend your home or in their case...their school! I think the old saying goes...those like Fulton county schools and Ga doe who live in glass houses...as soon as Georgia is ranked #1 in the State in ANYTHING for academic ranking then they can close THE highest performing middle school in THE largest County in the State...until then, put the petty issues aside and PUT THE STUDENTS FIRST.
Chuck May 04, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Jim, you can wipe the spittle from your chin now. So you "have it on good information" that the six million dollars is, ahh, well, umm, just in another account? Hehe - that's a good one! Not saying it isn't, but do you think the GA BOE should just take it "on good information" or do you think they'd lose their jobs for doing that?
Jim May 04, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Chuck-do you keep all your money in one account?I don't either.I keep the money I am going to need to spend for expenses in my checking account. I keep the money I am going to spend in the future in a savings account, CD or other interest bearing account. The point I am trying to make is that would it be so unusual to have a sum as large as $19 million dollars in different accounts? Maybe, just maybe the $13 million dollars is in a Escrow account (s) of some type that is(are) interest bearing and the remaining $6 MM is in a "checking" account so it can be readily available for upcoming expenditures.To answer your question, of course they should account for the money but as I said maybe they should have asked the School during the process/interview instead of just allowing all to speculate.I do know some of the people responsible for preparing the school's application and I know them to trustworthy and certainly not dumb enought to have"lost" money. I think you are putting way too much trust in our govermnent officials doing their due diligence and actually following up on information available or simply asking. If you really want me to list times where government officials have not done this,I certainly could fill up this entire website. I believe I have cited enough blunders by officials that my point can be made. thanks for your response and try to keep an open mind.I have tried to see both sides on this issue but frankly can't get past the impact on the kids.
Roswell Parent May 05, 2012 at 09:04 PM
The response has been posted. Let's all get the facts. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
George P. Burdell May 05, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I think if you examine the relationship of Lou Erste (who wrote the denial) with Fulton County Schools...then you will have your plausible explanation. Look at the picture in this Patch in January when Fulton County submitted their "charter petiton"...big smiles, hugs and kisses with Erste, Avossa, Linda Schultz...etc. I don't seem to remeber any pictures of Erste with any other charter petiton submittes? Interesting.
George P. Burdell May 05, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Wow....what a surrprise....Lou Erste sent out the denial letter to the press to slam FSA Middle School....and wow....he lied, twisted the truth, etc......wow.....he must really be ethical. I am sure this has nothing to do with his relationship with Fulton County Schools. Maybe people should start in vestigating Lou Erste for conflict of interest?
George P. Burdell May 05, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I find it interesting that Lou Erste (a GDOE employee) would go out of his way to publish this denial letter in the media before it was even on the GDOE website? In fact...he has never sent his denials to the press....he just post it on the GDOE website. This is the professional and ethical way. This is really something that needs to be answered. Waht is Lou Erste's real aganda? Maybe something his boss at GDOE should look into.
Bob Pepalis (Editor) May 06, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Mr. Erste did not send the recommendation summary or the letter to FSA to Patch. The claim that he had is as fictitious as one of Georgia Tech's most famous graduates whose name you evoke.
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:18 PM
From: Murat Cetin [mailto:mcetin@fsaelementary.org] Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2012 1:57 PM Subject: Update from FSA MS Governing Board on the Denial Recommendation Dear FSA Community, We would like to thank you for your continued patience and support of our school. On Monday afternoon, April 30, 2012 FSA MS received a recommendation for denial from the Department of Education Charter School Division. This letter included many inaccurate and/or incomplete statements. The FSA MS Governing Board and staff immediately began to write and compile corroborating data for their response to address the eleven concerns in their entirety. Out of respect for the process, our goal was to send one clear unified response to the State Charter Schools Division as well as to our school community and the public as whole with supporting documentation. As we submitted the response to the CSD this morning, we are now in a position to update our community as well as general public and the media. We apologize if the delay in response has any way caused the perception that we were not being forthcoming, had given up, or that we couldn’t address the raised concerns. As always it is our goal to inform our community of all information as soon as possible. Again, we thank you for your understanding and patience. CONTINUED IN NEXT COMMENT POST.....
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:20 PM
AS the FSA MS Governing Board is aware that the financial concern is the most pressing, we want our parents to understand that all of $5,780,760.11 has always been accounted for and the corroborating documentation was submitted and is available for review. Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf Going forward in this process, we have scheduled a parent meeting on Wednesday, May 9th at 7:00PM at FSA MS. Additionally, there will be a State Board of Education Charter Committee meeting on May 9, 2012 at 2:30PM where our application will be presented to the Charter Committee for information. Please plan to attend if your schedule permits. The FSA MS charter application will then be voted on June 14, 2012. Please feel free to contact us for any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you, FSA MS Governing Board
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:21 PM
PLEASE READ.... Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Please see the attached letter summarizing the FSA Governing Board’s response to the DOE recommendation letter. The link below includes all of the supporting documentation for each item. http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf
George P. Burdell May 06, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Bob......I really wasn't talking about the Patch. FSA was getting calls from media outlets asking for comments 15 minutes after they received the denial letter from Erste on Monday. They had no problem telling them where they got it. The denial letter was not posted on the GDOE website untill Tuesday. These are fact that are easily verified....So Erste not only was unethical in doing this....he sent it (or had it sent) to the media and posted on the GDOE website before FSA was able to respond to all the lies in it. Looking into this more last night. Isn't it a little "strange" that the comments in the denial letter were never brought up to FSA for an explanation before he released it? Like I said....no matter how this turns out....there is a serious case against Lou Erste for ethics violations.
Alpharetta Single Parent May 07, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I am an FSA parent with two children in the elementary school. I am so disappointed in the mismanagement. Moving my children from their old elementary school to FSA was a big adjustment with lots of changes that we were happy to make for the opportunity to attend school with other children and families who cared about their educations. That was the main difference that I could see. The quality of the students and families attending the school. Was the eduction different? I don't think so. The environment was the key. We were very happy there this year. Now, after just one year, I am having to put my older child in a private school and I guess send my younger child back to his old elementary school. I don't trust that the Sunshine Academy will be viable next year and I can imagine it shutting down halfway through the year. The Governing Board played a game of chicken and they lost. I don't appreciate having to have my older child go to three different schools in 3 years and the stress I now face at having to put my younger child back in the school we were "escaping". The poster above who used the word "arrogant" to describe the FSA administration hit the nail on the head.
Bob Pepalis (Editor) May 07, 2012 at 06:54 PM
The Georgia Department of Education is a government body subject to the state's Open Records laws. These documents fall under those laws, so making them available to the public and forwarding them to anyone who requests them is following the law. FSA. Once the agendas for the state school board meetings were posted, anyone who checked the state site would see the recommendation for denial was being made, so they'd know the report was prepared and would ask for it.
FSA MS and FSA ES Father May 09, 2012 at 10:51 PM
"While the atmosphere at FSA MS is great, the quality of education is no better than at our local public school" Respectfully, you must be in a different school area than we are. FSA MS and FSA ES are our only options for public school, our zoned options are unacceptable. Back to private and school, and say goodbye to cultural diversity.
tom deeb May 10, 2012 at 01:00 AM
To Andrea J -- please get the fact correct -- FSA is not and never has been funded by Grace Institute. In fact their funding comes from guess what the state and local education funds and they deliver outstanding education for 30 -40% less cost than our local public schools and they do not receive any splost funds. Note that splost is a $900 million dollar tax that Fulton County Schools has levied on us the tax payers. So FSA gets better results with less tax payer dollars seems like a good deal to me. And they do not have any of the silly fund raiser that other schools have. They just know how to manage monies better.
tom deeb May 10, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Dear Huck, You should know that the the state forgot to ask FSA to account for the monies they just assumed that it was misappropriated. 100% of the funds are fully accounted for and the information was delivered to the state as a part of the response to the denial. By the way do you really think that investors such as Oppenhiemer would give someone 18 million dollars and not keep track of it? Come on --- of course it was accounted for and paid out against specific activities investors are not stupid.
tom deeb May 10, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Chuck --- do you really believe that investors such as Oppenhiemer would give someone over 18 million dollars and not provide oversight. Give me a break -- the accounting was always there the State just did not care to ask. Investors are not stupid or naive --- they have controls -- so it was never an issue but instead one that the State made up so that they could justify their actions.
tom deeb May 10, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Really arrogant -- lets see when the initial denial was given by Fulton County FSA board held and emergency session and within hours,following State of Georgia law filled a petition to accept the terms dictated by the Fulton County School Board. The Board sent back a note saying the matter was closed. When the political leadership asked the Fulton County Schools to re-think their position and accept the petition -- Fulton County would not return their calls. When the state offered to mediate the between the two parties -- Fulton County Schools said no. So lets see here the board tried legally and through all of the procedures to accept the three years as mandated by Fulton County Schools -- guess what our elected board members said no. As one board member has stated -- She has a life time term --- as know one will run against her. I think the actions of Fulton County Schools and their board members are a great example of hubris that we can all remember in the next elections.
tom deeb May 10, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Dear Jim I could not agree more. Note that the State did not ask the Fulton County School Board to resign when it was found guilty of negligence in the abuse of special needs students. Nor did the State ask the board to resign when it was found that the principle involved was not charge with a crime and instead was allowed to retire. Nor did the state ask the board to resign when it allowed the teacher responsible for the abuse to resign. Nor did ask the board to resign when it was found out under oath that the President of the School Board had not read the internal or external reports that clearly found abuse. Nor did ask the board to resign when Fulton County lost the court case and has to pay for the education and restitution to 1 student who was abused and now has several multi-million lawsuits against for abuse of 6 special needs children. So while the FSA board has been accused of many things --- they have not broken the law, allowed criminals to go free, and pay off principles who were responsible for destroying the lives of 6 special needs children.
FSA MS and FSA ES Father May 10, 2012 at 01:24 PM
There do need to be consequences. My children and my family are suffering them right now. 2 groups failed our community, FSA MS and Fulton County Board. FSA MS Leadership will certainly suffer, as they should. Others are as well. The teachers are out of work. Parents are scrambling to find other options, especially those of us who have been re-zoned for poorly performing school. The students are paying the price more than anyone. It will be difficult to replace an environment like FSA MS. Have you ever attended an event where the student who has the highest GPA has her named chanted like she had just scored the winning goal at a football game? The Fulton County School Board failed to do their job in overseeing the School. It is their responsibility to Govern Charter schools. They failed. What consequences will they incur? They couldn't oversee this 1 school and now they are supporting every school in Fulton to go to a Charter system. They have shown they are not qualified to do Govern.
FSA MS and FSA ES Father May 10, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The Fulton County Board Charter School representative announced 1 year before the Charter renewal was submitted that there would be serious problems. You are right in saying the Fulton County board has a legal responsibility. In the private sector this type of Governance / responsibility involves ensuring issues are fixed / avoided along the way. They failed in that. They failed the taxpayers and the students. Please understand I blame the permanent FSA MS board equally, but Fulton County failed us all with their inability to perform their fiduciary duties and to adhere to their Mission Statement "Where Students Come First". Enough blame to go around for all. By the way, we received 2 letters from Linda Schulz after they denied the charter renewal. 1st letter said, do not worry we have plenty of room for your students. 2nd letter was to all North Fulton parents to discuss over-crowding of Middle Schools and it cited FSA MS’s closing as a contributor. Ignorance or duplicity, either way these folks are not fit to Govern.
fs MS PARENT May 14, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Our zoned middle school is Elkins Point.
tom deeb May 14, 2012 at 10:06 AM
FS MS Parent Many of us have Elkins Point as a Middle School --- what was once a good school has fallen far below the educational standards we expect. Year over Year decline in scores coupled with 10-years of poor if not failing leadership, under Vivian Bankston, that was supported by our School Board member has left the school in terrible shape. A terrible disservice has been done to the community by closing FSA and removing a great public school. It will lower property values. It will discourage relocation as education is the number one reason that people choose where to live. It will discourage investment in the Roswell area as why would companies want to invest in a location where schools like Elkins Pointe are the zoned schools for our area. Instead we will continue to see as an advertisement for homes and communities --- Zoned for Milton.

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