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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.

, named a 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.

Timeline

  • 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
Roswell Parent December 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM
As parents of two students at FSA Middle School for the last 4 and a half years, we can personally attest to FSA being a great school, with administration that cares about the students. We are distraught that the school board won't agree to the charter terms being requested.
Sharon M. December 14, 2011 at 10:36 PM
I have an 8th grader who was given the opportunity of an outstanding education at FSA. FSA's model might not work for all students, but my student excelled in this environment and many others do as well, as proven by the consistently high ITBS scores. It won the National Blue Ribbon Award for its commitment to excellence. It breaks my heart that Dr. Avossa wishes to deny that opportunity to my daughter, who is currently in 5th grade. The flexibility you want to deny to FSA is what has given it the ability to be extraordinary. If you take away the flexibility, you hurt their ability to perform. There is a saying, "Don't fix what isn't broken". If you shorten the charter to 3 years, you send a signal to the community, parents, and students that you don't value the achievements and superior results of this school. Please remember that this is about putting the students first. Keep FSA open.
Sandy Springs/Spalding Area December 14, 2011 at 10:59 PM
I reside in Sandy Springs and after one year of giving our districted middle school a chance, we were thrilled that we were able to get into FSA MS. Was it convenient, no. But as a Fulton County taxpayer, I felt I had the right to have my child attend a quality public middle school. FSA MS was that school. I find it reprehensible that these conversations even have to happen. My child is an on-level student. FSA MS not only challenges the best of the best students but has a stellar staff to address the needs of our on level students. My child has flourished in the 1.5 years at FSA MS. I have a rising 5 th grader that I planned to keep at FSA. I am absolutely dismayed with the board's unwillingness to support our charter. Come and talk to the Fulton County residents in the Dunwoody area and find out how many of their kids go to our districted school. OH- wait.....you probably won't have anyone show up because we have only a few families in the neighborhood that believe that your districted public schools can provide the quality education their children need!
Jim December 14, 2011 at 11:01 PM
I guess we will see whether Fulton County really means "Where students come first" or if they just mean Students that aren't in the Charter system. Makes you wonder about how the high performing schools will be treated when Fulton County begins their Charter system.
Thomas December 14, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Roswell Parent #2 FSA is not asking the Fulton Board any more than what the had avaiable for the past 10 years so why not another 10? Why not the waivers? Well you have look behind the curtain to see the motivation behind the Countys demands. I find it ironic Fulton Couty claims the largest Charter operation in GA. But look closely what does this mean? I understand their are different types of charters. Most of the Fulton Co Charters are coversion charters. Sound great? Wait dont just assume its the same as FSA or other regular charter. I found conversion charters have many more hand cuffs and limiations. These limiations imposed are causing these schools not to fully excell the same way as FSA has done. Rather than cutting he ball and chain on these converson schools due to POLITICS, MONEY and POWER it seems easyier to squash reguar charters with same restrictions. Then they could then say see no need for regular charters they dont prodcue any more than our conversion charters with our teachers aka unions. (Just a thought...hum makes you wonder where this is all coming from.)
DH December 14, 2011 at 11:05 PM
com·pro·mise/ˈkämprəˌmīz/ Noun: An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions. FCSS has indicated that they have not been able to come to a compromise with FSA regarding the charter term and full flexibility. As they have at no time offered any concession, this is not true. FCSS has participated in negotiation meetings during which they pointedly refused to negotiate. While the BOE states that they are merely attempting to be good stewards of taxpayer resources, I think they overlook that FSA parents are taxpayers too.
Thomas December 14, 2011 at 11:08 PM
FSA school knows how to teach and does not have higher percentage of behavior problems like in most other public schools. The school keeps parents well invoved. At FSA the teachers visits the home of the student. Show me where this is done at a regular public schoo? I find it ironic that Fulton county pays FSA about $7900 a year per student. Where Fulton Co own public and converter charters it cost about $9000 per studet. FSA has to pay for their own building cost. Where FCS pay building cost with Splost and other taxes. Here the county cost more for tax payors and produces less on acheivments. To me it is like they want to hand cuff FSA to slow or stop them from growth until they can catch up. Here Futon Countty has a great school but others inside dont like it because their schoos struggle to preform under currnet regulations. Tax payors unite demand the Board grants them 10 years.. Just think of the reduced taxes with better students!
Janet December 14, 2011 at 11:43 PM
I am dumbfounded as to why the renewal of FSA’s charter has become such a time consuming and resource consuming battle with the Fulton County School Board. Given the multitude of problems within the county schools, one would think that the board could better serve their constituents by turning their attention to the broken links in the county school system. There are a plethora of failing schools in Fulton County that dearly need the attention, energy and focus of the FC School Board. FSA has peacefully and agreeably focused their attention on cooperation and continued improvement in all facets of their operation. The numerous awards and accolades, in addition to the waiting list for enrollment, should clearly demonstrate that this is a thriving, vital “start-up” charter school. FSA has a proven track record. Our community wants, needs, and supports the renewal of FSA’s charter.
Paretnal December 14, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Since there seems to be no rational argument for denying the 10 or 8 year charter this whole thing looks more and more like Fulton Schools flexing their newly acquired control over the schools. Our kids don't come first, egos and power do.
FSA Dad December 15, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Over the past 10 years Fulton Science Academy has become the best performing middle school in Fulton County as measured by ITBS and CRCT scores. Receiving the Blue Ribbon Award from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is FSA's latest achievement. FSA's teachers, administrators and staff put the students first in everything they do. As a result there is a lengthy waiting list for enrollment at this outstanding school. Fulton County Schools should be striving to replicate FSA's performance system wide rather than impeding its vision. Let's hope Fulton County and FSA are able to resolve these administrative issues for the benefit of the students.
FSA Parent December 15, 2011 at 01:04 AM
FSA has been building great students regardless of the type of student who wins the public lottery to get into their school. They have students from all parts of Fulton County in there because parents whose kids won the lottery were willing to get involved in their childs education and put in more time to get their child to and from school regardless of the inconvenience. What is Fulton County BoE thinking of when they try to deny the charter of a school that outperforms other county schools on standardized testing and produces great students, the bulk of whom go back into their county high schools? For a state that ranks almost the lowest in the country on education they do not seem to be working to bring all their schools up to par, but trying to bring a good school down. What a waste of time, energy, effort and money this is for all concerned!
Radha December 15, 2011 at 02:35 AM
One parent at a community meeting on 12/14 said we need to not focus on scores as they encourage the behaviour of the recent Atlanta schools fiasco. Ok, scores are not the end game, the holistic development of the child is. That is what we get at FSA and by the way, in the process they get good scores. My children have never been so at ease with clubs and extracurricular activiies, while doing well at school. At FSA the teachers are so committed and involved, it inspires the kids to excel. The school identifies kids who are struggling, not only academically but socially or emotionally and with early intervention resolve the issue. Quite unlike a public school where a parent wont even know unless the child told them or when the grades come in and its too late. Here there are normal kids coming from regular public schools and ending up excelling. Something must be right! I would take the learnings and apply them to other schools instead of denying the charter. That would be the logical reasonable action. The public needs to ask the elected board officials to share and not shut. Something that has proven to work and is successful needs to be shared and cherished for the betterment of society. Please citizens speak for the rights of your kids, regardless of which school you are in.
Kristin December 15, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Another FSA parent who has been thrilled with her child's growth- academically and personally- since he's been there. Let's hope the board will act in the best interest of our children!
Dom December 15, 2011 at 11:34 AM
As a parent with a child at FSA MS and with friends at both Teach and Sunshine, all I can say is it is a great set of schools that meets the needs of certain children. My son thrives in the smaller more personal eviroment they provide. FSA MS has an outstanding record and just won Blue Ribbon and FCS wants to deny charter? Please stop with this non-sense. I have read no logical reason FSA should not be granted the 10 term they are asking for.
Concern Georgia Dad December 15, 2011 at 12:49 PM
The ultimate goal is to receive the Best education exposure for all kids. FSA is a shining light of academic success for all kids and parents in Georgia as a home grown model of educational innovation. So lets keep the "Big Picture", Renew FSA charter for 8 years instead of 10 and allow it to have "Flexibility" for continued innovation. Of course transparency and monitoring is needed and provided by Fulton County Board of Education. This benefits all parents in Georgia who desire a superior education platform for their kids. Expand the light, don't kill innovation.
StudentsFirst December 15, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Money and power...that's really the bottom line for the Fulton County Board, just admit it. As a parent who was in private school up to Pre-K, we tried the standard public school for Kindergarten and it was not ideal for any kindergarten student in my opinion. So we went back to private for all of elementary. After hearing such great things over the years about FSA, we did the research and applied for the middle school. Once accepted, we jumped on the opportunity to attend and have been quite pleased. We get far more from FSA MS than we even did in private school! As some of the previous comments noted, Fulton County should look at FSA as a model and implement some if its practices in the existing schools, versus the shinanigans that are happening right now. The school is, and has clearly been, a HUGE SUCCESS. It is unfortunate and quite evident that with the Fulton County System ALL students DO NOT come first...and THAT is very sad. "Concern Georgia Dad" sums it up well.
Kim December 15, 2011 at 02:00 PM
FSA MOM FSA is asking for a 10 year term for the charter. I still have heard no reasons for why this can not be given. Fulton county is saying that the 3 year charter will keep all the school aligned and therefore make it easier for monitoring them financially. Does Fulton county think that somehow making the charter be 3 years, that they will only have to audit one school. We know this is not the case all three schools will be audited, as they should be, so how does the charter affect the auditing and make it easier for them to monitor? Fulton County says they will not allow for a Blanket Waiver which is Not what FSA is asking for. They are asking for a Broad Waiver of title 20 which by the way Fulton County Schools application for a Charter school is also asking for, how ironic. On one hand they are saying they aren't granting Blanket waivers but on the other hand Fulton County Schools is asking for the same Waiver as FSA. How can this be? Does one hand not know what the other is doing? FSA is a wonderful school. Lets make it be about the children, who should come first.
Karen W December 15, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Dr Avossa has been our Superintendant for less than 6 months yet he makes a recommendation to deny the requested charter renewal of a school that has operated successfully for 10 years. That's quite an entrance into our community....... FYI three seats on the school board will be open for election next year.
VR December 15, 2011 at 02:48 PM
FSAMS is one of the best schools I have encountered so far. The teachers and staff are always caring and concerned and do their very best to help each child. I am quite shocked that the FSBOE is even thinking about denying charter renewal to a school that functions at such a high level. If the BOE truly cares about the children, then their only thought should be how can they get the other schools to emulate FSAMS. Instead, they are actually proposing to deny renewal. It is time for the BOE to set aside whatever politics is going on and think only of the children and grant the FSAMS their renewal.
Mary December 15, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Fulton County Parent As one FCBOE member said at a meeting on 12/14, " it's not about the personal stories, everybody has one. It's about the contract." The contract is the only way that Fulton County can handcuff FSA MS and keep them from excelling above the rest of the Fulton County Schools. We the voters should remember this and respond accordingly in November 2012. Three of the seven members are up for election. One vote can make a difference in the outcome for our children - more of the same obstruction or those that will get out of the way and let the children excel. It's our choice!
Parent December 15, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Folks, it is a global competition. Our kids are competing with kids from around the world. Science/Math/Research/Engineering jobs are taken away by foreign students as most of the US-based students are not ready do these kinds of jobs. FSA's model focuses on education with more importance to Science and Math. This is what our country needs. Fulton County school system should try and duplicate FSA's model and try to create more Science/Math focused students. The two sides should try to sort out their differences. Denying a charter is not the solution.
Abdul December 15, 2011 at 04:23 PM
FSA is one of the best Middle Schools in Fulton County and it has proved its excellence for past 10 years. My children go to FSA, and we love the philosophy behind charter school education. It will be very disappointing if the Fulton County Board of Education shuts down a thriving school offering quality education to our kids.
FSA MS and FSA ES Father December 15, 2011 at 04:38 PM
The post from Parent above has really nailed it. The Fulton County School Board will ensure that we continue to issue Visas so the US can get the skills it needs. I watch hundreds of jobs in technology being given to Foriegn H1B Visa holders every year, becasue we don't educate our children. Georgia is one of the worst performers in the country. Perhaps the Fulton County Charter Liason should focus on trade schools, or help train our students how to say "do you want that with fries". The success of FSA MS can't be denied. The efficacy and intent of Dr. Avossa, Linda Schulz and the rest of the Board is in question. Kill the best School in the County and watch the results in the press and across your community.
Thomas December 16, 2011 at 03:41 AM
I am telling you Voss is the puppet set up to take the fall for others on the board. Yes three seats open up on next election but I bet under the right conditions many more seats will open up. They are killing any chance they have to remain on the board.
TELLIS December 19, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Can anyone tell me with a straight face that the Fulton County Goverrnment is a better steward of taxpayer money than the committed hard working people at FSA? FSA greatly exceeds the results of public schools spending far more per student. More charter schools like FSA is what we need - not doing away with one of the few success stories in education we have in this State.
Peggy December 22, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Can this board find a new school for 500 kids like FSA? THE ANSWER IS no. We want our school open and we demonstrate that on 12/20/2011 . This school has a #1 ranking at the state level but apparently this board is not smart enough to understand.This board have to go and the superintendent also.

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