By unanimous vote, the Fulton County School Board has killed a request from the charter Fulton Science Academy Middle School to continue to operate for another ten years.
"We're not going to stop," said disappointed FSA parent Lauri Crowe Kowalski after the hour-long meeting and minute-long vote, "but it's a big bump."
The Alpharetta school wants a charter renewal for at least eight years, but schools Superintendent Robert Avossa recommended only three. He said FSA needs to synch its charter cycle with and Fulton Sunshine Academy because the three are issuing a $19 million building bond together.
That alignment is necessary for responsible financial oversight and stewardship of Fulton taxpayer money, he said.
After the vote, FSA parent and governing board member Angela Lassetter sighed and suggested the next step is to "start fundraising and start applying to the state."
That special state permission may be FSA's only choice. The school's charter ends in June 2012. If there's no state action, FSA's students are scheduled to return to normal public schools next year.
"We've never been found to be not fiscally responsible," argued Lassetter. Despite that record, "we are not being afforded the right to have that longer term."
The school governing body wants at least eight years because they belive that longer-term committment will make financial planning, recruiting and hiring easier.
At least as many spectators were locked out as let into the Dec. 20 meeting. The Dunwoody Springs Elementary cafeteria-turned-meeting-room holds only 230 people. Those outside pressed faces and signs against the windows, unanimously urging support for FSA.
"You dont take your star quarterback and put him on the bench," said Doug Lucas, the father of three FSA students, pointing out that the school has just won a Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award, a citation earned only by the nation's most successful schools.
"It feels like a punishment for our success," said one-time math teacher and now FSA administrator Annette Higgins.
Lassetter's message to school board members is that their staffs are lying to them. "We can't get past the wall of the staff," she said.
FSA originally asked for a ten-year renewal, but was willing to settle on eight years. Avossa said he did not recieve the amended proposal. Lassetter said her team confirmed BOE's receipt of the eight-year proposal last night.