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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.

FSA MS and FSA ES Father May 02, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Sack the FSA Board, keep the teachers and keep the best Middle School in Georgia open. It's not like Georgia can afford to lose a high performing school.
Fulton MS and ES PArent May 02, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I've called for the FSA Board's resignation before... but frankly the chances of that happening (i.e. a non-Turkish dominated board replacing the current board) are nil. Makes you wonder why. The whole Gulen angle frightens me. The fact that this Board would risk the education of 500 students by playing Russian Roulette with the Fulton County Board in the first place was telling. As the father of both an MS and ES student, I am incensed. Great school, but I am totally suspicious of the leadership.
FSA MS PARENT May 02, 2012 at 09:05 PM
FSA is a high performing school because of the type of students, not necessarily the staff. While some of the teachers and staff are truly great, many of them are not. Some of my children have attended, but my youngest will not. While the atmosphere at FSA MS is great, the quality of education is no better than at our local public school. While I believe and embrace religious freedom and acceptance, I do believe public funds have been misdirected (Grace Institute, paying for Visas for Turkish teachers when we have plenty of qualified teachers here, direct ties to other "Gulen" schools, contracts not going through proper channels for bidding, etc...) and the boards and individuals that run FSA exercise too much control.
upset May 02, 2012 at 10:33 PM
This decision does not surprise me at all and I hate to say it will also happen when the FSA elementary and high schools attempt to renew their charters in 3 years. I’m aware of many issues, beyond funding, where this school (along with the elementary and high school) is not following the “rules”. I’ve heard more than once that because they are a charter school, they can do what they want. That is not acceptable and there is a reason the state of Georgia requires administrators to be qualified to run and manage a school, you can’t get thousands of taxpayer dollars and just do whatever you feel is best! I support the charter school concept and parent choice, but when there is evidence of mismanagement, there needs to be consequences.
Concern Georgia Dad May 03, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Negativity never solved anything. COMMITMENT AND SOLUTIONS DO! As a father AND TAXPAYER with kids in FSA I must say it is an excellent educational opportunity for kids. The environment is academically focused and the teachers and staff are hard workers and kid/parent focused. (NO SCHOOL IS PERFECT) Obviously the charter renewal issues need to be addressed in a timely manner. CLOSING THIS HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL EDUCATION INSTITUTION CANNOT BE AN OPTION. IT WOULD BE SHAMEFUL TO OUR KIDS, THE ATLANTA COMMUNITY and TO THE STATE OF GEORGIA. It’s easy for someone to say "Deny" or "Close IT". Todays EDUCATIONAL needs locally and on a national scope require more then this simple remedy. OUR GEORGIA KIDS need and PARENTS deserve FSA's BOARD and the GABOE to get in a room, "role up their sleeve" and solve the problems as stated. They get a "FAILING' grade if the school is closed (Fired, Demoted, Elected Out Of Office) or "A+" if they find solutions to remedy the stated problem and approve the charter for the 2012 - 2013+ school term. The end result/goal should be that FSA continues to deliver an exceptional academic experience for Georgia's kids in a safe, financially sound and transparent manner.
Concern Georgia Dad May 03, 2012 at 03:39 PM
OUR KIDS, PARENTS AND THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE ARE TIRED OF THE INABILITY OF THOSE ON "BOTH SIDES" TO DELIVER A HIGHER STANDARD OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL KIDS. WE MUST HOLD 'BOTH SIDES' ACCOUNTABILITY FOR TIMELY AND REALISTIC RESULTS THAT DELIVER THE BEST CHANCE FOR OUR KIDS AND GENERATIONS TO COME. CLOSING ONE OF GEORGIA'S PROVEN TOP PERFORMANCE SCHOOL'S IS NOT THE CORRECT ANSWER. SO, FSA AND GABOE AND WHO EVER ELSE IS INVOVLED GET TO WORK. THIS IS A PASS OR FAIL TEST THAT HAS ENORMOUS CONSEQUENCES TO OUR KIDS AND OUR COMMUNITY.
hartans' mom May 03, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Sheesh! Stop yelling!
FSA Parent May 03, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Trust an administrator (Erste) to say that academic performance is only as important as finances and governance. Academic performance is the whole point, and nobody does it better than FSA. The three-legged school metaphore doesn't work here. Budgets and adminstration support the mission of delivering academic performance. Academic performance is the crowning achievement, not one of the legs. It is possible to fix financial and management errors, but if it were so easy to create a school that consistently excels in every academic measure, Georgia's public schools would be the envy of the nation, which, sadly, is not the case. Can't the State (or County) direct FSA to clean up its problems without disbanding the school? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Find a way to work out the problems. Closing the school is an outrageous remedy.
Parent May 04, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Hello? Anybody listening? The FSA Board is totally responsible for this mess! There is absolutely no excuse for them not to have accepted a 3 year charter. NONE! Clearly, their so-called "principals" we're more important than educating our children. On that point alone, the school should be shut down, or the board should resign. Don't hold your breath for the latter...
Concerned Parent May 04, 2012 at 08:48 AM
I have seen my daughter's attitude and little accomplishments in the local school she has attended and I see her achievements, challenges, and HAPPINESS in the FSA. The difference is like between night and day. Her face is glowing now, she is so happy. I do not want to deny her this. As a parent, it is my responsibility and duty to provide her with the best education that I can afford. I look at the state and the local government to regulate and protect this right not deny it. Problems can be fixed, good opportunities do not always come.
Tamara Lowrey May 04, 2012 at 04:26 PM
FSA Middle & High School Parent The Fulton County School Board must be JUMPING FOR JOY about now! I attended the big meeting last December in downtown Atlanta to support our Fulton County FSA MS charter renewal The School board showed a great deal of bitterness and hostility toward FSA MS and it was apparent they did not want FSA MS to continue. WAKE UP Parents and understand that the state of Georgia will limit CHOICE and OPTIONS for our students. I have 6th and 9th grade FSA students and am very happy with the FSA family of schools. What happens to the money we raised in hopes of keeping FSA MS open?
Roswell Resident May 05, 2012 at 06:12 AM
It is very sad ignoring all accomplishments made and attempts to have a bigger campus better education higher property values ends up with denial to fear of not being able to pay 18 million bond by the year 2041. FSA Charter school wants to serve better to a larger community with the best STEM school example in the whole County and State. FCS and GA DOE showed that they are not interested in success nor STEM school that could be a great pioneer like it did for 10 years .The Blue Ribbon school, best national placements ,family like environment,great dedication from FSA board, teachers and administration, international festivals are great for North Fulton community and this is time for us to SAVE OUR SCHOOL.
Roswell Resident May 05, 2012 at 06:16 AM
It is very sad ignoring all accomplishments made and attempts to have a bigger campus better education higher property values ends up with denial to fear of not being able to pay 18 million bond by the year 2041. FSA Charter school wants to serve better to a larger community with the best STEM school example in the whole County and State. FCS and GA DOE showed that they are not interested in success nor STEM school that could be a great pioneer like it did for 10 years .The Blue Ribbon school, best national placements ,family like environment,great dedication from FSA board, teachers and administration, free and better than pricate school environment, international festivals are great for North Fulton community and this is time for us to SAVE OUR SCHOOL
George P. Burdell May 06, 2012 at 12:14 AM
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 until now....he just post it on the GDOE website. This seems very unprofessional and unethical. This is really something that needs to be answered. What is Lou Erste's real agenda? Maybe something his boss at GDOE should look into. I think someone should examine the relationship of Lou Erste (who wrote the denial) with Fulton County Schools...then we will have the reason for his unethical behavior. Look at the picture when Fulton County submitted their "charter petiton"...big smiles, hugs and kisses with Erste, Avossa, Linda Schultz...etc. I don't seem to remember any pictures of Erste with any other charter petition submitters? Interesting.
George P. Burdell May 06, 2012 at 12:25 AM
The "Lou Erste" plot thickens. FSA has published a response to his denial letter clearly explaining http://www.fsamiddle.org/files/Charter/Supplemental_Material_for_FSA_MS_State_Charter_Petition-May-4-2012.pdf Does Lou Erste do the "ethical" thing and send out apology or set the record straight? No. Why...because he wanted to hurt the school in the press....mission complete. Boy, It is becoming more and more obvious that Erste has a conflict of interest..maybe more? i think it is time for a special investigation into Mr. Erste!
George P. Burdell is a fictitious student officially enrolled at Georgia Tech in 1927 as a practical joke. Attacking the messenger is a weak man's way of deflecting attention from the issue of FSA's failure. Just like students earn their grades and the teachers only calculate them, the DoE just did the assessment of the school -- it was FSA that failed. Trying to deflect attention from the facts by attacking the messenger Is just silly. And, if you take the time to put the DoE letter side-by-side with the FSA response, you will see that FSA actually failed to respond to the DoE letter -- once again proving that it is either unwillling or unable to deal appropriately with the reality of the situation...
Milton Citizen May 06, 2012 at 06:36 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 06:39 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 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 06:42 PM
FROM FSA MS GOVERNING BOARD 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. 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.
George P. Burdell May 06, 2012 at 10:51 PM
The great GPB is as ficticious as you wanting you kids to go to FSA. I don't want my kids to go to FSA (they go to private school). I was hoping to send them to a "traditional" public school next year, but Fulton County Schools decided to convert to a charter school system ( ironic....their reasons for doing it are the same reasons they denied FSA). I think that FCS has taken my choice away. My kids HAVE to go to charter school now. In any event, I have followed the FSA story because I have been keeping track of FCS conversion....so back to my original statement. 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

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