Gulen's American Empire

Gulen's American Empire
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last of Gulen operated Fulton Science Academies in Georgia are DENIED by state

By Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Two locally-authorized charter schools in Fulton County failed to win state charters after the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia voted against them Wednesday.
Fulton Sunshine Academy, an elementary school, and Fulton Science Academy High School each failed to impress the charter commission staff, which recommended denial in both cases. The commission was troubled by the Sunshine Academy governing board’s “lack of understanding” despite years of operating under a local charter from Fulton County Schools, commission documents said. The high school’s governing board also failed to impress, with the commission staff finding “consistent problems with the governing board’s oversight of school administration.”
An audit commissioned by Fulton County Schools and released in 2012 said the financial viability of the two schools was put at risk when the school leadership obtained a bond issue in connection with an associated middle school without knowing whether the charter of that middle school would be extended. The charter was not, but Fulton Science Academy Middle School continued as a private school and now serves pre-kindergarten through eighth grade as Fulton Science Academy Private School.



September 10, 2014
ATLANTA – Officials with Fulton Science Academy High School (FSAHS) and the Fulton Sunshine Academy elementary school (FSAES) are pinning their hopes on Fulton school leaders to keep their charter status after a thumbs down vote from the state.

Last month, the State Charter School Commission (SCSC) cited management and operational concerns in denying state charter status to the two Alpharetta-based schools.

Currently, both schools are nearing the end of their five-year charters from the Fulton Board of Education (FCBOE). If the charters are not renewed beyond their June end date, the options to remain open become limited.

"With the state options now gone, the boards [of both schools] are 100 percent focused on doing whatever it takes to retain their charters with Fulton County," said David Rubinger, a spokesman for FSAHS and FSAES.

He expressed disappointment with the SCSC, which offered no comment in its decision to deny a charter to the two schools despite evidence the schools are performing well and providing a positive educational option to the area. The two schools were among nine petitions considered during the Aug. 27 meeting of the commission; five were approved.

During a presentation to the SCSC prior to their vote, Maria Beug-Deeb, chair of the FSAHS governing board, outlined changes to the board including the addition of two new members with experience in legal and financial issues.

"I assure you we are an effective board and we have worked hard to expand our effectiveness," said Beug-Deeb. "With the collaboration of the Georgia Charter School Association, [we have] devised a detailed transition plan designed to meet the stringent requirements of the State Charter School Commission."

The school currently enrolls 276 students, with the majority of the students in the ninth grade. The school opened 10 years ago.

The decision to deny state status to FSAHS was centered on governance issues, according to a report from the SCSC. The commission questioned whether the "governing board could properly oversee the operation of the school and hold the school leader accountable." It also cited a "history of inadequate governance" that led to a fractured relationship with the Fulton County School System.

Two years ago, the FCBOE voted to terminate the charter with FSAHS. However that decision was turned down by the Georgia Department of Education, allowing the school to finish out its charter.

The presentation from the Fulton Sunshine Academy to the SCSC pointed out the school has an enrollment of 550 students, with a waiting list of several hundred, and performs well academically.

"Fulton Sunshine Academy is one of the brightest spots for elementary education in Georgia," said Metin Oguzmert, chair of the school's governing board. "[The school] is among the highest ranked charter elementary schools in Fulton County, [and] a model for how a successful charter program works."

The denial for the Sunshine Academy appeared more procedural than deficiency. The school failed to demonstrate why its students would "benefit from operating as a state charter school rather than a locally approved charter school."

The petitions for charter renewal from the two schools will be submitted to the Fulton School System this month. After review, the petitions will be forwarded to the FCBOE, with a vote on Nov. 20.

While they await a final decision, the school year continues "normally" for students at FSAHS and FSAES.

"Our first priority is to ensure our schools continue performing at the exceptional level they have already achieved," said Rubinger. "We remain fully funded…[and] this process will have no impact on the schools' operation for this school year."


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