Principal defends charter school facing closure

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

ALPHARETTA, Ga. - The principal of an Alpharetta charter school slated for closure is defending his school’s operation.
 
On Tuesday, the Fulton County Board of Education voted in favor of Superintendent Robert Avossa’s recommendation to initiate the process of revoking Fulton Science Academy High School’s charter, which would mean the school would have to close at the end of the school year.
 
"The FSAHS governing board has demonstrated insufficient governance capacity, its actions have created significant financial concerns, and has demonstrated an insufficient record of accountability and legal compliance," Avossa wrote to board members in a letter summarizing an audit that examined school operations.
 
Specifically, auditors raised concerns about the school's default on an $18.9 million bond that was to pay for a new Alpharetta campus.  Auditors noted that school leaders weren't sure what impact the bond default would have on the school.  They also said they found evidence that Fulton Science Academy High School students were paying for online courses that school officials say should have been offered to them for free.
 
Avossa also said he had concerns that the school’s enrollment numbers were declining, and the school has continued to operate at below capacity.

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Principal Namik Cercan said issues raised in the audit were old issues from previous administrations.  He invited Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik into the school Wednesday to show him why he believes it should stay open.
 
“Our governing body has been performing perfectly,” he said.  “There are some new board members in the governing body. They’re conducting their business in a way that’s supposed to happen.”
 
Cercan said students aren’t being forced to pay for courses that would otherwise be free.  He said kids can opt to pay for extra courses offered by online vendors, but the money doesn’t go to the school, he said, but to the vendors themselves.
 
He also showed Petchenik enrollment figures that show a steady increase in student population over the last several years.
 
“Our enrollment grew in five of the last seven years of operation,” he said.
 
Cercan also pointed out that the school’s students have consistently scored well on standardized tests and were among the most successful in Fulton County.
 
Student Kamela Jaafar told Petchenik FSA High School has helped her to succeed in math, and she’s hopeful the district won’t shut down the school.
 
“I can’t even fathom the idea,” she said.  “It would be awful to imagine leaving such a great place.”
 
Last summer, an audit raised similar concerns about Fulton Science High's sister school, Fulton Science Academy Middle School.  Fulton County and the state chose not to renew its charter because of concerns raised, and the school has since gone private.
 
FSA High School has until Dec. 14 to request a hearing to contest the audit’s findings.  If the school chooses to have a hearing, it would be scheduled for Dec. 18.


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