Superintendent recommends revoking Science Academy's charter

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

Fulton County's superintendent is recommending that the school board close an Alpharetta charter school after an audit raised question about its operations.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Fulton County's school superintendent is recommending that the school board close an Alpharetta charter school after an audit raised question about its operations.

In a letter obtained by Channel 2's Mike Petchenik dated Dec. 4, Dr. Robert Avossa said the board should revoke Fulton Science Academy High School's charter, which would mean the school would close at the end of the 2012-2013 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.

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.

Auditors also said they found evidence that Fulton Science Academy High school students were paying for online courses that should have been offered to them for free.

"This violates the spirit and letter of the law since charter schools are required to provide a free public education if they accept public funds," Avossa's letter said.

Auditors also raised concerns about absenteeism in the school, noting an apparent under-reporting of truancy levels at the school.

"Besides issuing misleading information to public stakeholders, this lack of procedures ultimately undermine student attendance," Avossa wrote.

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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.

Petchenik reached out to Fulton Science Academy High School's principal, Namik Sercan, but Sercan said he would withhold comment until he had a chance to meet with the school's governance board Tuesday night.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, FSAHS said it was reviewing and evaluating the school's options.

"We will continue to fully cooperate with Fulton County Schools so that we can remain committed to delivering the highest quality education to our students," the statement from FSAHS School Board Chairman Randall Morgan said.

"Fulton Science Academy High School has operated successfully since the 2006/2007 school year because we strive to meet each of our student's individual needs to maximize their potential," the statement said.  "We have worked hard on fostering the partnership between our students, parents, faculty and the community."

The school has until Dec. 14 to request a hearing on Avossa's recommendation. If the school chooses to have a hearing, it would be scheduled for Dec. 18.