Fulton charter school: How much are parents willing to overlook if their children are flourishing?

An outside audit of a noted charter middle school in Alpharetta found contracts awarded without the competitive bidding process, conflicts of interest, co-mingling of funds, the hiring of Turkish citizens for staff positions for which there were qualified Georgians, payment of visas for family members of staff, payment of airline tickets for staff to return to Turkey for long summer visits and a lack of background checks on staff members who accompanied students to Turkey.

In a 90-minute meeting with the AJC, Fulton school chief Robert Avossa said the audit of the Fulton Science Academy Middle School represented the most “egregious” problem he had ever encountered in his 20 year career in education.

“I am not the lawyer, but when you look at this, look at the facts, it is wrong. We don’t do self dealing. We don’t take kids on field trips without proper vetting,” he said.

School officials received a copy of the audit early Tuesday but said they would withhold comment until they could discuss the findings with the academy’s board. I also asked the Georgia Charter School Association for comment and will publish it when I get it.

What complicates the damning audit is that the Fulton Science Academy Middle School is a high performing school. But is that achievement reason to ignore what appears to be mismanagement and sloppy finances at the very least?

That question is all the more critical because all Fulton schools are now charters under a new system wide charter.  That  means each of the 100 schools will gain greater autonomy and flexibility. But Avossa said that schools will have more instructional freedom but “The business side will be managed in a very tight way.”

Avossa said all the Fulton schools, including charters, have to be transparent and open in their operations. “In this case, those processes failed,” he said.

The audit done by IAG Forensics reveals questionable financial maneuvers that underscore a weakness in charter school management in Georgia. Under the ideal presented by charter advocates in the Legislature, including north Fulton state Rep. Jan Jones, the parent governing board of the Fulton Science Academy should have been on top of the school’s intricate and entangled finances.

But the reality is that the financial practices of the school were so complicated that the professional audit team had a hard time making sense of where money was going, to whom it was going and for what.

The cost of the audit to Fulton taxpayers will likely be $35,000, in large part because uncooperative Fulton Science Academy Middle School leaders blocked the auditors. You can read this blog to see how the school leadership slowed the audit. There is also a blog with the letter that the school chief sent the board of education.

Because of what the 70-page audit uncovered at the middle school, Avossa plans to initiate similar audits at its two sister schools, the Fulton Sunshine Academy and the Fulton Science Academy High School, both of which remain district charter schools.

“Two charters are in danger based on what we have found,” he said.

Should parents at these schools  be concerned about their viability? “If my children were at these schools, that is what I would say,” said Avossa.

For instance, the audit found that a half million dollars was paid over the years to something called “Grace Institute” for unclear reasons. When pressed, the Fulton Science Academy Middle School told the county that the Grace Institute, which had the same address as the school for at least one year, provided professional development, curriculum development and test questions.

However, the auditors found that Grace Institute only had two employees, a receptionist and an IT person at the time, raising doubts about whether it had the capacity to provide training or test questions. They also found that leaders of the charter school and its sister schools had ties to the institute.

According to the audit:

Grace Institute for Educational Research & Resources, Inc. The first agreement between Fulton Science Academy Middle School and Grace Institute for Educational Research & Resources, Inc. (“Grace”) was dated November 15, 2008. This agreement was signed on behalf of Grace by Mr. Selim Ozdemir. At that time, Mr. Ozdemir was both a Board Member for Grace and the Executive Director for both Fulton Science Academy Middle School and Fulton Science Academy High School Mr. Ayhan Korucu (Board Member and current Governing Board President of FSAMS) signed the agreement on behalf of FSAMS. In addition, FSAMS’ Principal Sener also served as a Board Member for Grace; and Mr. Ozer served as both President of Grace and Curriculum Director for FSAMS.

In Form 1023, Part IX, Financial Data, and the related description, Grace states that, for the year ending 06/2009, it plans to pay salaries and wages for only two staff members, a receptionist and an information technology person.31 It is unclear what services Grace can provide to its member schools with only two paid
staff members, neither experienced in many of the service areas Grace contracted to provide to FSAMS.

In its 10 years as a charter school, the Fulton Science Academy Middle School has received $32.5 million in tax dollars. However, the county and state recently declined to renew the school’s charter. and it is now in the process of  reinventing itself as a  private school where parents will pay tuition.

It was that pending “divorce” that prompted Fulton County Schools to bring in an outside audit team to determine a division of assets — what resources in the schools, such as computer and other equipment, legally belonged to the school system and which the school could keep as a private entity.

Avossa said he resorted to an outside firm because the district lacked the expertise to conduct an audit that involved a $19 million public bond and co-mingling of funds.

He also did not want the district to be charged with a witch hunt against charter schools, noting that Fulton has long been open to charters and, in fact, plans on approving more as part of its commitment to greater parental choice. “We want charter schools to be part of our portfolio of choices,” he said.

Avossa noted that he has authorized audits of two non-charter schools when evidence of wrongdoing emerged.

“We have public dollars at risk in each of our schools; we have to have checks and balances. The audit brings to light that we have to balance the autonomy and flexibility of charter schools with accountability. You have to be able to play by the rules,” he said.

Fulton Science and its two sister schools entered into a $19 million loan agreement to build a shared campus. The schools sought revenue bonds through the Alpharetta Development Authority to build the campus and then began construction without following state protocol for site approval.

(Fulton school attorney Glenn Brock said the county taxpayers will not be on the hook for the bond, that it is on the backs of the schools and the investors.)

Of most concern to Avossa and Brock is the way Fulton Science Academy chose its vendors and how financial decisions appear to have benefited staff members in some instances.

“We have processes on how you secure materials, how you put goods and services out for bids. Here, we had individuals serving on multiple levels at different  points in time. There were people in leadership roles in two different boards in which dollars flowed between them,” said the school chief.

An intricate chart in the audit shows a network of vendors who were used repeatedly, calling into question the openness of the bidding process, said Brock. Also, the school officials, unbeknownst to the county, pledged to pay teachers a quarter of their salaries in severance if the school closed, something that would use public funds that would otherwise go back to Fulton taxpayers.

Also, the school turned to Turkey to hire many employees including a human resources staffer and electives teachers. The school was able to bring the workers here through the “H-1B” visa program, which allows for highly skilled foreign workers who fill a need unmet by the American workforce to come to the U.S.

Typically, in education, the visas are used to accommodate hard-to-teach positions, such as a Chinese language instructors.

Avossa is puzzled why the charter school went to Turkey to fill slots for which local candidates could be found.  “This was during one of Georgia’s worst recessions,” said Avossa. “When you look at how many hundreds and hundreds of teachers have been laid off in the Atlanta region, there were probably folks eligible for those jobs.”

Also troubling to the Fulton school chief is that after tax dollar were used to pay for these Turkish teachers’ visas, many left the school after one year to return to their homeland. “Changing teachers every year isn’t good,” he said. “We hold principals accountable if attrition rates change.”

A recent “60 Minutes” segment examined the rise in Turkish-run charter schools that are part of what is known as the Gulen network. The CBS report described the 130 charter schools in 26 states as economic engines for followers of Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who preaches a sort of prosperity gospel, urging his followers to build schools, not mosques.

The schools are seen as economic tools, providing jobs to Turks and contracts for Turkish businesses here in the United States. There is no evidence in Fulton or anywhere else that the schools seek to indoctrinate students, a fact that Avossa stressed. He urged people to avoid xenophobia in this debate, asking that they read the audit and respond to the facts.

The CBS report also noted that the schools are very successful, which again raises the question at the start of this long blog: How much are Fulton parents willing to overlook if their children are getting a quality education?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog.

94 comments Add your comment

[...] Here is a link to a blog on the implications of this audit for charter schools in general. [...]

Ron F.

June 5th, 2012
5:47 pm

“The school was able to bring the workers here through the “H-1B” visa program, which allows for highly skilled foreign workers who fill a need unmet by the American workforce to come to the U.S.”

We’re in a recession where teachers are being laid off by the hundreds per system, and they had to bring them in from Turkey…wow, just….wow. And all this time we thought FSAMS was doing so great and that the PARENT BOARD was so good at oversight. How’s that working out for FSAMS?

Attentive Parent

June 5th, 2012
7:09 pm

Maureen-that’s 3 posts. Do you have Bob’s back like you had Bev’s for so long?

Whatever happened with Fulton Science Academy, there are some really choice quotes under the circumstances.

Did anyone do a forensic audit of how the Fulton charter came to have so many duplicitous terms that have meanings no one has told the taxpayers or parents?

They will need the Attentive Parent Glossary of Terms.

Wait until the discover the essence of the Effective Schools research.

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2012
7:10 pm

@Attentive, I have three posts because this is so complex. I posted the full audit and the school chief’s letter so readers who care can go deep into the weeds.
And are you standing in for Beverly Fraud today? I am sure he will be here soon.
Maureen
(Didn’t get your Bob reference at first. Now see you mean Dr. Avossa. Somehow, don’t see him as a Bob.)

jd

June 5th, 2012
7:17 pm

Cheating is cheating. They broke the law — now the administrators and board must accept responsibility for abusing the public trust and public funds.

Tnde3314

June 5th, 2012
7:18 pm

@Ron F: I’d think strident anti-choice types like yourself would be too preoccupied with the shellacking your beloved unions are suffering tonight in Wisconsin’s recall election—to have time for this stuff.

Especially with all the union dollars squandered there in hopes of different results!

But the key point in the above article is that, with charter schools, parents at least HAVE A CHOICE—something you’d continue to deny them, despite all the horror stories regularly generated out of Fulton County public schools.

You live in fear that kids and funding may one day be able to migrate to schools which enjoy parents’ confidence. And how very telling it is that even with these questions being raised about the charter school … it will likely STILL rank higher in parental esteem compared to those traditional public schools it’s drawing its students from.

Aquagirl

June 5th, 2012
7:22 pm

There is no evidence in Fulton or anywhere else that the schools indoctrinate students, a fact that Avossa stressed. He urged people to avoid xenophobia in this debate, asking that they read the audit and respond to the facts.

My guess is that Mr. Avossa’s appeal would be more effective on a brick wall.

Tnde3314

June 5th, 2012
7:30 pm

BTW, those upset by the ease with which our immigration system is manipulated to bring in foreigners to fill teaching positions—may wish to join NumbersUSA.com or similar, to to help finally bring some reason to out-of-control immigration.

sneak peek into education

June 5th, 2012
7:34 pm

And so it starts…. the back-handed tactics of those who are unwilling to discuss the implications of the audit by deflecting commentary to unions. Unbelievable. It seems to me that those who are hell bent on the push for charters will not accept the fact that they are not the silver bullet and their lack of transparency provides them with the opportunity to bilk the public out of tax payers dollars with their dirty dealings.

MB

June 5th, 2012
7:41 pm

Could we have pictures of crow-eating on this one? http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2011/12/22/latest-charter-school-fight-shows-legislature-must-act-in-2012/

Seriously, I attended a couple of board community meetings when this charter renewal uproar was at its height last fall and, from those meetings, it seemed the parents (at least the ones at those meetings) had definitely “drunk the kool-aid” on this. They proclaimed (multiple times and vehemently ) that Fulton should be modelling their middle schools after FSAMS. (I assume they meant academic success, not cherry=picking students, whether initially or de facto by not serving those who would be high-maintenance.)

I seem to remember that the composition of the governing board (elected vs. appointed members) was also seen as a problem, with bloc voting issues. This shows it was a problem indeed. From this information and what I observed at those meetings, my guess would be that any parent who would question the status quo would NOT be welcome on the governing board…

A reader

June 5th, 2012
7:43 pm

I am appalled by this audit. Previously I thought that the executives at FSA were simply arrogant and thought they could bend the rules of maintaining their charter because of their high achievements. Now it appears that the executives were full of greed and nepotism. Why? Because they could. They thought that people would only look at the academic achievements.

I suspect that the FSA high school will close down soon. It has not had the success that FSA middle school has had (their SAT scores are average, their attendance is low. They are competing with the likes of Northview HS, Milton HS, Alpharetta HS, Chattahoochee HS, and Roswell HS (as well as the recently opened Johns Creek HS and new Cambridge HS). All of these school have both high academic achievements and a full array of extra curricular activities. In fact, several former FSA MS students have chosen the public HS instead of FSA HS.

I know very little about Fulton Sunshine Academy.

Brandy

June 5th, 2012
7:50 pm

Thanks for keeping us informed, Maureen!

Just a heads up–there are a ton of grammatical and/or spelling errors (all look like total accidents) in the article above.

Ron F.

June 5th, 2012
7:56 pm

“You live in fear that kids and funding may one day be able to migrate to schools which enjoy parents’ confidence.”

Yeah, and evidently it’s migrating to all sorts of places that just MIGHT be a little illegal- just a thought.

I don’t fear charter schools or parental choice. I know of quite a few charter schools that, so far, appear to be doing quite well. What this debacle proves is that just like the public schools so many decry, the charters are subject to wrongful actions by people who are just as self-serving and greedy as many in the public system. If they’re going to work and be a long-term alternative to traditional public schools, then they better get busy getting their own house in legal order before they thumb their noses at us.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

June 5th, 2012
8:01 pm

This school also “honored” Chip Rogers for his so-called contributions to education. That’s a convention of criminals congratulating each other for robbing the taxpayers. http://woodstock.patch.com/articles/rogers-honored-for-contributions-to-education

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2012
8:02 pm

@Brandy, Just went through it now that I am off deadline. Fixed a bunch of things, but if you see other errors, let me know.
Maureen

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 5th, 2012
8:09 pm

KUDOS to the Fulton County BOE for having the insight and guts to hire an independent auditor to scrutinize one of its schools.

teacher&mom

June 5th, 2012
8:16 pm

I came across this blog a couple of years ago. It is written by a parent in California. She has been talking about the Gulen network for some time now.

If you are interested in the Gulen network, check out her site

http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2012
8:24 pm

@teacher&mom, Wow, that parent has been following this in incredible depth.
Maureen

Attentive Parent

June 5th, 2012
8:39 pm

Maureen-if you remember I kept saying there had to be a problem with APS because the curriculum and the students and the numbers did not fit. You would usually sic Karin Chenowith or Kati Haycock from Education Trust on me as accusing that disadvantaged kids could not learn. I would reply with facts and they would disappear.

APS was piloting a radical form of education. That was always what was being covered up. No Bob is. I met him once and asked about the affective emphasis of the IB MYP program since that is NOT what parents thought they were signing up for. I went up afterwards to introduce myself and he gave me the darkest look and refused to shake my hand. You don’t know how many attorneys I have talked to about that Look. We recognize its significance and it was hugely arrogant of Bob to use it.

I appreciate it though because the only explanation for his belief that no one could touch him was the language of the charter. And the nature of accreditation. Both have been fruitful.

Careful. Last time you responded to me like this it was over Finland. Fruitful too.

I am sure bob is defensive about indoctrination.

But it was so exciting that Ed week did that story on Fulton’s charter. I suspect like me and Avossa they know exactly what that language was intended to do.

Attentive Parent

June 5th, 2012
8:40 pm

So now I am in the filter?

Touchy. Touchy.

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2012
8:42 pm

@Attentive, The filter is beyond my control — I only control the moderation queue. You were not in moderation. You were in the filter.
Maureen

Hmmmmmmm

June 5th, 2012
8:43 pm

Fire all responsible and put them in JAIL……

Jeff

June 5th, 2012
9:02 pm

Many made excuses when the regular schools did similar egregious acts.

2kidsinschool

June 5th, 2012
9:06 pm

Maybe I shouldn’t be but I am surprised at how easy it was for the school officials to get away with all the shenanigans they did for so long undetected. Was their charter not approved perhaps bc Avossa knew something rotten was going on?

Attentive Parent

June 5th, 2012
9:07 pm

Thank you maureen. We may not always agree but we do joust on facts.

Watchdog

June 5th, 2012
9:56 pm

Fulton County School Board should get high marks. Read the article on the budget approved – growth, same class size,no tax increase. Much better shape than other local systems. Plus the guts to address a charter school with an idependent auditor.

Cherokee Parent

June 5th, 2012
10:24 pm

Congrats Fulton BOE and staff (and the State Board) on having the fortitude to make the right call. The political pressure must have been extreme for a rubber stamp approval, especially with the charter amendment battle raging. I doubt any of you will get apologies from Tony Roberts, Chip Rogers, or anyone else who second guessed your judgment on this.

Mr. Freeze

June 5th, 2012
10:28 pm

There have always been suspicions about FSA and the way they use funds. Everytime you would look a new Turkish teacher was there. How did they come and go so quickly? They never had good classrom management yet they always received promotions. There were teachers there that had more xperience and education yet they were overlooked all the time. When you do wrong it comes out sooner or later.

hmmmph....

June 5th, 2012
11:02 pm

Why not make charters area based. They would have to serve ALL the students within a particular area where they are located. Only then could we truly determine their effectiveness. All special education students and at risk students should be included, as many believe that charters proved more of a premium education. RIght now we are comparing apples to oranges. It is high time tht we evened the playing field. Add students in who do not have parental involement and are practically raising theirselves. Show me what the charter curriculum can do with them as well as those students who are homeless. They are neediest of all of what they have to offer…since it is so PREMIUM.

hmmmph....

June 5th, 2012
11:03 pm

not “proved” but “provide” above.

Georgia and education not compatible

June 5th, 2012
11:11 pm

Wow, this was sickening to read. Has Alecia Morgan seen this? Have her ALEC supporters heard about this? What about all of those charter supporters? My understanding is that at least in public school folks have jail hanging over their heads…what about these folks?

Hard earned taxpayer money down the drain again…but hey they had great test scores!

Goodforkids

June 5th, 2012
11:26 pm

Great test scores that mostly walked in the door! The first year the sister elementary opened, they had been in school six weeks or so when they took ITBS in third and fifth grades. So by and large, these kids came from various Fulton schools where they had received education for three or five years (depending on which grade they were in) and they were very successful on the ITBS that year. Evidence to me that the self-selection piece of enrolling in this charter school played a big part in their test score success. Smart, hard-working, educated kids walked in the door. The brain drain from nearby north Fulton schools was evident in the number of kids who were in gifted program before they got there. I know the number was pretty high for TAG because I asked when i toured. So, the question for local traditional schools (and for Avossa, the board, and central office staff) is- why did your customer, one you would likely prefer to keep serving, decide to leave? What did parents see at these schools (elem and middle at least) that they wanted that you didn’t offer? Were they tags you could have offered or are they out of your control?

Goodforkids

June 5th, 2012
11:29 pm

Should read, “were they things you could have offered…”

Atlanta Mom

June 5th, 2012
11:30 pm

The idea that any “parent governing board” can provide expertise to “govern” anything is ludicrous. Unless you have the unusual situation in which the parent is ‘in the field” and confident enough to call out the “professionals”, parent boards tend to be rubber stamps.
I’ve sat on boards, sharing my expertise, but it takes at least two years to truly understand what and how it all works. And, if you start to make noise, somehow, a replacement is found.

Parent

June 6th, 2012
12:14 am

@ good for kids – the reason the customer left the regular schools was for a more challenging education than the one they were receiving. mAny TAg kids were at the elementary school and fsa elementary offered and delivered a more rigorous programme. Children who want to learn and can learn should be taught that’s all people want and that’s what they get there. When people stop being complacent over how and what their kids are taught they will understand why people want a different choice than the regular schools.

Parent

June 6th, 2012
12:22 am

Also re visas when someone employs someone from another country they normally cover the legal fees for that person and their family . However maybe the immigration dept should be questioned here they r the ones that decided to approve the visas in a time of recession – maybe their role in this should not be overlooked. Why let in teachers when many US ones were unemployed….

for duh!

June 6th, 2012
1:56 am

The only reason FSA got shut down is because it was tooting it’s horn about it’s accomplishments too loud. Not because it is part of the Gulen movement, not because it hires unqualified Turks over local professionals. not because of it’s shady financially practices. Just like all the other these types of schools in the USA, it has permanent mosque members running the board. It’s big mistake was not running under the radar, like for instance, Amana. These schools are essentially private schools using public money.

American Teacher

June 6th, 2012
2:27 am

Georgia got smart about the Gulen operated schools. Other states are right there with you and soon more. Truebright Science Academy (PA – right in Gulen’s backyard, Abramson Science and Technology (LA), Knoxville Charter Academy, Mokapu STEM school ALL denied.
BTW Maureen these schools do not perform as well as the schools would like you to believe. They are great at marketing, PR and advertising and frequently have local politicians tour the school who are given free trips to Turkey. Just because the schools say they are “Academically advanced” or “award winning” doesn’t make it so. Many American Teachers have witnessed these teachers that are part of the movement…gathering exams and taking them in another room before they submit them. Additionally, the Gulen front groups like Grace Instititute, Raindrop Turkish House, Holy Dove Foundation, Pacifica Institute, Turkic American Alliance, Turquoise Council, Rumi Forum and many more either sponsor or own the contests the kids get awards at: Turkish Olympiads, Science Olympiads, CONSEF, Math Matters, Math Counts, I-Sweep, Genius and more.
Their festivals and hoopla don’t mean a thing except they know how to push the schools and the outer appearances. Conversely, the Schools in Turkey are the worst in the world. On the last OCED rankings they scored below standard at 32 out of 34 countries just above Chile and Mexico.

Additionally they like to slam online boards commenting as American parents even using Christian or Hispanic names. Very strange group with deep dark secrets to hide.
http://www.gulencharterschools.weebly.com

3rd Grade Teacher

June 6th, 2012
7:55 am

@Good For Kids: Many families left our neighborhood school for The Sunshine Academy because our school was redistricted, which resulted in an influx of low-economic students. It was an ugly scene during that time that stunk of xenophobia, racism, classism, etc. To be fair to those parents that made that choice, though, one of the main concerns was whether the neighborhood school had enough quality faculty to meet the needs of such a diverse spectrum of learners that were moving to our neighborhood school. Could the school meet the rising demands of the ELL population and TAG groups all in one classroom? Could the school implement critical-thinking projects and deal with 1/3 of the new classes reading 2 levels below grade level at the same time? Honestly, two years later, many classroom teachers have figured it out and are doing an amazing job. And, each year, a few more that can’t handle it leave or are asked to leave. To those families that gave up so quickly, it’s my hope that they stay at the Sunshine Academy and middle school.

bootney farnsworth

June 6th, 2012
8:01 am

dig deeper.
there is more here than is known – no proof, but walking and quacking like a duck ….

all this misses is the spam from a Turkish “prince” who accidentally left $100,000 in the States, and he will gladly give you 10% if you’ll let him access your account to move it with.

on the plus side, there are plenty of former GPC people who are available if FSA wants to take their game to a whole new level

A Conservative Voice

June 6th, 2012
8:09 am

Walker Wins Recall Race in Wisconsin

A “New Day” is dawning in America – One Down, Three To Go.

Attentive Parent

June 6th, 2012
8:46 am

I sure do hope the people who came in to my blog after midnight through the May 25 Get Schooled post and then systematically read everything I had ever written were not billing the taxpayers of Fulton County for their time.

You missed the Dirigiste post. Insufficiently provocative title?

Thanks for confirming once again what the evidence clearly shows. That charter and accreditation are the Achilles Heel.

These blog comments also mostly read like the Middle School principals who participated in those Cambridge Ed misnamed Quality Reviews have gamely appeared here to spread the desired spin.

MB

June 6th, 2012
8:52 am

@ Hmmmph. Conversion charters (at least in Fulton) have done exactly what you suggest. They serve students in their catchment area, but have flexibility in how they serve them. (For example, they could require standardized dress (aka quasi-school uniforms), parent involvement (time), contracts for student work, etc.) It’s not seamless, of course, and the comment about parent board representation is valid, in that someone “interested” in serving on a board might or might not have a background to know the questions to ask. The governing board should, however, include community representation, which would likely be someone in business. Also, if governing board meetings are open and minutes are kept, the school community at large should be able to ask questions and give input, whether directly at the meetings or through their representative. As we go system charter in Fulton, I certainly hope so, and that our communities will participate in the establishment of their charters and then their operation.

MB

June 6th, 2012
8:57 am

@GoodforKids I think your challenge to our school board is valid and hope that the new charter system status, in conjunction with Fulton’s new recognition of area needs (i.e., that the needs of Banneker HS are NOT the same as those of Northview HS), will allow schools (and clusters) to address their circumstances. One reason I often heard that people chose charters was for a smaller school; obviously that won’t be an option, but larger schools can offer more choices in classes, so it seems a trade-off.

@3rd Grade Teacher

June 6th, 2012
9:04 am

You wrote: “one of the main concerns was whether the neighborhood school had enough quality faculty to meet the needs of such a diverse spectrum of learners that were moving to our neighborhood school. Could the school meet the rising demands of the ELL population and TAG groups all in one classroom? Could the school implement critical-thinking projects and deal with 1/3 of the new classes reading 2 levels below grade level at the same time?”

Thank you for being honest about this.

What I’m wondering, though, is this: you are apparently saying that parents were being asked to give up 2 years of their child’s schooling (at a young age, when 2 years is a REALLY long time) in the hope that perhaps eventually “many” of the teachers would “figure … out” how to educate an academically diverse population. I suppose maybe you could call that selfishness, that the parents weren’t willing to sacrifice their children (for …….?). But I don’t see how you could call it xenophobia, racism, classism. It seems to me that so long as people keep hurling accusations like this against parents who simply want to see their kids educated, rather than warehoused for years, there is no chance to solve the problem, if the problem is indeed capable of being solved (for example, by weeding out weak or average teachers and training the excellent ones in differentiated instruction).

MB

June 6th, 2012
9:21 am

@ GoodforKids: You are exactly on point with the fact that their scores mostly walked in the door with the students. Another question I also had about FSA was their special ed population. Their state report card showed a percentage (6.3%) that didn’t correlate with the anecdotal evidence – that the special ed were so poorly served there that many of those students returned to their public school.(leaving, of course, after the 10-day count…) Page 3 of Exhibit One of this audit tends to support the anecdotal evidence: Special ed salaries were $1540 per month, compared with $4508 per month in weekday OVERTIME salaries (?), and $138,668 overall salaries. (Oh, yes, the principal of this 500-student school had a salary of $7500 per month and they paid $1111 per month in bonuses.) Guess they were using a different kind of math there, or …

TAX PAYER AND PARTENT

June 6th, 2012
9:23 am

As a tax payor we pay taxes to produce a quanative results. Here you have a shool that produced the results for less cost to the tax payor. Yea you can get you underpant all in a wad about some questionable items but results is results. Yet FC standard public school can produce the same results and cost the tax payers more (sounds like a failure on a side by side basis). I find it strange that FSA had yearly audits and these issues were not a problem. So did FSBOE fail to audit properly?
If these items were an issue why did they not change them (maybe because they could not change what the law allows) If FSA did legaly follow the law then there is not a problem. If you dont like it change the laws. I would also like to point out that FSA had saved yes saved about 3/4 of million and held in in reserves to help pay for the new school. You forget the scrafice the students, teachers/adminstrators and parentsmmade to save this kind of money by have class in a old warehouse with leaking sealing, brokern A/C etc. They dont get extra money like SPLOST ,Yet they produced hightly educated children. About the import of teachers well, GA schools do import from other states (Dr. Alvose was not a GA resident when hired I am sure his possition could have been filled by someone here in GA). I can show you many GA teachers that are imigrants as well. On the bidding of contracts, I find it ironic that this subject keeps comming up and proven everytime that the contact were properly handled and awarded but funny how the media and public keep repeating this. Its like the school police claim you did something, you go to court and prove you did not but then others keep saying see they did something wrong when infact they did not. This negetive media only hurts the fools on FCSB and the media that keeps up the slander. I hope to hell FSA parent take FSCB and media such as AJC, WSB and other web posters for slander. You all jumped on a bandwagon that did not need jumping on. You have killed FSA and dammage the dreams of many students. Shame on each and everyone one of you for the false testomeny you presented and sladrous remarks. PS: FCSB with a finanical deficit could not balance the budget and rather cutting they just take money from savings, hellow what happens when that saving runs out, are you gong after another charters savings account?

Maureen Downey

June 6th, 2012
9:34 am

@Taxpayer and Parent, The annual audits are commissioned and done by the schools themselves and are cursory. They do not go to this depth in any way.
Your comment fails to address this basic issue: Fulton schools brought in an outside audit team that issued a 70-page report; the report does not offer opinions. It is simply a summation of financial records of spending and contracts or lack of records. You don’t address the conflicts of interest between school staff and the Grace Institute.
I am eager to see the school’s response.
Maureen

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 6th, 2012
10:09 am

“Internal auditor” is an oxymoron.

So are “GDOE audit”* and “SACS evaluation.”

*John Barge is reforming GDOE as hard and as fast as he can. But a long-standing, bloated, self-serving educracy will not be reformed quickly or easily.

C Jae of EAV

June 6th, 2012
10:40 am

I look upon this as an example of a district leader exercising his duty to provide oversight regarding the operation of charter institutions. This is a check & balance that should be expected.

Unlike @Maureen, I don’t see the situtation as all that complicated. The district engaged a due dilligence audit(s) and found iregularities. Those operating the charter it would seem to me, put the good work they may have been doing academically in jeporadary by cutting corners with respect to business operations.

Simply put this cannot be tolerated for any public education institution (traditional or charter). The business operations of public schools (traditional & charter) should be held to reasonable level of scrunity.

Those parents who are less concerned by what has been revealed can still continue to support the school as it tries to configure as a private institution at their own risk.