The complexities around the non-renewal of the charter for the Fulton Science Academy Middle School in Alpharetta just grew even more complicated with this report that the school and its sister schools are now in default on a nearly $19 million construction loan.
Fulton Science Academy Middle School and its two sister schools have been declared in default on an $18.9 million construction loan for failing to disclose last fall that the academy’s public school charter was in trouble, documents obtained Wednesday show.
In a default notice dated May 15, an official with Wells Fargo Bank said the three schools “omitted material information” last October when they were arranging to obtain the money through bonds issued by the Alpharetta Development Authority.
Bank officials learned after the fact that officials with the Fulton County School System had communicated to leadership at the middle school that they had “significant reservations” about extending the school’s charter, the notice says. “This omission [is] a breach of the agreement,” it states.
Alpharetta, its citizens and the development authority have no liability for the bond issue, Assistant City Manager James Drinkard said. “The only way we’d have been obligated is if we’d pledged the full faith and credit of the city for all or parts of the debt, which we weren’t interested in doing.”
As a charter school, the academy, which has 507 students, receives about $3.7 million a year in public funds, some of which could have been used to cover the annual $1.5 million bond payments. In 10 years, the school has received more than $30 million in taxpayer money. But that annual funding will cut off June 30, when the academy’s charter contract with Fulton expires.
The school system and the state both refused to extend the academy’s charter for another 10 years, citing concerns about the fiscal and management practices of the school, which they say has ties to Turkish imam and educational leader M. Fetullah Gulen. School officials deny any ties to Gulen. The academy rejected a counter offer of a three-year charter contract and instead will become a private school July 1.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog