Fulton Science High recommended to close

Low enrollment, financial, operational problems prompt decision



ALPHARETTA, GA. – The proverbial “other shoe” has dropped on the charter school dynasty once headed by the Fulton Science Academy Middle School.

The high school component, formerly known as TEACH and recently re-named the Fulton Science Academy High School, will likely shut down as a local charter school at the end of the school year pending a vote by the Fulton County Board of Education this week.

Only the elementary school, Fulton Sunshine Academy, may operate as a charter school in Fulton County next year — and that outcome could be affected by a closer examination of the school’s operations.

Fulton Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa confirmed early this week he is recommending the closure of the FSA High School based on a “financial and operational examination” of the school conducted this summer. The high school has one year left on its five-year charter from the Fulton County School System.

The 77-page document outlines a number of issues with the management of the school; many of them mirroring the concerns found in a review of the Fulton Science Academy Middle School, and which led to its demise as a local charter school.

That school, once among the highest performing middle schools in the county, was denied a charter renewal one year ago by the Fulton County Board of Education. It now operates as a private school.

FSA High School opened as the Technology Enriched Accelerated Charter High School (TEACH) in August 2006 off Old Milton Parkway in Alpharetta, and was touted as the feeder high school for the successful FSA Middle School. Enrollment was projected to hit 450 students, however those numbers never materialized.

“Although the middle school was at its full capacity, the kids were not matriculating into the high school,” said Avossa.

Part of the charter agreement was a requirement the high school maintains a certain level of enrollment. For the 2012-2013 school year, FSAHS agreed to educate 350 students; however the current enrollment is 266.

As a result, some classes were apparently only offered online, and paid for by parents, since there were not enough students enrolled to fill the class, said Avossa.

“As a former high school principal, you can’t [efficiently] run a high school with only a couple of hundred students because you can’t offer a broad set of courses,” said Avossa.

Three years ago, the high school faced closure due to a financial shortfall. However the school managed to raise operating capital through donations to keep it open. At the time, Fulton School officials pointed out a number of governance areas that were of concern, and which likely impacted its financial performance.

“[We see] the exact issue of three years ago today,” said Avossa.  “Those issues were never resolved.”

FSA High School officials have until Dec. 14 to request a hearing before the Fulton County Board of Education, or accept the decision to close the school at the end of the school year. Efforts to reach school officials were not successful.

As far as the status of the Fulton Sunshine Academy and its possible future, Avossa said staff will “continue to study the issues,” noting many of the operations are connected between the middle and high school.

“Whether or not there is an impact still is yet to be seen,” said Avossa.

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