Will schools and education take yet another step backward in North Fulton?

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Blessed with more Fortune 200 companies than almost any other area of its size in the country and an average per capita income that is unrivaled in Georgia or almost anywhere else, North Fulton seems to have for some difficult-to-understand reason decided to reverse course on “education.” This week, in the name of preserving the Windward Master Plan, Alpharetta City Council voted unanimously to deny a conditional zoning to an award-winning school. There were, in this writer’s opinion, as many arguments for the rezoning as there were against it. The fact that “education” was at the heart of the matter seemed to matter little. In fact, an Alpharetta councilperson actually said that the issue was not “about education.”

Now another award-winning school is on the verge of being slapped down. This time though, the school is not just an award-winning school, but probably the most successful and highest performing middle school in Fulton County and perhaps the state – Fulton Science Academy, a 10-year-old Fulton County charter school. For the last four years, FSA has achieved the highest scores on the ITBS, which is a standardized system-wide test. Actually, that is not quite right. They had the highest test scores in every single subject (a total of five) for the last four years. This is a school that operates on a significantly smaller budget per pupil as a charter school in part, because the charter schools must pay for the lease and operation of their schools from their budget for students – unlike the traditional public schools. This is a school that arguably operates more cost effectively with our tax money than most traditional schools. This is a school in which almost every single student family in the school (over 500 students) receives at least one visit – in the student’s home – in person by the principal and one or more of the teachers during the middle school tenure. And that, needless to say, is on the teachers and the principal’s personal time – not the taxpayers’.

This is a school with a track record – 10 years of proven academic and fiscal performance. And this is a school that is a heartbeat away from being told to close its doors at the end of this school year by the new superintendent of Fulton County Schools if the Board of Education concurs with his recommendation. At issue are changes in the oversight rules that the superintendent would impose. Let’s re-centralize things and create more accountability and more bureaucracy. The school’s position is that we have 10 years of proof that the structure in place works. “Look at our track record. We are not a school that needs to be fixed.”

Georgia schools (k-12) depending on which study you use rank near the bottom to slightly above average nationally in education right now. That’s not good for you or for me. What in the world are we doing?