Fulton Science Academy Middle School

(Updated 6/5/2012)

NOTE: Also see entry about Georgia Gulen charter schools HERE. 


The Alpharetta school's charter ends this week as it shifts from a public middle school to a private Pre-K through 8th grade school charging $8,500 annual tuition.

Fulton Science Academy Middle School's charter expires after Thursday, May 31, as the school continues its quest to reopen in the fall as a private school open to all students Pre-K through 8th grade in Georgia.

Tuition starts at $8,000 with another $300 in application and enrollment fees...

The school announced it is registered under Georgia GOAL Scholarship program, which allows state tax credits for scholarship donations...

The FSA Private School Financial Aid Application will be available its website soon. The financial aid requests will be determined starting in July 2012.

“State Board Denies FultonScience Academy Middle School Charter; Many Sandy Springs students attend FSA. Board members criticize the school's Governing Board and management over noncompliance, bond issues.” SandySpringsPatch, 5/10/2012
Fulton Science Academy Middle School lost its appeal to the state Board of Education for a charter this morning, so the school will be closed in July.

The school's charter through Fulton County Schools expires June 30...

The school's governance and financial stability were called into question, particularly regarding the issuance of $19 million in bonds and the construction work on a new school campus.

State Board Member Dan Israel said even though bond documents say the state, county and city aren't liable for anything doesn't mean they can't be sued...

"The Fulton Science Academy Governing Board and school management have acted during the past five months as if the state charter process is an opportunity for them to strike a deal so they can have a charter. The state charter process is instead an appeal by the school to the state," [Board member Linda Zechmann] said...

"Thirty more days won't change a thing," said Board member Brian Burdette. "They had the opportunity to work with the department and that didn't happen."

“Fulton Science Academy, State Don't Agree; While the middle school's governing board believes it has met requirements and answered all questions for its state charter application, the Department of Education still sees problems.” Alpharetta-MiltonPatch, 5/8/2012
Fulton Science Academy Middle School has spent $5.78 million to buy land and start construction of a new campus that its students seem unlikely to ever occupy. By mid-summer, there may be no school at all.

The state Board of Education will receive a recommendation to deny the school's charter petition at its May 10 meeting. A month later it is scheduled to vote on the petition.

The school's current charter with Fulton County Schools expires June 30.

The school sent a response to the recommendation for denial — "Supplemental Information for the FSA MS State Chartered Special School Petition", signed by Governing Board president Ayhan Korucu — but that may not sway the state board. (A pdf version of Korucu's plea, without supporting documents, can be found with this article.)

Lou Erste, Charter Schools Division director for the Georgia Department of Education, says the information in the May 4 letter wasn't enough to change the recommendation for denial.

"The answers provided by FSAMS in their unsolicited response to our April 30, 2012 denial letter are almost completely nonresponsive to the issues we raised in our letter," Erste said via email to Patch...

The school spent at least $2.7 million to buy land on Fanfare Way in Alpharetta. The school bought the land before the state approved the site, and started construction before a site plan and building design were even submitted for approval, all of which the state said were required.

But to pay for the land and build the school, $18.9 million in bonds were sold, and that has put its sister schools — Fulton Sunshine Academy and Fulton Science Academy High School — at risk, as all three schools are liable for the bond repayments...

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The fate of the Fulton Science Academy Middle School will likely not be determined by the end of the current school year, leaving parents, students and school staff in a state of flux for at least three more months.

In December, the Fulton County School Board rejected the charter school's application for a charter renewal, effectively severing the relationship between the school district and the academically successful charter school. FSA has been in operation for 10 years in Fulton County and was recently named a National School of Excellence...

With local options exhausted, FSA applied to the state Department of Education (GDOE) in December to become a state charter school beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.

According to state officials, the final decision will be made by the state Board of Education in June, once the application has been thoroughly reviewed...

The indecision over the plans for FSA also impacts local middle schools, which are looking at two enrollment projections for next school year: one with FSA students returning, and one without.

In the meantime, construction has stopped on a new school building in Alpharetta that was intended to house FSA Middle School, FSA High School and the elementary school, Fulton Sunshine Academy. The school, which is being funded by an $18 million bond, is on hold, pending the state approval of the charter. If approved, FSA officials say they anticipate construction to be complete by January 2013.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — An application for a site approval permit from the Fulton Science Academy (FSA) still fails to meet the state's litmus test after a second attempt to submit documents was returned by the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE).

The charter middle school is moving forward with plans to build an $18 million K-12 campus in Alpharetta, but must first receive the blessing of the GDOE to put the school on the 44-acre parcel. The state sent back FSA's first application last month, requesting additional information and clarification...

Last month, FSA was denied a renewal of their charter by the Fulton County School System and is now seeking to become a state charter school beginning next school year.

...Superintendent Robert Avossa told the state Department of Education that Fulton County Schools has no interest in a mediation request by Fulton Science Academy after direct negotiations that lasted four months failed...

Two vital items communicated by Fulton County Schools to the charter school were not included in the charter renewal petition submitted to the Board of Education, he said: A listing of specific waivers for school personnel, and a three-year term aligning the middle school's charter with its partner schools–Fulton Sunshine Academy and Fulton Science Academy High School–which are bound financially through an $18 million bond.

Other issues have been revealed since the local board voted against the charter renewal, Avossa said in his letter. Not only did the school issue the $18 million bond before receiving a charter renewal, it also spent a large portion of the money and broke ground on its new facilities without state permission...

Avossa said these problems are even more evidence of problems.

"This pattern of reckless, premature actions taken by the FSAMS management constitutes additional breaches of their charter contract and has also now endangered the financial health of its FSA sister schools due to their joint and several indebtedness on the bond," Avossa said in his letter.

He also said this isn't the first example of irresponsible management and disregard for the district policies by the school...

"School board denies Fulton Science Academy MS renewal petition.” Fulton County Schools press release, 12/20/2011
At its December 20 meeting, the Fulton County Board of Education denied the Fulton Science Academy Middle School’s petition to renew in a unanimous vote. The board based its decision on the FSA governance board’s inability to meet the school system’s requirement for a three-year charter term and a blanket waiver...
The downgrade to 'BB-' reflects Fitch's heightened concerns regarding Fulton Science Academy Middle School's (FSAMS) ability to effectively manage the charter renewal process; a fundamental credit characteristic of investment grade ratings in this sector. Last week, Fulton County School District's (FCSD, the local charter authorizer) superintendent recommended that the FCSD board deny FSAMS' current petition to renew its charter, expiring June 30, 2012. Fitch views recent events as a significant, rapid and unexpected deterioration in the authorizer relationship. This level of uncertainty over the charter renewal is more reflective of a 'BB-' rating.
The Rating Watch Negative reflects Fitch's concern that the FSAMS charter may not be renewed. The FCSD board is scheduled to vote on the renewal petition this evening (December 20). Based on discussions with FCSD and FSAMS staff, Fitch believes rejection of the petition is a real possibility. In that event, FSAMS' charter would be scheduled to expire on June 30, 2012...

“Fulton County Schools, Charter Interim Compliance Report, Fulton Science Academy Middle School.” January 2011 (emphasis added) http://fsamiddle.org/images/stories/interimcompliance.pdf
Requested Actions (pp. 2-3)
While the school continues a strong academic record, it remains challenged in the areas of governance transparency and participation…
…We understand that the school is now using the services of the Grace Institute. We request that the relationship with the Grace Institute cease effective March 4, 2011, and that the original terms of the contract approved by the FCBOE be honored…
     1. According to its website, the Grace Institute does not claim to be an EMO. However, the scope of the services provided by the Grace Institute according to the contract supplied do indeed fall into the commonly accepted definition of an EMO and under the areas of governance as defined by the GADOE (personnel, finances, curriculum and instruction, resource allocation, establishing and monitoring school improvement goals, and school operations).
The renewal contract did not specify the use of an educational management organization in general nor Grace Institute in specific. As such, the relationship is not approved b either the school system or the state.
     2. According to the Federal 990EZ Form, the Grace Institute’s board of directors includes the FSAMS Executive Director (who also serves Fulton Sunshine Academy and Fulton Science Academy High School) and the principals of the FSAHS and FSA MS, among others. This represents a business practice that is not in compliance FCBOE policy prohibiting conflict of interest.
     3. There in no indication that a Request for Proposal (RFP) process was followed by the governing board in the hiring of the Grace Institute.
     4. The operations of the school reflect attendance at one conference conducted by Grace, but no transparency regarding the scope of the services provided is evident in any documentation provided by the school to date. Neither is any review period to assess the quality of the services indicated in the contract.
     5. Finally, although the contract supplied reflects that there is a fee associated with Grace services, there is no detail as to the amount of tax payer dollars gong to the Grace Institute on an annual basis nor the formula for establishing such funding levels. Neither is there an articulation of the actual per pupil fee amounts to be paid by the school nor the schedule of payments in the contract. No payments are mentioned in the Annual Audit by the independent auditor, Mr. Sam Durden, CPA. Since the Grace institute serves schools outside of Fulton County and the state of Georgia, the lack of transparency in the supplied contract makes it impossible to determine if state and local tax dollars are funding activities to benefit schools outside of Fulton County and the state of Georgia…
The proposal for the Fulton Science Academy Middle School was submitted in March 2001 by Cosmos Science Academy, Inc. See http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/_documents/schools/charterschools/Fulton%20Science%20Academy.pdf

The founding board:
  • Bekir Ozcan, Staff Engineer at Georgia Power Company
  • Yucel Altunbasak, Georgia Institute of Technology, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Serdar Tunaboylu, Electric Motor Drive Specialist at Siemens
  • Erdogan Dogdu, software engineer
  • Kemal Cem Gur, teacher in Turkey, moved to Georgia in 1999
Fulton Science Academy (“Fulton Science Academy Middle School Inc.” (EIN 582512910)
Names appearing on 2004-2008 Form 990s: Ali Ozer, Ayhan Korucu, Baybars Bakay, Cevdet Akbay, Cheri Garvin, Feroz Fatehali, Fethi Gotepe, Kenan Sener, Levent Bulut, Mustafa Basgun, Mustafa Kecici, Sabrina Moore, Selim Ozedmir, Sherry Saylam [possibly related to Mustafa Z. Saylam and/or Saltuk B. Saylam], Steven Greene, Tuncay Kucuktas, and Wendi Murphy.
From http://graceschools.us/ (accessed Oct 2010): 
“In short, Grace Member Schools are also called “Grace Schools“. However, this abbreviation is a bit misleading as the Grace Institute is not a Charter Management Organization (CMO). This usage more correctly should be read as Grace Schools Network or Grace Member Schools.”

Current members include:
  • Fulton Science Academy-Middle (GA)
  • Fulton Science Academy-High (GA)
  • Stars Middle School (FL)
  • River City Science Academy Middle and High School (FL)
  • Orlando Science Middle and High School (FL)
  • Sweetwater Branch Academy Middle and High School (FL)
  • New Springs Middle School (FL)
  • Fulton Sunshine Academy Elementary School (GA)
  • River City Science Academy Elementary School (FL)
  • Sweetwater Branch Academy Elementary School (FL)

Grace Institute for Educational Research & Resources, Inc. (EIN 262674420)
  • Names appearing on 990s for 2007-2009 Form 990s: Yucel Aktas, Ilbey Budak, Avni Cokavci, Selim Ozdemir, Ali Ozer, Namik Sercan, Kenar Sener. Each of these individuals has held positions at Fulton Science Academy schools
Additional reading:
Students from the Fulton Science Academy at the 2011 Turkish Olympiad Southeast sponsored by the Istanbul Center, a Gulenist organization ("That center is devoted to the practice and propagation of the teachings of Muslim leader Fethullah Gulen." See @ fgulen.com). These pageants are held in multiple regions in the U.S. and around the world. The student performers have been trained in Gulenist schools.


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