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The Georgia Charter School Commission voted to non-renew the charters of both Fulton Leadership Academy and Cherokee Charter Academy.

The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) of Georgia voted yesterday to non-renew the charters of both Fulton Leadership Academy and Cherokee Charter Academy. The vote was 4-1 to close Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton, Georgia, and 4-2 to close Fulton Leadership Academy located in East Point, Georgia.

This vote comes after months of questions from parents and staff about the ability to keep the doors open to the school after concerns about finances and academic performance.

In a statement provided to Education in Atlanta from the GCSC, commissioners expressed concerns found in both evaluations which included financial management and operational compliance, that contributed to their decision not to renew.

“They both missed by a significant margin our public and well-understood criteria for renewal [as outlined in the SCSC Comprehensive Performance Framework],” continued Board Chair, Mike Dudgeon. “Each of these schools has been open for over a decade, and their leadership has had ample time to fulfill the accountability metrics they agreed to in their charters. Our Commissioners do this work because we love charter schools and want to spread quality educational options throughout Georgia. We are sad these schools will have to close, but we cannot support the charter community effectively without accountability as a cornerstone.”

In the state of Georgia, charters are authorized by the State Charter Commission or local school districts for a five-year period. Both Cherokee Charter Academy and Fulton Leadership Academy were on a one-year extension of their five-year charters.

After the vote, the Cherokee Charter Academy shared this statement.

“It is absolutely appalling that the State Charter School Commission ignored the needs for school choice in Cherokee County. This is obviously a case where adults allowed politics and greed to hurt children. The decision made today clearly was not in the best interest of children, and we hope a thorough investigation into those responsible for making this decision is conducted. Cherokee County desperately needs options for parents — especially now. The Cherokee Charter Academy, Inc. board owes it to our students, families, and faculty to pursue all legal means available to address this injustice and is working with its attorneys to determine next steps.”

According to several commissioners, Fulton Leadership Academic had problematic finances operating under a lease with an annual 3% “escalator” and likely would run out of money mid-way through the next school year.

In a letter to families, Fulton Leadership Academy Board Chair Barbara Hall noted specifically predatory practices as one of the reasons for their closure.

“We understand that the news of the non-renewal may bring about concerns and uncertainties among our parents, scholars and the wider community and the decision was based in part on the financial obligation our predatory lender Rosemawr Management, “ Hall noted. “However, it is essential for you to know that we remain fully dedicated to providing the best education and support to our scholars until the end of the academic year in June 2024.”

Fulton Leadership Academy was founded in 2013 and was the first single-gender public charter school for boys with 271 current students in grades 6-12 with a focus on aviation. Cherokee Charter Academy was founded in 2011 and boasts a “classically inspired” curriculum and has roughly 600 students in grades K-8.

The decision of the commission is final with no chance for appeal. Both schools plan to close their doors by June 30, 2024.

At the time of publication, we reached out to Rosemawr Management who declined to give a statement.

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