The Other McCain

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The War on Excellence: Charter School Threatened in Fulton County, Georgia UPDATE: Boortz Notices; More News UPDATE: Ruh-Roh — Islamophobia?

Posted on | November 22, 2011 | 60 Comments

Last night I got an e-mail from a friend down home:

Fulton Science Academy Middle School won a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School Award. That’s no mean feat. (Even Arne Duncan “congratulated the school”.) And, if I do say so myself, it’s no surprise. My sons attend the school and my wife and I are very proud of their progress and accomplishments there.
Currently, the school charter is up for renewal and the Fulton County Superintendent of Schools is on track to recommend against renewal! They give some lame excuses to justify this, but scuttlebutt from the department suggests that it’s because “all the good students go to FSA and that makes the test scores go down at the regular schools.”
The school website has a running status page of the renewal process (fsamiddle.org) and there’s an independent website that’s tracking things, too (savefsa.com)
I’ve written to and asked Congressman Tom Price to get involved. I also suggested that he could come to the FC Board of Education meeting when they vote on the charter.Who knows? Stranger things have happened.
Hopefully this will turn out well for us, but — keep your fingers crossed!

Keep my fingers crossed? Sir, I intend to raise holy unshirted hell!

This kind of bureaucratic attempt to shut down a quality school cannot be tolerated. There ought to be a nationwide crusade on behalf of Fulton Science Academy. This is from the parents organization web site:

At the moment, the charter renewal staff of the Fulton County School System are offering non-negotiable terms regarding the charter that would hurt FSA’s ability to improve its physical facilities and manage the standards and operations of the school.
As parents of happy, well-educated FSA students, we feel it would be a shame if the Fulton County School System shuts down one of Georgia’s 4 National Blue Ribbon Middle Schools.
We ask for your support to try to prevent this from happening.

Has anybody told Neal Boortz about this? Somebody call him or send him an e-mail. I’d imagine Neal could put some mighty intense heat on the Fulton County School Board.

And while I’m thinking about it: Herman Cain is from Georgia. I’m going to do my best to bring this story to Herman’s attention: “School board bureaucrats trying to shut down award-winning charter school” sounds like the kind of issue a Republican presidential candidate ought to be talking about, don’t you agree?

UPDATE: Linked by Neal Boortz — thanks!

UPDATE II: FSA’s situation was mentioned last week in an article by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Parents of Fulton Science Academy Middle say their school is being denied the “blanket waiver” of full flexibility from state education mandates they have enjoyed for 10 years because of a board practice withdrawing the option for district charter schools. . . .
Fulton Science Academy, a school of 508, is Georgia’s first charter school to be named a national Blue Ribbon School for its success on state exams.
“Our school has always met or exceeded its [state exam] and charter goals,” said parent board member Angela Lasseter. “The intention for a charter school anywhere in the nation is to grant full flexibility and autonomy in return for better than average results.”

Wait a minute: 508 students? That’s got to be at least 500 parents. And I think 500 parents raising holy unshirted hell — writing letters to the newspaper, attending school board meetings, calling their state legislators, calling the governor’s office — would make life very uncomfortable for these school system bureaucrats.

Occupy Fulton County School Board!

UPDATE III: Click here to donate to Fulton Science Academy — it’s tax deductible.

UPDATE IV: Just spent 30 minutes on the phone with FSA spokeswoman Katy Dion and 15 minutes on the phone with John Trainor of the Save FSA parents group.

There’s still more reporting to be done, but certainly there seems good reason to suspect that the Fulton County Board of Education (FCBOE) isn’t doing right by FSA. This is a school that, since its founding 10 years ago, has already seen its alumni go on to such schools as Harvard, Princeton and West Point. More than 400 applicants are on the ”wait list” to get into FSA, indicating that there is a high level of public demand for the kind and quality of education this school provides. Therefore, why the FCBOE would be trying to yank the school around on its charter-renewal process is somewhat mysterious.

At least one commenter has called attention to an issue that has not been raised directly by the FCBOE: Allegations that FSA is part of a “stealth Islam” sort of operation known as the Gulen (or Gulenist) movement. Longtime readers know I sure as hell am not going to ignore an angle like that, but Trainor assures me that there’s never been any hint of a pro-Islam influence at FSA, and Trainor is a conservative Catholic who is sensitive to such issues.

Nevertheless, I wonder if this angle doesn’t cut the other way, also. That is to say, perhaps FCBOE isn’t being entirely upfront about its own agenda in this matter. Can you say . . . “Islamophobia”?

Stay tuned. This story could get pretty interesting.

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Comments

  • NahNothingThere

    It’s really hard to argue with success.  FSA Middle is an unqualified success.

    As an FSA parent, I find it extremely difficult to understand why the county school system wants to reject the charter renewal. It doesn’t pass the smell test. iykwimaityd.

    Echoing Stacy a little bit, I do see a lot of Islamophobia in these comments; I think it’s deplorable to inject that into a conversation about saving one of the top middle schools in the country.

    And maybe, just maybe, there is some undue influence on the county from these islamophobes. I certainly hope not. Likely that this is just some kind of power grab.

  • FSA Elem Parent

    My thoughts as a Christian parent of 2 at FSA elementary.  Turkish leadership – yes.  Turkish teachings/influence in the school?  No.  Classes are taught by qualified smart energetic young teachers (most are not Turkish).  Masters of PR and media?  If you win a National Blue Ribbon award (no small feat), you talk about it, you brag about it.  There is a reason for this award: They expect a LOT from their children.  With higher expections, the teachers work harder and the children work harder.  This is why test scores are consistently higher.  I am proud to have my children in this school.  I am glad Fulton County approved the FSA charter.  FSA provides a more challenging education option for the parents who have higher expectations from their children. 

    Fulton County: Don’t mess up a good thing.

  • Erdogan Uduk

    Your comments remind me the recent fear inc report announced by the federal government. See the report yourself. 

    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/08/islamophobia.html
    It is sad that these people are paid to spread hate for any muslim in America.  $42 million paid to spread hate. I wish that money used to educate our children on the importance of diversity, love for another and tolerance. It is sad that now this successful school has to deal with this non-sense because of some hate groups who cannot event put their real names online and who has never visited the school and who never saw the 10 years of hard work and success at this school.

  • John Trainor

    Bob, let me know what questions I can answer in your investigation.  I’m an open book and, as a parent, I can help dig into anything you want.  Just let me know.

  • Lrbaumohl

    FSA has proven itself time and again and should be allowed to continue in it’s path to success. My kids go to Fulton sunshine elem and for the first time they are getting a real education!!! I fully support the charter schools and sm grateful my kids are attending one!!

  • Anonymous

    The FSA *parents* leaving comments here are likely to be a combination of real parents and Gulenists posing as parents. I’m curious if the real ones 1) totally deny that FSA is connected to the Gulen movement’s expanding worldwide school efforts or, 2) now realize that FSA is indeed being run by members of the Gulen movement, a controversial religious group out of Turkey, but think it just might be okay anyway.

    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rodrik64/English

    For the real parents who think it is okay for FSA to be one of the Gulen movement’s worldwide schools, I’m also curious if they 1) support the school operators’ efforts to hide that fact from FSA’s parents and American taxpayers, or 2)  think, now that this cat is out of the bag, FSA operators should present the school’s connection to the Gulen movement in a forthright manner (full admission posted on website and included in the charter application; i.e. “our school is one of an increasing number of U.S. charter schools which are operated according to the spiritual principles and superior educational philosophy of Hoca Efendi, Mr. Fethullah Gulen.”)

    If FSA’s operators think of themselves as great educators, and are doing such a supposedly great job of running the school precisely because they are engaging in a religious mission to which they have dedicated their lives, what’s the hangup with publicly admitting that?

  • BRoberts

    I can promise you that I am a real person and a real parent of this school.   I actually do exist.  You are the one who needs to do research instead of making these false claims against a good school.

  • Ava

    I have looked into this and I do pay attention to details.   There is NO CLEAR SOLID proof to all that you say here. 

    With regards to the awards, you fail to mention MANY awards COMPLETELY not even remotely related to turkish groups;  such as ITBS ranking,  awards as a result of state standardized test such as CRCT.   The school also participate in competitions COMPLETELY not even remotely related to Turkish groups such as Media and Robotics competitions, so please…. your accusations are a stretch.

    Of course there will be A LITTLE Turkish affiliation.  The school’s founders and administrators are Turkish.   Also, it is reasonable to expect that some of these Turkish school staff may like Fetullah Gulen.  U.S.  is a democratic country and people are FREE to LIKE and FOLLOW who they like.    Further, I looked into Fetullah Gulen’s teachings, philosophies, etc. and there is NOTHING extremist or violent about Fetullah’s ideas.

    My children goes to FSA (Fulton Sunshine Academy) Elementary School and there are VERY few Turkish teachers (4 out of 40).  And even these 4 Turkish teachers,  I will be watching VERY CAREFULLY to make sure they are doing a good job;  so far I have no CLEAR evidence of these Turkish teachers being incompetent.

    There are MANY SMART and BRILLIANT PARENTS to the FSA Schools.   I am sure MANY of them looked into your accusations.  

    - Ava

  • Gretnabear

    So simple,  whichever party totally controls GA state government, they have the power to change policy, the law and how the law is applied!!!

  • George Thurmond

    This is a great school.  Leave well  enough alone!  George Thurmond