Charter school accused of misusing taxpayer money | Education
Title (Max 100 Characters)
ALPHARETTA, GA - "There's nothing in this report that actually said that we did anything illegal, (that) we broke any rules, (that) we went around state guidelines; there's nothing in there," Angela Lassetter told 11 Alive News on Wednesday.
Speaking as one of its Governing Board Members, she gave a formal reaction to an audit of the Fulton Science Academy Charter Middle School that showed possible mismanagement of millions of taxpayer dollars.
The audit was released Tuesday by Fulton County School Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa.
"We're very surprised by some of the things that we found and certainly concerned about many of them," he told 11 Alive News.
The independent audit confirmed many of the concerns that lead the Fulton County School Board not to renew the 10-year-old school's charter status for another 10 years last winter.
The board offered the school a one-year extension with tighter controls, but the school's governing board refused the much shorter agreement.
That means it will become a completely private school on July 1st with an $8,500 tuition.
The independent audit raised several questions about a $19-million construction bond taken out by the school before its extension was approved.
It also raised red flags over how many foreign teachers had been hired, security on field trips, poor bookkeeping and inappropriate vendor relationships.
"There was self dealing and conflicts of interest that were found by our auditor," Superintendent Avossa said.
Avossa said he also wants to check up on two other elementary and high school charter science academies run by some of the same people.
"I'm moving forward with an audit of each of those schools to see if the same wrongdoing is occurring in each of those schools," he added.
Their charter contracts with Fulton County Schools are still good for another three years.
Governing board member Lassetter claims many of the audit's findings are exaggerated or untrue.
"It's disconcerting that so many factual errors were given to the press," she said.
She also suggested that Fulton County Schools may have broken state law by including names of some of the school's students in the audit report.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Avossa said he's waiting for the school's formal reply to the audit before deciding whether to pass it on to local and federal prosecutors.
According to Avossa, the middle school got $3.7-million in tax dollars through the Fulton County School system last year and more than $30-million over the past decade.
Asked whether this situation points up a weakness in the charter school system, Avossa said maybe just in this case.
"Our relationship in this case failed," he admitted, adding, "We do believe; however, that charter schools play an important part in Fulton County and we want to continue in a positive way with our charters."