Atlanta charter school where $600K allegedly stolen will close


A troubled Atlanta charter school will close at the end of this school year, the victim of alleged theft by the school’s founder and mismanagement.

Closing Latin Academy, a public charter school overseen by the Atlanta school district, will leave hundreds of students with few alternatives besides the low-performing traditional neighborhood schools many left behind.

“You are going to throw our children to the wolves,” parent Renee Sewell told the school’s board Thursday night.

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of local school districts.

Latin Academy’s problems became public last year after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that more than $600,000 was taken from the school to pay for dinners, non-work-related travel, bonuses to employees and “personal entertainment at local night clubs.” School founder Chris Clemons has been arrested in connection with the alleged theft.

The board voted 7-2 to close the school. Board members Tameka Rivers and Bob DeHaven, both parents of Latin Academy students, voted against closure.

“I find it hard to believe we cannot find a solution,” DeHaven said.

Latin Academy board chairman Kaseem Ladipo said fixing the school’s problems “was a climb that was steeper than we ever imagined.”

After the money was taken, the school struggled financially. In February, the board considered closing, but postponed a decision. The board cut staff salaries and other spending as parents, staff and students tried to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars the board said was needed to keep Latin Academy open.

But the school had problems beyond financial solvency. Latin Academy was put on probation this fall by Atlanta Public Schools and the state Department of Education. The school wasn’t contributing to the state teachers pension fund on time or complying with laws protecting children with disabilities. And a new chief financial officer seemed confused about state audit requirements.

Atlanta Public Schools informed the charter school’s board Wednesday it planned to move to terminate the school’s charter and close the school. The reasons the district cited include the failure to hire a “proficient school leader” and no indication the school has enough money to operate next year, according to a letter from Gayle Burnett, head of the school district’s charter school office.

Academics also played a role in the school district’s decision. Although Latin Academy is rated higher by the state than all but two other traditional Atlanta middle schools, it performs significantly below the state’s 50th percentile in all subjects except social studies, according to the school district.

“The combination of instability in finances, turnover of leadership, and lackluster performance over the past four years have led to the decision by this office to request the early termination of Latin Academy’s charter,” Burnett wrote.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

Georgia Tech president creates fund for student mental health initiatives
Georgia Tech president creates fund for student mental health initiatives

Georgia Tech president G. P. “Bud” Peterson announced Saturday evening he’s created a fund for donors to contribute money for student mental health and wellness initiatives. The fund, Peterson said, already has a $1 million contribution. Peterson said in a letter to students, employees and graduates that he set up the fund after...
Tech death puts spotlight on campus mental health services

Georgia Tech student Sarat E. Lawal said she and her friends usually turn to each other when academic rigors gets stressful. “You need someone to share your struggles with,” Lawal, 20, a fourth-year materials science and engineering student, said the day after a campus vigil, for a student killed in an apparent suicide-by-cop, turned violent...
College Jimmy Carter attended dedicates plaza to him
College Jimmy Carter attended dedicates plaza to him

Georgia Southwestern State University held a dedication ceremony Friday for a plaza named after former President Jimmy Carter. Carter attended the university in 1941 and 1942. The former president and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, also an alumna of the university, attended. The plaza, at the main entrance to the campus, includes a mounted signature...
DeKalb will extend school day by 20 minutes for days lost to Hurricane Irma
DeKalb will extend school day by 20 minutes for days lost to Hurricane Irma

The DeKalb County School District will lengthen its school days by 20 minutes through December to make up for closing four days last week due to Hurricane Irma. This has been done before by other metro districts. Gwinnett and Decatur extended their school days for 30 minutes in 2014 ...
South Georgia college to unveil plaza named after Jimmy Carter
South Georgia college to unveil plaza named after Jimmy Carter

Georgia Southwestern State University has a dedication ceremony set Friday for a plaza named after former President Jimmy Carter. Carter attended the university in 1941 and 1942. The former president and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, also an alumni of the university, are scheduled to attend. The plaza will be located at the main entrance to campus...
More Stories