Georgia commission agrees to keep former Fulton charter schools alive

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

A state commission has given a pair of former Fulton County charter schools a new lifeline.

The State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia voted Wednesday to give The RISE (Reaching Innovative Solutions in Education) Schools a state charter. RISE comprises two schools: RISE Grammar, which serves grades K-5, and RISE Preparatory Academy, which includes grades 6-8. The schools will operate under a single charter, the commission said.

The Fulton County school board voted earlier this year not to renew RISE’s charter, citing concerns about academic performance and financial management. Officials said the schools’ scores on state-issued tests were the lowest among Fulton’s charter schools. They also said RISE took on too much debt. The charter was set to expire this summer.

“The … board of education felt that it was in the best interest of all students to end our charter with school administrators that were not in compliance with multiple areas and not providing substantial educational benefits beyond those of traditional schools,” Fulton school board president Kimberly Dove said in February.

But state commission member Ben Scafidi painted a different picture of RISE after Wednesday’s vote. He was on a panel that reviewed the schools’ state charter application.

“The data shows that this school is the best option for students in that area,” he said of the schools, located in East Point. “Seven hundred-some parents think that school is the best option for their students. Another 141 students’ parents on the waiting list think that school is the best option for their students. So the data checks out. The community supports the school.”

“I am overwhelmed and humbled by this,” said RISE interim board chair Lisa Sterling. “It has been a long time coming and it means endless opportunities for the schools going forward.”

The vote comes as RISE is facing a legal challenge. A complaint filed May 23 in Fulton County state court by the parents of a student accused a RISE Preparatory teacher of choking their child. It also claims RISE was negligent in hiring the teacher and failing to train and supervise him. Sterling declined to comment on the complaint.

Although charters are considered public schools, they are managed independently and often have a board of directors.

If a local board of education decides not to renew a school’s charter, the school can apply to become a state charter. The state commission approved RISE’s charter for a three-year term.