Scott Harris, Treasurer, speaks as Kaseem Ladipo (left), school board chairman, listens during a board meeting at Latin Academy Charter School earlier this year. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin

Atlanta charter school could close after alleged theft, mismanagement

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

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

The board of Latin Academy is set to vote tonight on closing the school in an emergency meeting. Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of local school districts.

Atlanta Public Schools informed the charter school’s board this week it planned to terminate the school’s charter and close the school. Latin Academy had been placed on probation by Atlanta Public Schools and had failed to meet its probation conditions, according to APS.

“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,” the head of APS’ charter school department told the board.

Earlier this year, the board rejected a $1 million donation that could have allowed the school to remain open —but that donation came with the condition that the entire board resign. Latin Academy board chairman Kaseem Ladipo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today the donation came with other conditions, including “significant” up-front payments from the school to someone identifying him or herself as a representative of the donor.

Ladipo said Atlanta Public Schools officials indicated that accepting the donation with those conditions too could lead to APS revoking the school’s charter and closing the school.

Latin Academy’s problems became public last year after the AJC 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.

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