On Amana Academy, irony and lessons learned

They gave the new guy some good-natured ribbing. It was at an Alpharetta City Council meeting from a few weeks ago. Richard McLeod, the city’s recently hired director of Community Development, was on the receiving end. After just a few weeks on the job he was being “evicted” from his office space.

Evicted isn’t the right word. Community Development shares a building on South Main Street with the Amana Academy, a charter school. The school recently purchased the entire building and wants to expand into the adjacent space. Assuming the role of landlord, they asked the city to vacate their office space.

But the irony didn’t escape me as Alpharetta poked the new guy. It was about this time last year when Alpharetta rejected Amana’s request to open just off Windward Parkway. Funny how the tables have turned. The city is the one being inconvenienced. Certainly that wasn’t the intention of Amana, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Amana’s purchase of 285 South Main is significant and a great thing for this part of the city. The building is growing older and has been in and out of foreclosure. The first phase of Amana’s buildout will be to take the left wing of the building (where Community Development is now) and convert to classroom space. It’s not clear when they will alter the other wing of the building (and if Satay House will have to move).

Along with the construction comes borrowing. Amana plans a $10 million bond issuance to fund acquisition of the building and construction. And while Alpharetta isn’t on the hook for these bonds, they will still have to approve them in a public hearing.

The process is similar to how the Fulton Science Academy’s bond issuance went down. This is Alpharetta’s chance to take the lessons learned with FSA and apply them here. In that case, Alpharetta’s Development Authority assumed FSA’s charter renewal was in the bag. The bonds were approved and construction started on their new campus off Westside Parkway.

But we know how this story ends. FSA’s charter was not renewed. The bonds went into default, construction stalled and a Prospect Park-esque mudpit is all that’s left.

While I’m not aware of any governance problems with Amana Academy, Alpharetta should proceed with caution. It would behoove the city to take the lessons learned from FSA and apply them here. Will Amana’s next charter renewal go smoothly? Or does the school system have it out for every charter school in north Fulton?

Hopefully Amana’s story ends with a stable owner of 285 South Main, a thriving charter school and a solid relationship with the school system.

One Response to “On Amana Academy, irony and lessons learned”

  1. Thinker January 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    “Or does the school system have it out for every charter school in north Fulton?” Whaaat? You must be joking or else you did not read the independent, unbiased audit reports of the North Fulton charters.
    I just lost some respect for you.

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