Victory for Utopian

August 11, 2014 14:30 pm

by Eric The Younger · 5 comments

You may remember from last week that Utopian Academy in Clayton County was denied the ability to open and teach its 200 students because of a lack of a fire inspection from the City of Riverdale.

This should not be surprising given the bumps in the road for this one charter school to open. Three denials from Clayton County Schools only to be finally approved after a Constitutional Amendment that would allow the State to authorize charter schools.

Today there was victory for Utopian. A State Superior Court judge ruled that the city of Riverdale should do the inspection so the school can open. In his own words, courtesy of the AJC, “The city needs a trigger to get the inspection done. I’ll be the trigger. Get the inspections done.”

This was the last thing that anti charter folks could do in Clayton to keep this charter school from opening. And it took a state judge to order officials in Riverdale to perform the inspection.

As I said in my last post on the matter, this is shameful. The people of Clayton County want more charter schools. The 72% vote in favor of the Charter School amendment showed that. It’s about time for some of the politicians in Clayton county to be more responsive to the wants and needs of their constituents.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

ryanhawk August 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

From the AJC article:

“This is a political issue,” Simmons said. “There’s some folks that don’t want a charter school over there. And they’re trying their best to obstruct that. They prevailed upon the city to deal with this issue. Get over there and inspect the building.”

@LeaThrace @Ellynn: Superior Court Judges make findings of fact. Apparently this is not just a simple miscommunication between governments and it’s not a bungling charter operator. It’s politics as usual with public charter school students caught in the crossfire.

And while I’m at it … the best I can say for AJC columnist Maureen Downey (Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news” according to her byline) is that she has said nothing at all about any of this.

Ellynn August 11, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I’m pretty sure I never called it a misscommunication. Nor did I even imply it could be.

I did state they “don’t normally whip out a ordinace or occupancy related issue…” I also stated “to issue a warning without due cause could lead to the Commisioner of Insurance relinquishing their status as an indepenant Authority Having Juristiction”. I further stated “That is not to say they can’t be difficult, or take advantage of the code.” I hope the judge goes all the way to the SFM and the commissioner. If they broke O.C.O.G Title 25, the department needs to be striped of it’s AHJ status, and fall back under the SFM

I’m very aware the ‘politics’ and hardball of publically funded buildings, school sites (which a charter technically is) and making sure at the end of the day a building opens on time and that building is safe. I stand by my statement “any one who does k-12 school buildings would know what hoops to jump through.” The charter hires building consultants and lawyers. Why did they not know the hoops to jump through? By the judge’s own statement, the building has not been inspected for a final C.O. What hoops were the building concultants jumbing through prior to last week Monday. Technically, without a C.O. the staff and director legally should not have even been in the school. That’s a state regulation. But the main reason I stand by that statement is I do this for a living – I’m a professional hoop jumper for my clients. All of them – Public, Private, Educational, Assembly, Business and Industrial.

Furthermore, I would ask why knowing as early as the Friday (last business day of the week for a scheduled inspection) before the opening that an inspector was not going allow the building to occupied, the school was planing on opening anyway? I personally would have sent out a public statement to the press late Saturday the the opening of the school was going to be delayed (and the ‘offical’ reasons why) to make the Sunday news outlets. Then let the parental outrage fly.

This was not personal on my part Ryan. My question is why are you making it so?

I’m happy a judge forced the inspection. (Really I am…) Now lets see what the inspection says.

Will Durant August 11, 2014 at 8:19 pm

This building has been used for public school continuously for at least 65 years so I’m having trouble figuring out how any occupancy issues are anything other than political.

Ellynn August 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

First, a new construction and fire code went into affect the first of the year. The school legally will have to make sure it meets the minium requirements for existing structures and existing occupancy under both code. Did the school system even have it inspected under the existing fire and building requirements for education in the last 10 years? Has it been out of service as a functioning school for more the 12 months? Have the fire exstinighers been checked and/or upgraded. Does the fire alarm meet requirements for visual and audible notification for existing schools? If it has a sprinkler system has it been recharged and certified. Is the hood supression in the kitchen less then 12 years old. Does it have all the points of egress ADA accessible, Are the restrooms ADA, do the corridors have the correct type of enclosures? Has a secondary trade (like data wiring or phone service) repaired the opening in the walls they created correctly. If they replaced the ceiling tile, did they invalidate the existing electrical to the lights? Did they replace any locks on doors, and did they comprime the door egressing because of it? These are just a few items in an existing school that can be ruled not to code.

Of course there is politics. There is always poltics. Even in brand new shiny schools every one loves and wants. Like any law, the inspection and the code can be used as a political weapon. Examples, Texas is not closing down abortion clinic because they outlawed the practice, they just added a whole level of building requirements to existing clinics that they structurally can not be met. The FBI proved that laws are very good back door tools when they used the tax code on Al Capone.

What I find interesting is that an inspection was not even done.

ryanhawk August 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

Shorter Ellynn: Students at Utopian will continue to be $^@%! by the system until a judge puts an end to this nonsense. Good of her to finally admit the regulatory thicket is being used as a weapon against children and to spell it out in such fine detail!

There is no doubt this is dirty politics: My only question is whether this is garden variety obstructionism by the EDU blob in Clayton County, or whether there is dirty money involved. I would certainly rest easier if the FBI asked a few questions about extortion and bribery. And perhaps a lifestyle audit of a few of the folks involved would be in order as well. Start with a little fish like the fire marshall and see where that leads.

It will be interesting to see what a little sunshine reveals.