Lawyer to AHA: Pay Up and Suits Will Be Tossed
Caran Smith and Audra Gillis allege that American Heritage Academy officials knew the school's lender was initiating foreclosure proceedings against 2126 Sixes Road and still took their prepaid tuition payments.
Two suits filed against American Heritage Academy would be dismissed if the Sixes Road private school returned prepaid tuition funds to parents.
"If they got their money back, plus the fees they paid me, they will probably dismiss the rest of the suit," Marietta attorney S. Lee Storesund said.
Storesund represents two American Heritage parents who allege in Cherokee County State Court complaints that school officials knew the lender was initiating foreclosure proceedings against 2126 Sixes Road and still took their prepaid tuition payments.
In order to take advantage of an early tuition discount back in December 2010, Caran Smith paid $10,202 for her son's 2011-12 tuition.
Audra Gillis did the same thing. She forked over $7,908 for her daughter's 2011-12 tutition. Gillis is the latest parent to take legal action against the embattled private school, which is reeling from multimillion dollar debt, an April 5 foreclosure and the April 18 arrest of one its teachers.
"The Defendant knew for many months prior to presenting her with the contract that it was in default and that the Defendant had no reasonable expectation of being at the same location, or any other location, for the school year for which it was accepting payment," Storesund wrote in both suits.
Smith filed suit on April 28; Gillis, May 12. Both women are suing for breach of contract, fraud, conversion and punitive damages. In addition to full refunds of prepaid tuition funds, Smith is seeking $30,606 for fraud as well as attorney fees. Gillis wants attorney fees and $23,724 for fraud.
Storesund did not say if other parents were planning to file suit against American Heritage. After answering one question from a Canton-Sixes Patch reporter, he said his comments were not to be printed.
"As far as I'm concerned," Storesund said, "if you've got a copy of the complaint then you know what they're seeking."
He declined to answer additional queries and hung up on the reporter.
Parvis Nikkhoo, the school's development director, said at a May 12 planning and zoning commission meeting that there would be 20 faculty members and 100 students in the fall.
Initially, a committee of American Heritage parents said the school needed an enrollment of 164 students in order to break even next school year. Enrollment pledge forms were due by 9 a.m. April 25.
“If these conditions are not met,” the parent committee wrote in a report, “American Heritage Academy will finish out the 2010/2011 school year and its contractual obligations, and then close its doors.”
When American Heritage didn't get the 164 commitments, the president of the board of directors said in an April 28 letter to parents that the school would not need that many students to keep its doors open.
"While initial break even estimates suggested we needed about 164 students," Scott Parrish wrote, "we’ve had some positive developments with respect to the build-out costs and we’ve been able to identify some additional cost saving measures that we believe would allow the school to move forward with as few as approximately 120 students."
Officials project the school will grow in coming years.
Beyond a brief video interview on the day American Heritage was advertised for foreclosure, Nikkhoo has ignored numerous requests for interviews with Patch. So have members of the parent committee.