Teacher: AHA Closed
Former art teacher Amy Johnson said officials at American Heritage Academy were dishonest with staff, parents.
While officials with American Heritage Academy haven't officially said that the school is closed, a former teacher said it did not reopen this year.
Amy Johnson said that though the school is currently closed, administrators are "hopeful" that the private school can reopen for the 2012-2013 school year. However, she thinks the school has burned too many bridges.
"I don’t know what parents would go back," Johnson said.
When board of directors president Scott Parrish was reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon, he said, "I'm no longer affiliated with AHA," and hung up. Canton-Sixes Patch tried to reach AHA principal Sharon Day, but her phone number was no longer working. And development director Parvis Nikkhoo has ignored numerous messages from Canton-Sixes Patch since a brief video interview on the day American Heritage was advertised for foreclosure.
Johnson said she's running into the same problem as she tries to liquidate her 401K from the now-defunct school.
"From my point of view, I'm hoping that they are out of business," Johnson said. "I can start another practice to get my money liquidated."
The art teacher said that administrators lied to the staff about the status of the school, first saying it had been bought and then saying it had gone into foreclosure.
"I feel things were so murky for so long that it was really hard to tell when they were telling the truth," she said. "A lot of us just assumed we were being lied to."
And, staff members weren't the only ones who felt administrators had been dishonest. Johnson said parents mentioned on the last day of school that they wished administrators had been more up front about the school's financial situation. In fact, Johnson said that parents who had expressed interest in returning to the school were never told that the school was closing.
Some parents still are trying to get their children's records, she said. At least one parent unsuccessfully tried to recoup a non-refundable $500 deposit she paid toward this school year.
"When people paid this money, they thought the school was going to be in the same building," Johnson said. "They didn't sign up to have school wherever AHA says. They signed up to have school in that building."
In March, the school was advertised in the Cherokee Tribune under foreclosure by Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co. The advertisement indicated the private school was $12 million in debt. Nikkhoo said then that going into foreclosure was the best way to write off the debt. The school supposedly was moved from its location on Sixes Road to New Life Worship Center in Holly Springs. A conditional use permit for use of the church was approved by the Holly Springs City Council in May.
Last week, a spokesperson for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Council on Accreditation and School Improvement told Canton-Sixes Patch that the agency is investigating the school's status and has been unsuccessful in reaching school administrators. The school's accreditation expires next year.
Johnson, who now teaches at another school, said AHA didn't have the family atmosphere that administrators advertised. For example, she said Nikkhoo didn't even know her name and simply called her "lady in the hallway.
"And I taught his daughter," Johnson said. "That’s just how the school operated."
And, whenever students left AHA, Johnson was instructed to erase their names from the family tree she had painted on a wall.
"They were keeping that kind of list, and I refused to do that, but one of the administrators did," Johnson said. "That's an example of how the administration really felt about the students."