Coweta school system chooses flexibility options
by Celia Shortt
The Coweta County School System has an important decision to make regarding flexibility options being mandated by the state.
“By June 30, 2015, all local school systems must choose one of several flexibility options, including Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) School System, becoming a Charter School System, or becoming a Status Quo School System,” said school system spokesman Dean Jackson. “The choice will have a significant impact on governance, local flexibility, and school and system accountability.”
According to information from the office of Dr. John Barge, state school superintendent:
• An IE2 system is a district with a performance contract with the state board of education, giving waivers from specific Title 20 provisions, board rules, and GA Department of Education Guidelines. The waivers must be specified in the initial contract and cannot be changed.
• A Charter School System is one with an “executed charter” from the board, granting a broad waiver of flexibility with the Title 20, SBOE rules, and GaDOE guidelines. Both IE2 and charter school systems hinge on student achievement.
• A Status Quo System is one in which a school system has chosen not to request increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability and has defined consequences and opted to remain under all current laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures.
Title 20 is the shorthand phrase for GA education law and related rules and guidelines.
“Like most school systems, Coweta County schools currently utilize waivers that, for example, allow some flexibility from ‘seat time’ and class size in various classes, and which allow the system to spend dollars in areas where needed, versus spending only in areas that are mandated,” said Jackson.
The Coweta County School System has been preparing for this decision since 2011, when the Georgia legislature indicated it would like to allow the SBOE to stop granting waivers to school systems.
To allow the SBOE to stop, they needed a way for school systems to have waivers. The IE2 system and charter system are that way.
Since 2011, Mark Whitlock, CEO of the Central Educational Center, organized focus groups consisting of teachers, staff, students, parents, and community leaders. More than 500 people participated and offered ideas for flexibility options through those focus groups.
Since state officials postponed the initial date when school systems had to choose between an IE2 system or a charter system to June 2015, Coweta’s school system postponed theirs as well.
This year, the school system proceeded with its strategic plan, including these flexibility options. Throughout the year, they also help more focus groups to gain input from teachers, staff, students, parents and community leaders.
More than 1,000 people participated and offered ideas about innovations, flexibility, and waivers which are needed to impact student achievement positively.
These ideas included:
• Curriculum enrichment innovations.
• Maximizing resources.
• Organizational innovation.
In the 2014 legislative session, Georgia leaders did not change the options.
Coweta County Board of Education on May 13 adopted the new strategic plan for 2014-2019 and decided to hold informational sessions about the options. The school board’s goal is to file a letter of intent, announcing which flexibility option it plans to pursue.
The school system must file its letter of intent by June 30, 2015.
The public informational sessions will be held:
• Wednesday, May 28 at 6 p.m. at Newnan High School.
• Monday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at East Coweta High School.
• Monday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at Northgate High School.
Coweta County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker as well as Whitlock will be presenting the sessions.
The school board’s discussion from the May 13 meeting and other information about the flexibility options can be found on the school system’s website, www.cowetaschools.org .