Schools discuss flexibility options at meeting

by Lindy Oller

The first in a series of informational sessions explaining the flexibility options that will become available to the Coweta County School System in 2015 was held Wednesday evening at Newnan High School.

Leading the session regarding the state-mandated selection process were Coweta County School System Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker and Mark Whitlock, director of public policy for the school system and CEO of the Central Educational Center.

Choosing a flexibility option will become necessary by June 30, 2015, Barker said. As of July 1, 2015, the State Board of Education will discontinue the granting of waivers to systems that do not choose a flexibility plan. Systems will have to choose between an IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence), Charter System or Status Quo status.

According to Barker, waivers provide flexibility from portions of “Title 20,” the education code in Georgia. Waivers are needed in order to implement innovative approaches that might result in improved student achievement.

“At the Central Educational Center, we have seat time waivers and various expenditure control waivers,” said Whitlock, who in addition to his role as CEO at CEC is chairman of the school’s charter advisory committee.

Questions that were raised by parents and educators at the session included differences between an IE2 and Charter System and when the changes take effect.

Whitlock said an IE2 is a school system that makes a contract with the state. There are three systems in Georgia that currently use this type of system. Under this system, schools must list all waivers.

“It takes about 18 to 24 months for a waiver to be processed because a governmental entity is involved,” said Whitlock.

The Charter System offers a broad waiver of flexibility, he said. School systems do not have to indicate when waivers must be used.

“It only takes about six months for a waiver to be processed in a Charter System,” said Barker.

Barker and Whitlock did their homework in 2012 on the types of flexibility options that are available.

According to Barker, focus groups were used as a way for teachers, staff, students, parents and community leaders to express how waivers are needed in order to maximize student achievement. Marietta City Schools is a Charter System that Whitlock, Barker, and Coweta County Board of Education members visited.

In order to change to a Charter System, Barker said, a letter of intent must be filled out after the local board of education votes on whether or not to pursue a Charter System status. The Charter Petition must be completed, approved by the local board and filed by Nov. 1 in order for the school system to operate under Charter System status in the next fiscal year.

There will be two more informational sessions both at 6 p.m. on Monday. They will be held at East Coweta High School and at Northgate High School.

For more information on the flexibility plans, go to www.cowetaschools.org.



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