Coweta schools prepare to join charter system
by Celia Shortt
The Coweta County School System has decided to become a charter school system in time for the 2015-16 school year.
At Tuesday’s monthly Coweta school board meeting, CCSS Director of Public Policy and Central Educational Center CEO Mark Whitlock presented the school board’s letter of intent to the Georgia Board of Education. The school system plans to be operating as a charter school system by August 2015. In order to be ready for the change, local educators must begin preparing now.
“The work we do now will help us prepare for August 2015,” said Whitlock.
Over the next few months, the school system will work on drafting a charter system petition, outlining goals for the school system’s governance and operations as a proposed Charter System.
Whitlock will chair a committee that will draft the school system’s petition for charter status by Nov. 1, 2014.
Filing a charter petition by that date will allow the school system to begin operating as a charter system by the 2015-16 school year, assuming state approval of the petition. CCSS has been preparing for this decision since 2011, when the Georgia legislature indicated it would like to allow the state board of education to stop granting waivers to school systems. To allow it to stop, they needed a way for school systems to have waivers and created several flexibility options for the school systems.
The deadline for submitting a letter of intent is June 30, 2015.
The first option given by the office of State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge is an IE2 district. This type of district has a performance contract with the state board of education and receives waivers from specific Title 20 provisions, board rules, and Georgia Department of Education guidelines. The waivers must be specified in the initial contract and cannot be changed.
The second option is a charter school system. This system has an “executed charter” from the board, granting a broad waiver of flexibility with the Title 20, state board rules, and state Department of Education guidelines. Both IE2 and charter school systems hinge on student achievement.
The third option is a status quo system, 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 refers to Georgia educational 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 Dean Jackson, spokesperson for Coweta school system, in an earlier statement.
Since 2011 when the work on this decision began, Whitlock 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.
To date, more than 1,000 people have participated and offered ideas about innovations, flexibility, and waivers that are needed to positively impact student achievement.
Recently, Whitlock and Coweta County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker also held public informational sessions to allow anyone to ask questions or voice concerns about the flexibility options.
The deadline of June 2015 for declaring intent came after state officials postponed the initial date when school systems had to choose their flexibility options.
Information about the flexibility options can be found on the school system’s website, www.cowetaschools.org.