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'Common Concerns' for education to be addressed at forum
Bipartisan event to focus on testing, accountability
W education

A public forum on education set for Saturday is a bipartisan project that grew out of shared interest in the subject between Democrats and Republicans in Bulloch County.

The nonpartisan venue is the College of Education Auditorium at Georgia Southern University. Attendance is free for the
10 a.m. forum, expected to last until noon. Maria Voles Ferguson, executive director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, will give the introductory remarks before policy makers and educators from the state, county and classroom levels take part in a panel discussion. A time for audience questions and answers is scheduled.

With the title "Common Concerns: Education, Testing and Accountability," the forum suggests a search for common ground on testing-related issues and school accountability.

"We're excited because, of course, bipartisanship is too rare a thing these days," said Dr. John Howard Brown, chairman of the Bulloch County Democratic Party.

As Eric Cumbee, chairman of the Bulloch County Republican Party, confirmed, local leaders of the two major political parties agreed to sponsor the forum and asked the GSU College of Education and the Bulloch County Schools to participate. Cumbee said he was first approached by Bill Herring, who preceded Brown as the county Democratic chair and is now the party's 12th District chairman.

Planning has been underway since the spring.

How much testing?

"The big focus is going to be testing and accountability," Cumbee said. "When you look at what parents and what teachers are concerned about these days, it's how we hold teachers accountable and how we make sure we're not wasting valuable instructional time on tests that may not be effective."

Interviewed separately, Cumbee and Brown both suggested that limits on the value of testing will be a key topic but agreed that Republicans and Democrats probably approach it from different perspectives.

Opportunity District

The constitutional amendment to create a statewide Opportunity School District, which will be on Georgia ballots in November 2016, is another timely concern, Brown said. The Legislature passed the enabling legislation proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and if voters approve the amendment, schools that persistently fail to meet benchmarks in the state's accountability system may be temporarily removed from local control and assigned to the special district.

Dr. Barbara Christmas Golden, local resident and retired school principal, teacher and Professional Association of Georgia Educators president, will serve as panel moderator.

Scheduled panelists include Mike Royal, College of Education board member and 7th Congressional District member on the Georgia Board of Education; Charles Wilson, superintendent of the Bulloch County Schools; Dr. Thomas R. Koballa Jr., dean of the GSU College of Education; Dr. Michael Moore, a professor in the college's Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading; Dr. Torian White, principal of Southeast Bulloch Middle School; and Becky Petkewich, a teacher at Brooklet Elementary School.

State Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, will provide closing remarks.


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