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School system weighs state flexibility options
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The Bulloch County Board of Education will need to make a major decision by July 15, 2015. That's when state law requires all school systems to notify the Georgia Department of Education which of four new education models they will use.

The board's choice will determine the school system's eligibility for freedom from certain state education laws and regulations. Education leaders believe this flexibility will significantly increase community involvement, spur innovation and increase collaboration.

According to the state, each of the four options (Investing in Educational Excellence, Charter System, System of Charter Schools/Charter Clusters and Status Quo) allow systems to implement various flexibility options such as waivers from state requirements concerning class size limits, spending formulas, teacher certifications and salary schedule requirements. No waivers from federal-level requirements can be granted. In exchange for these state-level operational freedoms, school systems would be held to a legally binding, performance-based contract with the state.

School system officials say they are leaning toward the charter system or Investing in Educational Excellence model.

It's basically a flexibility bargain. In exchange for higher academic expectations and performance measures, the state will give school systems various levels of freedom from state controls.

The charter system option emphasizes parent and community involvement and creates a school-level governance team composed of parents, community leaders, administrators and teachers. The team is similar to current school councils, but with substantially more autonomy and governance roles. They will be part of the operating process and share governance of the school system with the superintendent, but to what extent is determined by how the school system's charter is written.

Investing in Educational Excellence - which educators refer to in shorthand as "IE2" - requires school systems to sign multiyear contracts with the State Board of Education. Those contracts must include plans identifying specific school-level student achievement goals that are in addition to federal accountability requirements. If a school system cannot meet the plan's goals, it loses governance of any school that was part of the contract. The choice then becomes: converting such schools to charter schools, allowing a nonprofit or for-profit education organization to take control, or allowing a nearby, successful school system to govern the schools in question.

Herald Editor Jason Wermers contributed to this report.


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