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Speak up Feb. 26 about school flexibility
Several BOE meetings to be held at schools this year
W Charles Wilson

The annual “Speak Up for Education” session, 6-8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School, will among other things serve as the public hearing on the Bulloch County Schools’ becoming what people in education circles call an “IE Squared” district.
It will also be the first of seven Bulloch County Board of Education meetings held at schools this year.
As in past years, “Speak Up for Education” gives parents and other citizens a chance to talk to educators and board members about major issues affecting the schools. It also serves as a joint meeting of the elected Board of Education and the 15 appointed school councils.
This year, the main topic will be the board’s move to make the Bulloch County Schools an Investing in Educational Excellence, or IE2, system. This is the less ambitious of two “flexibility options” under which the state government now offers exceptions from its school regulations, such as maximum numbers of students per teacher and the requirement that teachers be certified.
During the regular board meeting Thursday, Superintendent Charles Wilson urged all board members to attend the Feb. 26 session.
“It will be the opportunity for us to share our vision for the strategic plan as well as what are the options inside an IE Squared model in our application,” he said.
Breakout sessions are also planned, in which each school principal, council members, parents and community members will be asked to share ideas for school improvement.

Other meetings at schools
Under the schedule the board adopted in January, it will hold six more of its meetings at schools this year. All will be the second meeting of a month, labeled a “work session,” although the board has sometimes voted at these. All the meetings, except for “Speak Up,” will begin at 6:30 p.m., and all are on Thursdays.
The board is slated to meet at Portal Middle High on March 26, Southeast Bulloch High on April 30, Statesboro High on July 23, Southeast Bulloch High on Aug. 27, Portal Middle High on Sept. 24, and Statesboro High on Nov. 19.
Otherwise, the board’s first meeting each month, billed as the regular session and usually on the second Thursday of the month, will continue to be held at the board’s headquarters in the William James Educational Complex. Some of the work sessions, usually on the fourth Thursday, will also be held there.

Strategic plan revised
Thursday, the board unanimously adopted a revision of the school system’s strategic plan, which had been developed through a series of public meetings in 2013.
The revised plan lists narrowing the schools’ performance gap on the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, first among nine strategic objectives and mentions the IE2 flexibility option. Standardized test scores are the most heavily weighted part of the index of school performance, but schools are also measured on other things, such as attendance, parent involvement, teacher effectiveness and graduation rates.
Under the proposed IE2 contract with the state, each school will be required to close the gap between its performance and the 100 percent level by 3 percent annually. In return, the rule waivers will provide flexibility in how state funding is spent.
Chief Financial Officer Troy Brown brought the board more information on how state funding is allocated to the system for the number of students at each school and grade level. This is part of preparations for giving the principal and leadership team of each school more say in how the allotted state and local money is spent.

School zones
Also Thursday, Chief Operations Officer Paul Webb advised the board on methods for redrawing attendance zones. Webb plans to bring the board options in March for a short-term plan to assign some new transportation zone lines, affecting a few schools beginning next school year.
This will be designed to avert potential crowding at Langston Chapel Elementary School, which is operating near capacity. Depending on the board’s input on what is acceptable capacity, plans could also be made to shift students from some other schools, Webb said in an interview.
But for longer-term attendance zoning, Webb suggested that the board could either seek staff-created proposals or form a board member-led committee.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

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