School System Unveils Charter System Plan

October 1, 2013

The Stephens County School System unveils its current charter system application.

The school system held two public meetings Monday to talk about the plan.

A handful of people showed up to hear about the school system’s charter system plan.

In a charter school system, a local Board of Education spells out what it wants to do differently for students in exchange for relaxation of state rules while in return, the state spells out the student achievement goals that the school system will be held accountable for.

Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said that after numerous meetings and input from the staff and the community, the school system has found four areas it wants to focus on.

“(They are) earning credit through work-based experiences like the workplace learning at the high school, apprenticeships, trying to get the kids out into things that count as credit, increase rigorous opportunities (for students), (aiding student) transitions all the way up from elementary to middle, middle to high, and then high school into the community,” said Whiten.  “And the one thing we hear over and over is about those employability skills, soft skills, (like) work ethic and problem solving.”

As part of that, Whiten said the school system wants to work on providing students at all levels chances to advance their academic careers at a quicker pace if they are ready for that.

“They need to have some other things, other credits, like credits from North Georgia Tech or some other places,” said Whiten.  “We want high school coursework offered at the middle school.  Right now, the only thing we offer at the middle school for high school credit is math.  This year, it was coordinate algebra.  We want more.”

Whiten said that to do some of these things would require waivers from state rules in a number of areas.

In return for that flexibility from the state, the school system is proposing to the state that it will increase and then maintain the percentage of students exceeding state averages on the CRCT, the EOCT, and the Writing Test.

Also in its charter system application, the school system is setting a goal of increasing its graduation rate from the current 87 percent to 95 percent by 2019.

The charter system application also establishes the boundaries for school-level governance teams.

Those would exist at each school and consist of the principal, staff, parents, community members, and students in the case of the middle and high schools.

Whiten said those governance teams would receive training and could have the ability to look at a number of areas at the school level.

“They would look at the budget,” said Whiten.  “We have Title I schools.  They might approve the Title I budget for that school.  They might have a fundraising budget for the school.  They could approve that.  Looking at allocation of resources.  They could approve field trips.  On personnel decisions, they would have a lot of input into the principal.”

However, Whiten said that does not mean the way the school system will change the way it runs now overall.

“The Board of Education still has the same rights and responsibilities they have always had,” said Whiten.  “Same with the superintendent, the principles, and the teachers.”

Whiten said the plan is to present the charter system application to the Stephens County Board of Education for its approval next month and then send it to the state to receive final approval in time for the 2014-2015 school year.

More information can be found about the charter system application online at www.stephenscountyschools.com.

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