The Stephens County School System is starting down the road towards becoming a charter system.
Thursday, the school system held a community meeting on the topic at its administrative offices on Mize Road. Teachers, school administrators, parents, and businesspeople gathered to hear about what a charter system is and the process for becoming a charter system. The Stephens County Board of Education voted to pursue charter system status in January.
Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said that she was pleased with the turnout for Thursday’s meeting.
“I think tonight went really well because it gave us a chance to let people know what we are doing and why and there was a lot of interest in what we are doing,” said Whiten.
Following the presentation, school officials also answered questions about what a charter system is and how it operates.
Whiten said that in a charter system, a local Board of Education reaches a contract with the state Board of Education about the operation of the school system. In that contract, Whiten said a school system 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.
Those who attended were also asked to help the school system in the process of becoming a charter system.
Following the presentation from the school system, those in attendance broke into three smaller groups.
Whiten said each of those groups will look at one of the three main parts of a charter system application.
“One is looking the school-level governance,” said Whiten. “Another is looking at what we want to do as far as the curriculum, those innovations, those things that if we did not have these rules and laws in place, what we could do to benefit our students. The third part is what are those rules and regulations we would like to be free from.”
Each of the groups was tasked with looking at charter system applications for other school systems in Georgia and seeing which ideas might work for Stephens County.
Whiten said the smaller groups will meet on their own next month before coming back together as a large group in May.
“Hopefully that will spark some kind of interest in what kind of things can we do in Stephens County, what are the elements that look like what would be good for us,” said Whiten.
An initial timeline presented by school officials calls for the proposed charter system petition to the state to be written over the summer, with public meetings taking place in September, and the Board of Education considering approval of the charter system application in October. According to the timeline, the goal is to have final state approval by May 2014.
Whiten said in the meantime, there will be many meetings on the topic.
She added that all of the information on Stephens County’s charter system process will be posted on the school system’s website.
“You will see a link for charter systems,” said Whiten. “We will put all of our information on there.”
It will also have a place for people to submit questions.
The website is www.stephenscountyschools.com.