Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file
Clarke County School Superintendent Phil Lanoue has been pushing to become a charter district.
The Clarke County Board of Education voted unanimously May 14 to apply to the state to become a charter system, fulfilling a directive that all school districts must choose a governance model by the end of June.
In 2007 and 2008, the legislature created two new options for local district governance: the charter system (not a system of charter schools) and Investing in Excellence in Education, or IE2. Those two systems, along with the traditional, or “status quo,” system are the three options for each district.
Lanoue recommended the application to become a charter system in June 2014. The current plan is to bring the full and final application for approval before the BOE meeting on June 11.
The CCSD’s decision to apply as a charter system grants the district the most flexibility compared to the other two systems. The charter system will also grant the CCSD freedom from many state and federal education requirements.
Instead of making decisions at the county-board level, a governing body at the school will be making some decisions. The school board will continue to set policies and standards, however. The governing body will be in place in order to decide how best to meet those policies and standards set by the school board, which will require a greater involvement from the Clarke County community.
For school districts electing to apply as a charter system, thus implementing local school governance teams, the state of Georgia has implemented a set of requirements for the LGSTs. The first requirement is that the LGSTs will replace the school councils that were in place with the current system. LSGTs must also reflect the diversity of neighborhoods they serve.
Though they will be given authority in five state-defined areas (personnel decisions, financial decisions and resource allocation, curriculum and instruction, school improvement plan and school operations), the LGSTs are responsible for governance, not management. All decisions made by them are also still subject to BOE supervision and authority.
The final requirement implemented by the state is that all members must undergo an annual regular training.
In addition to these state requirements, the CCSD has also implemented two additional requirements. “Our additional requirements here are that we want governance teams in our charter application to exercise authority by choosing innovations from the priority areas aligning the strategic plan,” James Barlament, the coordinator for grants and research for CCSD, said.
Another addition the CCSD made to the basic charter system the state offers: LGST implementation committees. “The goal for these implementation committees,” Barlament said, “is to make sure these governance teams reflect on the needs of their schools and neighborhoods, and whether their membership includes a diverse set of perspectives and appropriate skills to meet those needs.”
The requirements to be a member of the implementation committees have not been stated, in case there is a need to change those requirements after the system has been implemented.
These additions were the result of various polling done by CCSD. A charter system relies heavily on community feedback.
Those polled believed that the most crucial members needed to make up the LGSTs were parents (98 percent believe to be “extremely important”), teachers (97 percent) and the school’s principal (90 percent). Other options were neighborhood members (88 percent), students (78 percent) and police officers (66 percent).
“We actually had some people, at this point in their comments, say that there were a lot of other people who could be on [this list],” Barlament said.
With this feedback, the CCSD has made revisions to the membership specifications to LGSTs from the last draft of the charter system application. All terms of members were changed to two two-year terms, with the ability to serve a third following a one-year break. The use of at-large members is also available to LGSTs based on need. At the middle and high school levels, though, those at-large members must be an odd number, so there is an odd number of eligible voters.
Revisions also clarified candidate requirements, created voting processes for parents and students and established a process by which teachers, parents and police officers elected to the LGST would form a core membership in order to solicit interest from and vote upon neighborhood and at-large members.
Among the areas in which more flexibility in decision-making is given are teacher certification, class size, pay, course requirements and seat times in exchange for specific, rigorous goals to increase student performance.
To make sure the system works, the CCSD will need to have a system of checks and balances in place to assure that each school within the district is being held accountable and that the schools continue to improve their student performance.
In applying to become a charter system, the CCSD will be granted additional state funding of approximately $80-90 per student, which in Clarke County is a total of nearly $1 million.