School board wants side by side comparisons of system changes

Tue, 05/05/2009 - 3:54pm
By: Ben Nelms

Charter school system or IE2 (IE-squared) system? The Fayette County Board of Education held a brief discussion on the two possibilities Monday and decided that a side-by-side comparison of the two systems would be in order before taking up the conversation in depth.

At issue was Investing in Education Excellence, also known as IE2 (IE-squared), and the charter system. Both concepts provide local school systems greater flexibility and require more accountability.

The biggest difference is that, unlike IE2 systems, charter systems require a move to local school governance, while IE2 contracts do not.

So much of the decision-making takes place at the school level through a governing council. Charter schools have more independence and a governing board within each school, said Superintendent John DeCotis. In IE2 systems the school board retains more authority.

“We wanted to get a feeling from the board on what they thought about IE2 or a charter system,” DeCotis told the board Monday, adding that all school systems will likely be IE2 systems by 2013 unless they opt to become charter systems. “We wanted to see if the board wanted to pursue one or both ideas.”

During the brief discussion, board member Lee Wright suggested that the variables involved in both systems would have more clarity if a document could be developed that would delineate the rationales, pros and cons, and risks and rewards of both systems. DeCotis said school system staff could develop the document.

At the end of the discussion Chairman Terri Smith said that, regardless of the outcome, the school system wanted more flexibility and wanted to do what was best for student achievement and would accomplish the best use of resources.

Fayette schools previously filed for a planning grant to study the charter system but was turned down due to a lack of available funds, DeCotis said.

According to Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE), IE2 Partnership contracts are intended to provide local school districts with greater governance flexibility as a means to increasing student achievement.

As created by House Bill 1209 (2008), local boards of education (LBOE) can enter into multi-year contracts with the state Board of Education (SBOE) based on strategic plans developed in partnership with DOE and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). Such plans must identify specific school-level student achievement goals that are in addition to current federal accountability requirements.

Progress on meeting stated goals will be monitored annually by GOSA. A school board will lose local governance if the contract at any school has not met the performance goals for at least three consecutive years, according to DOE.

The other option to be considered by the Fayette board is a charter system. DOE Communications Director Dana Tofig described a charter system as a local school system that is operating under the terms of a charter. The Charter Systems Act allows local boards of education to contract with the state Board of Education to become a charter system.

A charter system provides the opportunity for teachers, administrators, parents, and school boards to have greater flexibility to determine the educational needs of students within their district and requires some level of school level governance in the system. To become a charter system, the local school system must submit a charter school petition to the DOE, after such petition has been approved by the local board.

A charter is a performance contract between a local school board and a charter petitioner. The charter petitioner can be a local school, local board of education, private individual, private organization, or state or local public entity that submits a petition for a charter, according to DOE.

The term “charter petitioner” does not include home study programs or schools, sectarian schools, religious schools, private for-profit schools, private educational institutions not established, operated, or governed by the State of Georgia, or existing private schools.

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