State approves 10-year CEC charter

Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:53pm
By: The Citizen

The Georgia State Board of Education has approved a revised charter for the Central Educational Center (CEC), a National Model High School, which will govern the charter school in its second decade of operations. The 10-year charter came with a unanimous vote at its June 11 meeting.

Coweta County School System spokesperson Dean Jackson said this will be CEC’s third charter, after the school was officially chartered and created by the Coweta County School System, West Central Technical College, the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce and local businesses in 1999.

The state of Georgia requires local and state boards of education to periodically review and re-approve the operational charters of public charter schools, to ensure that the school’s goals are being met and that the standards of accountability for the schools are relevant.

The school’s charter was renewed in 2004. This month’s charter approval is the first renewal of CEC’s charter since the state of Georgia began allowing 10-year renewals of public charter schools. The renewal process also allows the school’s charter boards and partners an opportunity to improve and update the charter.

The charter “provides the legal basis, and the game plan, that allows CEC the flexibility to innovate,” said Mark Whitlock, the Central Educational Center CEO. “It is that flexibility that allows CEC to meet the needs of students and the school’s stakeholders, to respond to changes in the economy, and meet its mission to ensure a viable 21st century workforce.”

For a public charter school, the process of creating and securing approval for a successful charter model can be a long process, said Whitlock

CEC’s partners and chartering committee members took three years to develop the original charter and finalize plans for CEC The charter renewal process that ended on July 11 “was a very thorough and long process, with lots of engagement by various stakeholders - and that was for a renewal of a charter operation that has been considered successful for nine years,” said Whitlock.

CEC’s governing board began drafting a revised charter in January, 2008. Local stakeholders, including the Executive Committee of CEC Board, officials from the Coweta County School System, the Coweta County Board of Education and West Central Technical College were involved, along with the Newnan-Coweta Chamber and Coweta County Development Authority.

The charter was approved by the CEC Board in August 2008. The Coweta County Board of Education reviewed and discussed the charter renewal petition for two months before granting approval in October. The local board-approved charter was submitted to the State Department of Education for review on November 1, 2008. Following the revisions suggested by the state and further re-approvals by local stakeholders, the State Board of education’s Charter Committee and state superintendent Cathy Cox recommended approval in May, followed by the State Board’s approval in June.

CEC first nine years of operation as a charter school have been very successful, said Whitlock. The school has expanded academic classes available to Coweta County high school students, established dual-enrollment classes that allow students to earn high school and technical college credit and industry certifications simultaneously, and has improved educational performance measurably county-wide, said Whitlock.

CEC was named a National Model High School in 2005, has been visited by hundreds of national and international delegations seeking to replicate the charter model, and has served as the model for “career academy” charter schools that have proliferated in Georgia.

CEC’s new charter is built on the success of its previous two charters, and has been expanded to include broader notions of “co-location” of student learning with business and industry, 21st century workforce requirements and expanded views of school governance.

“We have not, in our initial nine years, used all the flexibility granted by our charters,” said Whitlock. “We have “grown into” much of that flexibility. Our partners, including local business, the Coweta County School System and West Central Technical College have indicated, during this renewal process, an expectation that we achieve at even high levels. That will require greater deployment of the flexibilities granted by the charter. The bar has been set even higher.

Goals articulated in CEC’s new charter include:

·CEC will cause Coweta County Schools to meet or exceed the US Department of Education benchmarks in Perkins’s accountability measures for Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics and Graduation Rate.

·CEC will increase the number of Coweta County students dual-enrolled in technical college programs.

·CEC will increase the number of Coweta County students in work-based learning during the term of this Agreement.

·The CEC Board shall place additional focus on activities of the organizations that collaborate to cause the existence of CEC. These organizational activities will support goals of the charter school upon implementation of this charter. This provides sustainable, long-term commitment and collaboration among the community partners essential to CEC’s success

·The CEC Board will ensure that the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, the Coweta County Board of Education and West Central Technical College maintain specific stated goals to support CEC and its growth

·The CEC Board shall place additional focus on the flexibility of the organization to physically locate alongside businesses and alongside other key institutions. Students benefit because this closes the gap between the acquisition of knowledge and skills, gained through the curriculum, and the subsequent life-long application of those knowledge and skills. This will increase the seamlessness among business and education that drives opportunities for students

·CEC will develop and increase the number of physical and/or project co-locations with business and industry during the term of this Agreement

·The CEC Board shall focus on certifications that link education and business such as ACT’s WorkKeys (Georgia Work Ready) certifications. This will increase the value of high school credentialing that drives opportunities for students.

·CEC will increase the number of CEC team members (students) who become certified work ready (Georgia Work Ready or other similar ACT-based national credential or other industry-based credential) during the term of this Agreement

·The CEC Board shall ensure that CEC maintains a specific “continuous improvement” effort. The CEC Board shall ensure that CEC focus on assisting other communities to replicate the CEC instructional system design process. Such assistance has been successfully provided during the current charter period, in part due to the support of the State Department and State Board’s Charter Dissemination Grant. This ensures that CEC will benchmark against best practices

·CEC will continue to support and build a network of charter schools, like CEC, sharing best practices, talent and other resources.

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