Coweta invites public to learn about school system flexibility options


The Coweta County School System will hold public sessions on May 28 and June 2 to provide information about upcoming decisions regarding state flexibility options for the school system. The Ga. Dept. of Education (DOE) has given school systems until June 30, 2015 to decide if they will operate as a status quo system, a charter system or an Investing in Education Excellence (IE2) system. To date, most school systems are opting for the charter system approach.

School system spokesman Dan Jackson said that regardless the choice of leaving the system as it is, or status quo, or converting to a charter system or IE2 system, all local school systems by June 30, 2015 must choose one of the three options. The option chosen will have a significant impact on system governance, local flexibility as well as school and school system accountability.

Jackson said limited flexibility from state education rules is currently obtained through waivers granted by the state to school systems. These waivers can allow for greater flexibility from portions of the state education code. Waivers cannot provide flexibility from federal codes or federal rules or flexibility from safety, health and accountability standards, Jackson noted.

“Waivers are needed, however, in order to implement innovative approaches that must result in improved student achievement and can impact virtually every area of a school system’s operation, especially programs and practices that impact students directly,” said Jackson.

To date, most school systems are opting for the charter system rather than the IE2 system, Jackson said, adding that the apparent reasons for the overwhelming preference for charter system status include:

– Charter system status carries a broader range of waiver flexibility. All of the “big four” waivers (class size, expenditure control, certification and salary schedule) are flexibilities granted to the charter system. This is not necessarily the case with IE2 Systems.

– A charter system receives maximum flexibility immediately upon approval of the charter petition and does not have to foresee when or if it will use all the flexibility granted.

– Failure to meet all requirement enumerated under an IE2 contract would involve loss of control of school for the system, which is not the case under charter system status.

Like most school systems, Coweta County schools currently utilize waivers that, for example, allow some flexibility from “seat time” and class size in various classes and which allow the system to spend dollars in areas where needed, versus spending only in areas that are mandated, Jackson explained.

“On July 1, 2015, however, the state board of education has been authorized to discontinue the granting of waivers to school systems which do not choose to operate under greater flexibility (IE2 or charter system status),” Jackson said. “The school system would need some form of greater flexibility after 2015 to continue to operate as it currently does.”

To apply for a charter system flexibility option, a school system must provide examples of how broad flexibility permitted by the Charter Schools Act will be used to improve student achievement.

“It is the broadest of the available options for school systems, permitting to greatest range of flexibility while also requiring the highest levels of accountability for student achievement,” said Jackson. “To apply for an IE2 system flexibility option, a school system must include specific requests for flexibility over such areas as class size, expenditure control, certification and salary schedule. A status quo status allows for no flexibility for school systems and waivers would be granted only in the case of a natural disaster.”

Jackson said the school system in 2013 began work towards adoption of a new strategic plan for the system and proceeded with flexibility options in mind. Throughout 2013 focus groups for the new plan were held that included more than 1,000 teachers, staff, students, parents and community leaders. Participants shared ideas about innovations and waivers from rules and regulations that are needed to positively impact student achievement and offered ideas for flexibility in order to maximize student achievement.

Needed flexibility areas which were identified included:

-Curriculum enrichment innovations, including possible flexibility for students, course offerings, awarding credit options and grade level configurations.

-Maximizing resources, including possible flexibility for class size waivers, on-line expansion and use of personnel.

-Organizational innovation, including possible flexibility for school days or times, industry standards alignment and choice options within system.

Superintendent Steve Barker and school system public policy director Mark Whitlock will hold informational sessions regarding these flexibility options at Coweta County’s three high schools. The sessions are open to the public and will be held:

-Wednesday, May 28 at 6 p.m. at Newnan High School

-Monday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at East Coweta High School

-Monday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at Northgate High School

Information regarding flexibility options can be found on the school system’s website at