More Talks about the Charter System

by Lake Morris, Staff writer, The Hartwell Sun, May 30, 2013, p. 6A

The Hart County School District held a brief symposium Tuesday to go over the changes and process for the district to become a charter district.

At the Board of Education’s May 13 meeting, the board voted 4-0 to begin the process to become a charter district, per a state mandate for districts to choose to be a charter, an “Investing in Educational Excellence School” (IE squared) or to remain as is, or status quo.

The move would allow teachers more flexibility in the classroom with Title 20 regulations, but federal education requirements would still be required.

Title 20 regulations are all codes, laws and standards for Georgia schools.

After the May 13 meeting, Hart County superintendent Jerry Bell said the state is trying to push all districts to the charter system, and he echoed that on Tuesday.

“There is a grant process for districts to receive money.

One of the things we noticed is that you have to be a charter system to apply for those grants,” he said.

The state deadline for districts to decide is in 2015.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by school principals for next year, along with representatives from the community and Hart County Property Owner’s Association.   Dr. Sherrie Gibney-Sherman, the assistant superintendent for the Madison County School District, went more in-depth to explain what being a charter system means.

“Your local Board of Education runs the school district, and under a charter system, they still do. All the rights and authorities are still there,” Gibney-Sherman said.    “What is different is under a charter system the districts write a petition. That is, how do you want to operate your school district.”

Madison County is currently a charter system.

Gibney-Smith said the process of forming the petition begins now with each school forming a research committee, and reporting what initiatives they want implemented to the local Board of Education.

An example is if the district wants to be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) charter system.

The Hart board voted unanimously at its March 11 meeting to implement STEM.

There are currently no STEM charter systems in Georgia, but there are systems that use STEM components.

Those committees will meet July 22 to select possible items for the petition. Then, on August 19, items will be selected for the petition. The board then writes a petition to best benefit the county’s schools, while also keeping in mind Georgia standards.

That petition is then sent to the state Education Department for review and recommendation. If approved, it is then sent to the state Board of Education for final approval.

“Typically charters are for five years. The four original charters just completed their fifth year, and they are looking to renew their charters,” Gibney-Smith said.

The deadline for petitions is in November.

This is a separate issue from the charter school amendment from 2012.   That statewide amendment passed.