PERRY -- With a little more than four months remaining to make a decision on school governance, the Houston County school board appears to have chosen a path.
By June 30, each school system must choose a status quo or charter school model or adopt an Investing in Educational Excellence contract. Each one comes with its own levels of accountability and flexibility, but Houston County is headed for the IE² route.
“For us as a school system, we need to give our folks a chance to move forward with what they feel comfortable with and what meets our needs,” board chairwoman Marianne Melnick said at the board’s retreat Tuesday.
Eric Payne, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said he could have a letter of intent for an IE² system prepared for the members by the board’s next meeting in March. The board is set to have a work session on March 9 at Warner Robins Middle School, followed by a regular meeting March 10 at the board office.
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The board seemed prepared to move ahead with the decision despite a statewide decrease in the College and Career Ready Performance Index based on last year’s test results and graduation rates. Released in December, the CCRPI showed a decrease from 80.2 to 76.6 for Houston County.
“We’re going to do what we do for kids,” Payne said. “With the IE², it allows us the flexibility to continue making those decisions.”
With an IE² contract, the state will grant waivers for certain requirements in exchange for a greater level of accountability. That comes in the form of CCRPI improvement requirements.
Even though some Houston County schools could be exempt by being in the top quartile in the state and would just need to maintain current rates, Superintendent Mark Scott said their contracts wouldn’t be written that way.
“We’re going to say they have to improve,” Scott said.
If a school fails to meet its accountability goals, the local board could face a loss of governance for that school. As time has passed, the state Department of Education has narrowed the options for what that would look like to three: conversion to a charter school, operation by a successful system and operation by a private entity.
As more clarity has come to the arrangement, Scott said more systems are embracing that option and are feeling “safety in numbers” as a result. Essentially, the more systems are involved in the IE² process, the greater chance that any glitches would be resolved at the state level.
“I do think that people are feeling a little more comfortable now that there’s a set accountability,” Scott said.
The board also discussed the charter option, but school-level governance was a sticking point. While Scott and the board members felt confident the councils at each school would be effective, they didn’t feel they could do their own jobs efficiently with an extra level of governance.
“I was voted into this office, and I don’t feel comfortable putting another institution between us and the school system,” said board member Skip Dawkins.
The board also addressed other issues during the gathering, including:
A shift in the pay period for teachers to August through July to match other districts and ease transition issues for teachers who change jobs.
Adjustments to the sick leave bank that new employees can participate in each year.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.