Gov. Nathan Deal’s push to create a recovery district where failing schools would go to be governed by the state rather than local districts is drawing a lot of heat. The governor has shot back at his critics that if they don’t like his idea, they should come up with one of their own.
It’s just this type of conversation that keeps teachers -- who rightly feel put upon -- on edge. The state goes in one direction for a few years and then veers to the right. It holds course for a bit and then zigs to the left. The governor’s critics ask a legitimate question: Why copy models in Louisiana and Tennessee when the state could simply look at Gwinnett County?
Maureen Downey points out in her Atlanta-Journal Constitution blog, “A new Wallace Foundation report celebrated Gwinnett as a national model in training effective school leaders and building a pipeline of strong leaders. A two-time winner of the prestigious Broad Prize for high-achieving urban districts, Gwinnett has a greater percentage of low-income students reaching advanced academic levels than most other districts. In fact, Gwinnett boasts a better track record with struggling students than the recovery districts Deal is holding out as exemplars. And the county has done so without creating a new state bureaucracy or handing its schools over to private operators.”
Bibb County schools are in the midst of seismic change as well. A new schools chief is coming on board to lead the system after two years of interim leadership by three different people. He faces a daunting task. The approaching deadline for choosing one of three plans for school governance (Status Quo, Charter, or IE²), will hit him as he walks in the door. Before he finds his way to the lavatory, he’ll be faced with 14 district schools that are on the governor’s failure list. No matter what happens to the governor’s proposal, something has to be done to rescue children stuck in one of those failing schools.
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Being on the governor’s list does say something about the Bibb district that is unsettling. Bibb is an outlier in Middle Georgia along with Twiggs County, which has two schools on the list. Houston, Monroe, Jones, Baldwin, Crawford, Peach and Pulaski county systems are nowhere to be found on the governor’s list of 140 failing schools. Is there is something systemically broken in the Bibb system? As the governor is being chided for looking beyond the state’s borders for successful systems, maybe Bibb school leaders need to look just over the county line in almost any direction to see how a school system should be run.