Four Bibb County high schools may see changes

Drastic moves may be in the offing for four Bibb County high schools in order to get millions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

The schools might have to fire their principals and half of their teachers, shut down, reopen as charter schools or “transform” by providing bonus pay to teachers who increase student achievement — and firing those teachers who don’t.

The Bibb County school system could get up to $24 million in federal stimulus funding — “school improvement grants” — to funnel into Southwest High, Northeast High, Rutland High and the Hutchings Career Center over three years to improve them, school officials said.

The state is notifying school superintendents of the funding today, said Matt Cardoza, a Georgia Department of Education spokesman.

“We’ve given the basics to the state board,” Cardoza said. “The idea behind it is to give schools that have not been able to turn around performance a few more resources and tools and actual plans to go about how to get those results.”

Georgia may get more than $120 million toward the effort, he said.

Bibb County principals in those four schools held meetings with staff members Wednesday afternoon about the funding and possible changes, and the Bibb County school board plans to discuss the funding at today’s 2:30 p.m. committee meeting.

“They’ve laid out specific models, and it’s been framed in a way ... you don’t need to turn (the money) down,” said Ron McCall, principal of the Hutchings Career Center. “It’s a significant amount of money.”

The eligible schools in Bibb are either in “state-directed status” because they haven’t met Adequate Yearly Progress goals for several years, have had graduation rates below 60 percent for at least three years, or are among the lowest 5 percent of achieving Title I schools. Title I schools are those where at least 40 percent of students come from low-income families.

In order to get the funding, the Bibb County school board would have to vote to use one of four different improvement models: a turnaround model, a restart model, closure or a transformation model, aschool officials said.

McCall said he is concerned by the possibility that he could be removed as principal if the board votes to use the funding. But he said the idea is to help struggling schools improve, which will, in turn, help students.

“Sure everyone has that kind of concern,” he said. “(But) they are trying to help us get funds to address issues we have not had the funds” to do so before.

Cardoza said it’s up to local school boards to decide what model might fit best.

“In some cases it may work with the leadership there, or in some cases it may mean new leadership,” he said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.