Educators look ahead after amendment fails

The Opportunity School District proposal may have failed, but local and state educators say their work improving schools is far from finished.

Georgia residents voted down Amendment 1 on Tuesday night. The measure would have amended the state Constitution and allowed the state to take control of public schools deemed to be failing.

About 60 percent of the 4 million state voters went against the measure. Middle Georgia counties reflected a similar percentage, with Bleckley and Jones showing the highest opposition at 70 and 68 percent respectively.

“We believe that decisions related to our students need to be handled at the local level,” Houston County Superintendent Mark Scott said Wednesday. “Elected board members are in the best position to address the needs of our schools.”

Bibb County school Superintendent Curtis Jones said he thought voters saw the proposed amendment as an overreach. They want to have more options when it comes to their child’s education, but the Opportunity School District threatened to give them fewer by taking over facilities and replacing teachers.

There was also concern about local dollars being used for Opportunity School District projects elsewhere, Scott said.

With the vote, residents must believe the school districts are headed in the right direction with the work they are already doing, Jones said. There is a real desire for continued change and improvement.

“Though Amendment 1 spurred a contentious campaign, the points raised by both sides renewed our commitment to focus on chronically struggling schools and we, as Georgians, cannot allow this focus to wane in the aftermath of the election,” state Superintendent Richard Woods wrote in a letter released Wednesday.

There is no “one-size-fits-all approach to fixing schools, but community partnerships are a vital part of change. The Georgia Department of Education will work with struggling schools and provide them with resources and support, he wrote.

“The one takeaway for us is don’t stop,” Jones said. “The election may be over, but students are going to be in school today and in school tomorrow as well.”

Schools can always do better, whether they are on the “failing list” or not, Jones said. Districts will continue to look for better solutions, assess progress and think outside the box for all schools.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea