Peach BOE chooses charter system

FORT VALLEY -- The Peach County school system will officially be a charter system.

The school board made that decision unanimously at Tuesday’s regular meeting, its last scheduled opportunity to do so ahead of the state-mandated June 30 deadline. Board members also could have chosen the status quo option or an Investing in Educational Excellence contract, but Superintendent Daryl Fineran affirmed the board’s choice.

“For our particular needs of our size system, the school governance component would be an asset and not a hindrance,” he said.

Under a charter system, each school in the district has its own governing body, the specifics of which will be determined as the schools move forward. Because the county has just six schools, the benefits outweigh any potential added stress of governance at each school, Fineran said.

The move will allow each school to better address its own unique needs, Byron Middle School Principal Jeff Bell said.

“It gives you more flexibility individually at your school,” Bell said. “I like that flexibility.”

There also are financial incentives to a charter system. While Fineran pointed out that the amount could change, charter systems are currently slated to get $80 to $90 of additional state funding per student.

“There is some money associated, as well as grants, for charter systems,” he said.

The board met before a larger crowd than usual due to a retirees’ reception scheduled for after Tuesday’s meeting. Board Chairman Ben McDaniel made sure to clarify to those in attendance that a charter system was different from more autonomous charter schools like the Academy for Classical Education in Macon or the proposed Byron Peach Charter School.

“Each one of our schools will have a governing body, but we will have ultimate control over the schools,” McDaniel said.

The board will hold a public hearing to take input on the contract that will govern the charter system, but that meeting has not been scheduled.

Also Tuesday, board members also voted unanimously to approve a resolution that would begin the phase-out process for the current Peach County High School. The resolution gave Fineran the clearance to sign all necessary documents in that endeavor.

Because the motion to accept the resolution used the phrase “close current Peach County High School,” it drew visibly concerned reactions from the audience. Board member Jamie Johnson made it clear the motion wasn’t to close the school “tomorrow,” and McDaniel read the full resolution.

“It will be closed after completion of construction of the new high school,” he said.

That time is well down the road, though, as the district isn’t expected to even finalize the sale of the property for the new school, located off Ga. 49 at Moseley Road, until March 2016.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.