The Bibb County school board is prepared to join the opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal.
Approved by the state Legislature, the Opportunity School District would allow the state to take over as many as 20 schools per year that are deemed to be failing based on College and Career Ready Performance Index scores. The Bibb board is expected to vote on a resolution opposing the measure next month after several members spoke out against Deal’s plan at the board’s regular meeting Thursday.
“I really believe schools do the best when they have local control and local accountability,” board Treasurer Daryl Morton said.
Recently, teachers organizations at the state and local level expressed their opposition to the plan, which will come before Georgia voters on the Nov. 8 ballot. Board Vice President Jason Downey said he was concerned that the expected “disingenuous” wording of the ballot item would mislead voters into thinking the Opportunity School District was something other than what it was.
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“That’s why I think it’s important we do something,” Downey said.
In addition to concerns about what would happen to facilities, faculty and leadership if a school was taken over, board members said local officials would have the best chance of resolving local issues.
“Whoever sits on this board is going to know better what the students of Bibb County need,” said Downey, whose tenure on the board will end in December.
Former board President Thelma Dillard, recently re-elected for another term on the board, said it was “unrealistic” to think the state could resolve issues at struggling schools. Any school that has scored less than 60 on the 100-point CCRPI scale for three straight years would be eligible for the list, which would currently include nine Bibb County schools.
“No matter what the challenges might be, they are ours,” Dillard said. “This is our family.”
Board member Tom Hudson agreed with his colleagues in opposing the takeover plan, but he said he would be “remiss” not to note that Bibb County’s schools must achieve at a higher rate. Graduation rates have been on the rise recently, but the district had nine of the 10 Middle Georgia schools on the list for three straight sub-60 CCRPI scores.
“It’s a challenge for us to do better,” Hudson said.
At Thursday’s meeting, the board also voted to form a committee to discuss the name for the combined Northeast High School and Appling Middle School campus on the current Northeast site. The project is expected to cost about $35 million in ESPLOST funding and be completed in the next two years.
Board President Lester Miller said he expected member Ella Carter and representatives from each school would serve on the committee, and other community members would also be brought in for discussions about the name.
“We will be very inclusive,” Miller said.
The board also approved about $786,000 in new playground equipment for 11 elementary schools — Bernd, Burdell-Hunt, Carter, Hartley, Porter, Skyview, Springdale, Taylor, Union and Williams.
The next meeting of the Bibb County school board is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, with the committee meeting set for 4 p.m.
Middle Georgia schools currently on OSD list *
Appling Middle School (Bibb)
Ballard-Hudson Middle School (Bibb)
Brookdale Elementary School (Bibb)
Bruce Elementary School (Bibb)
Hartley Elementary School (Bibb)
Ingram-Pye Elementary School (Bibb)
Riley Elementary School (Bibb)
Southwest High School (Bibb)
Williams Elementary School (Bibb)
Twiggs County High School
* Data from 2015-16 school year has not been released