When Gov. Nathan Deal was running for re-election last year, he promised his focus would sit on education. While many may not like how he’s focused on education, he is keeping his promise. The General Assembly has given approval to his constitutional amendment proposal that, if approved by voters, will allow the state the authority to take over troubled schools (defined as scoring less than 60 on the College and Career Ready Performance Index for three consecutive years). There are 139 such schools in the state out of 2,184.
If the measure is approved in November 2016, the state will set up an “Opportunity School District” patterned after similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee. The Opportunity School District will have its own superintendent answerable only to the governor. The state district would take over 20 schools per year with a maximum of 100. Bibb County has 10.07 percent of the state’s failing schools. While having 14 schools targeted by the governor is horrible, Atlanta Public Schools have 27 on the list and DeKalb County has 25. Those figures should give no comfort. Atlanta Public Schools have 101 facilities, and 26 percent are listed as failing. DeKalb has 133 schools, and 19 percent are failing. Thirty-four percent of Bibb’s schools are in the failing category.
Will the new Opportunity School District sweep into Macon? Time is on our side. The earliest such a district could get started is the 2017-18 school year. That gives new Superintendent Curtis Jones time to turn those schools around, but there is a more pressing issue staring the Bibb County school board in the face than the governor. AdvancED, the accrediting institution, gave the system 24 months to clean up its governance act. Time has just about run out. The board’s homework assignment, fixing the governance and leadership issues, is incomplete as of this writing.
While some on the board believe Bibb could become a national model for other districts that find themselves sideways with AdvancED, that’s hard to conceive. The new incomplete board handbook is a hand-me-down from DeKalb County that was borrowed from an Austin, Texas, district. We guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s nowhere near innovative. Other board members think AdvancED will give the district a pass because the work is in progress.
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We don’t understand the distinction the board uses to differentiate between items that are “incomplete” and those that are a “work in progress.” Either way, the homework isn’t finished, and there’s not a dog around to blame for eating it.