BoE revisits state accountability option

Published 6:15 pm Friday, October 23, 2015

The Decatur County Board of Education is going back to the drawing board to decide on a state-mandated operational flexibility option.

Board members originally unanimously voted to go with the charter system option at their June board meeting. Becoming a charter system would not mean that county schools would become charter schools, but that the system would have a charter, or contract, with the state board of education to increase student achievement.

The details that the state would require in that charter have changed since the board made its decision, Decatur County Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield said at the BOE’s October work session.

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One of the big reasons the board decided to go with the charter system was because it would receive a per-student innovation fund, and that money has since dried out. Another aspect of the charter system was to create school-level councils that provide the superintendent with recommendations for the board. Now, the language on how those councils would operate has become stricter, which Rayfield said could “take a lot of authority out of [the board’s] hands.”

“As the elected board of education, I would have to say I vehemently disagree with that, and I would think you would too, because you were elected to serve and represent and make decisions,” Rayfield said addressing the board during its work session.

Rayfield said that he would like to re-weigh the pros and cons of the charter systems versus the strategic waiver system, which would mean the BOE enter into a contract with the Georgia Board of Education saying that it will reach state-determined performance targets. Those targets, originally set very high, have been moved down a bit, Rayfield said.

“Right now there are more pros to strategic waiver than charter system,” Rayfield said. “We can still, through strategic waiver, have very, very active school advisory councils and can set them up just as we planned for the charter system guidance, but we can be very clear about what they’re trained to do, how they’re trained and their decision-making authority.”

Rayfield called the new standards for the governance councils a “recipe for a mistake.”

“People are either scared to death or they’ve already made a decision to change,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. April Aldridge said of other systems that originally elected to become a charter system. “The disheartening thing is that part of the charter system was the innovation piece, the ability to have the flexibility to think outside the box and to do something differently. But guys, it takes money to do a lot of those innovative things, and with that incentive no longer being available — it doesn’t mean you can’t be innovative, but it does mean some of the things you could have pursued are no longer a viable options for us.”

The board will revisit the issue at its November meeting and is expected to make a final decision to send to the GBOE.