Atlanta Schools will become “charter system”Left to right: Atlanta Board of Education Member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and School Board Member Matt Westmoreland take questions during a Sept. 17 town hall meeting at Inman Middle School. Photo Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
The state of Georgia gave Atlanta Public Schools three options for how it can operate.
APS could choose to maintain the status quo, become an Investing in Educational Excellence System, (IE2) or a charter system. This week the school system announced it would pursue a charter system model. Under the charter model, APS can waive certain requirements imposed by the state Department of Education. In exchange, APS will face a higher level of accountability for student performance.
Other charter systems in the metro area include City Schools of Decatur and Fulton County Schools.
State law required school systems to announce their decision by June 2015. APS will transition into a charter system in the 2016-2017 school year, according to a press release from APS.
The Operating Models and School System Flexibility Advisory Committee met during the summer. According to the APS website, the committee included “community members, school principals, teachers, district staff members, and students.”
Committee members recommended the charter system model and the School Board approved the recommendation on Nov. 3. School Board member Cynthia Brown said she personally believes the charter system model is the right option for APS.
“I think, like anything, the win or the lose is in the details but charter systems give us the most flexibility to design the kind of system that will serve our kids and our community,” Brown said.
This does not mean every school in APS will become a charter school. But it will give the system a little more freedom to make decisions that affect individual schools. In an example given by APS, a waiver could allow the school system to hire a professional engineer to teach a math course even if the teacher lacks a teaching certification.
“In recent school years, like the majority of school districts in the state, Atlanta Public Schools has used waivers from state requirements such as mandatory class sizes, expenditure controls, and staffing,” the press release from APS says. “The charter system operating model allows Georgia districts to continue receiving these and other important waivers to conserve fiscal resources in addition to new waivers that allow districts to explore innovative strategies to increase student achievement.”
Kirkwood resident Doug Wood, who has a child at Toomer Elementary, said he’s waiting to learn more about what kinds of waivers APS will pursue.
“I don’t know if any of the three (models) are a great option, but with the ability to access greater funding and give them greater flexibility to try and provide education to each child, I think it’s probably the right choice to make,” Wood said. “As always, it’s in the details and that’s what’s going to be fleshed out in the future.”