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Forsyth County school district secures freedom
State-granted flexibility comes with more accountability
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CUMMING — Forsyth County has become the second school district in the state to be granted freedom from some state mandates.

The state Board of Education voted last week to approve a five-year contract granting the system Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, status.

The contract allows for 14 areas of flexibility in exchange for more accountability.

Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans said in a statement that the district is “thrilled to have this unprecedented opportunity.”

“While state laws and rules are good and have their place, we are often trapped in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model,” Evans said. “IE2 relaxes that model, and it allows for individual districts to construct programming that best meets its local needs.”

The relaxed restrictions will take effect in the 2009-10 school year, which begins in August.

Over the summer, each school will develop improvement plans, an annual requirement. But unlike previous years, said Assistant Superintendent Lissa Pijanowski, officials will “actually be asking each school to develop school improvement plans that align with those IE2 goals.”

“They get to pick and choose which pieces of flexibility they want to use in order to best serve their students,” she said. “So that will be incorporated into their school improvement plans.”

Pijanowski said she expects most of the district’s 35 schools to use between one and six areas of flexibility, though all must meet the higher areas of accountability.

In addition, schools must adhere to federal requirements.

As part of the contract with the state, the district will have to submit an annual report to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
Gov. Sonny Perdue praised the contracts of Forsyth and Gwinnett, the first school system to have obtained the status. Perdue said they will use “creative and innovative solutions to improve student achievement.”

“(They) are moving to a true partnership with the state that is focused on performance,” he said.

There remains one unresolved issue with the contract, a court date brought on by Carmen Allen, local education advocate.

In February, Allen filed a writ of mandamus, asking a Superior Court judge to rule the school didn’t adequately involve parents in the flexibility application process.

The system has asked that the May 5 hearing be dismissed.

In a recent e-mail to system staff, Evans wrote that the contract process has been difficult, but he’s excited about the future.

“We have a plan and contract that is now a model for all districts to seek to emulate. The plan is a doable plan,” he wrote.

“Honestly, this has simply been one of the most rewarding processes of my educational career.”