Gainesville City Schools is looking to remain a charter system for at least another five years.
The system is currently reapplying for its charter status and must turn in its application by the end of the month.
According to Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction, the state legislature has mandated that all of Georgia’s school districts declare an education delivery method by 2015.
School districts have the choice between charter, status quo or Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2). Both Forsyth and Gwinnett counties are IE2 systems.
Gainesville is one of nine charter systems in the state.
“We think it’s in the best interest of our students to maintain a charter status because we have so much flexibility in how and what we teach,” said Delores Diaz, board of education member. “We’re still bound by the state guidelines and the standards and all of that, but how we deliver it we do have flexibility with. It’s enabling us to embrace programs and to think outside the box.”
It’s that flexibility, Moore said, and not any potential extra funds, that drove the system to apply for charter status five years ago and reapply this year.
“It provides us some broad flexibility,” said Moore. “We do not do this because of the money because it’s not promised.”
Charter schools and systems can receive up to $100 in additional funding for each full-time student. Moore said that number, currently, is around $93 per student.
“Going forward there is talk about not having any funding for charter status,” he said. “We’re reapplying to continue the broad flexibility we’ve had for the last five years.”
Staying a charter system, officials said, allows the schools to continue to innovate and bring technology into the classroom more effectively, keeping up with the “digital native” student.
It also allows for community input, with school governance councils having a large say as to what goes on at the school level.
“It is important that the community have input into the school system,” said Willie Mitchell, board chairman. “In fact, it’s the community’s kids that we’re trying to educate, so a community voice is extremely important.”
The board, however, is the legal entity and board members would like to have language in the charter about their role as the “final arbiter” for school policies.
“I think the community perceives it,” said David Syfan, board member. “I think that when we say: ‘We don’t have the power,’ (the community) feels like we’re dodging the question.”
But, members said, it’s important to have input from all levels of leadership.
“It’s really important to us, as a board, and I think as a system, to have the input from the governance councils and the community and make them a part of our team,” said Diaz.
The new charter will also likely include provisions for the future school at Mundy Mill.
Charter status must be renewed every five years. Once the board approves the charter application at its next meeting, the application will move on to the state level.
The system, if it chooses, will have to reapply in 2017.