If the Hall County School District becomes a charter system, Superintendent Will Schofield said the change will cost more in time than in dollars, requiring a large amount of training and professional development.
Whether that change will happen remains up in the air, however, as the district awaits clarification from the state Department of Education on what the requirements for charter systems will be.
The department is requiring all school districts in the state to decide whether they will be a status quo, charter or Investing in Educational Excellence system.
The district has already ruled out status quo, which is a traditional school system, but is waiting for more information before deciding between charter and Investing in Educational Excellence, better known as IE2.
Schofield said the district already operates similar to an IE2 system. IE2 systems have some flexibility, but are required to seek individual waivers for exceptions to department regulations. Charter systems have greater flexibility than an IE2, which is granted through a contract, or charter, with the department. In the charter, they have to show the flexibility will be used to improve learning outcomes.
The Hall system contains several individual charter schools, but has no districtwide charter.
The district won’t decide which type of system to become until the department provides more information on how financial control in charter systems will be divided between the district Board of Education and the school-level local governance boards.
While the district is not close to making its decision, school officials have put some thought into what becoming a charter system might mean.
“If we were to become a charter district, there would be a lot of training necessary for local school governance boards,” Schofield said. “Moving significant amounts of decision-making authority from to local governing councils is hard work and more of an art than a science.”
In charter systems, more decisions are made at the school level by governance boards. Part of what the district is waiting to learn from the department is whether those decisions would necessarily include finances.
“We have found very few governance boards that want a lot to do with finance or personnel instructional programs,” Schofield said.
The training that enables the governance boards to make decisions about instruction will be time-consuming.
“I don’t think there’s a large cost involved,” Schofield said, but, “there’s a tremendous amount of training.”
Schofield said becoming an IE2 system is also not likely to carry a large monetary cost, and it also won’t be a drastic change for the district.
He said he can only see one major drawback to IE2.
“It is another layer of bureaucracy,” he said. “This would be another contract that we’d have to comply with.”
He said he’s “50/50” when it comes to deciding between the two, especially with the lack of information.
“We don’t think we can make that decision without knowing what the rules are,” he said. “I think it will become much more clear in the next month or two.”