Hall County schools got some long-awaited clarification Monday to rules that will affect whether or not they become a charter system.
The district was waiting to learn whether becoming a charter system would mean handing control of financial and personnel decisions to school-level governance boards. During a Board of Education work session Monday, Louis Erste, associate superintendent for the state Department of Education, said that is not necessarily the case.
The state Board of Education has given school districts until June 30 to decide between three flexibility options, becoming either charter, status quo or Investing in Educational Excellence systems.
Hall schools have narrowed the choice down to charter or Investing in Educational Excellence, better known as IE2, but have held off on the decision because it wasn’t clear how much control the district school board would have to give the school-level governance boards.
Erste said charter systems can write the level of control that governance boards have into their charter contracts, but those contracts have to be approved by the state board. He said this would be worked out in the application process, which can take years as districts submit and revise their charter plans.
“All the things you decide now, you still decide,” Erste told the Hall board during a work session. “The only person at this table it affects is the superintendent, (who) has to take into consideration what the school governance boards want. He doesn’t have to do what they say, but he has to take it into account.”
He said districts can choose to give more control to the governance boards, but do not have to.
Post 2 Board Member Brian Sloan said the phrase “take into consideration” seems too vague, and he questioned how it could be determined whether the superintendent had taken something into consideration or not.
Board Chairman Nath Morris said he worried that such a large systemwide change would be unnecessarily disruptive.
“What I feel is best for the kids is as little disruption as possible,” he said.
“You don’t want to do a charter system if you have no desire to have that local governance and if you don’t want to flip your system around,” Erste said.
Of the three flexibility options, the charter system is the most flexible. However, the IE2 system also offers some flexibility and does not rely on school-level governance boards.
Hall Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the IE2 system would not allow for individual charter schools within the districts, but that Hall’s 11 charter schools would likely become schools of choice is IE2 is chosen.
“In terms of how they operate on a day-to-day basis, you wouldn’t see much change,” he said.
While the district has until June 30 to decide between flexibility options, Erste said it can start moving ahead with changes if it decides earlier.
Schofield said the district will take the time to carefully weigh the options.
“We’ll take as long as it takes,” he said.