The Dawson County School System plans to spend the next year evaluating changes to improve educational procedures as a charter school system.
Earlier this year, school systems in Georgia were required to choose between converting to a charter system, an IE2-contracted district or remaining at “status quo,” school superintendent Nicky Gilleland said.
Based on the state’s requirements, Gilleland said the school board agreed to apply as charter school system, which gives the school system a greater flexibility to tailor educational programs and needs.
The charter system would allow the school system to work around class size restrictions and structure school days to better suit the needs of the students, he said.
“With the charter system route, we believe that if a child in the third grade can read anything, they ought to be able to test out of that reading class and move on instead of being held back waiting for others to catch up,” Gilleland said. “If they can master the subject, they should be able to move ahead.”
Math and reading would be the focus for the early years, but other subjects would not be sacrificed, Gilleland said.
Gilleland said the school system currently utilizes a waiver similar to the charter status to operate Crossroads, an alternative school for middle and high school students who have missed class or fallen behind in their studies.
Crossroads holds classes with fewer students than a typical class and focuses on the student’s individual needs and circumstances.
The charter would also allow the high school and alternative school to create more opportunities to partner with area higher education institutions to include options in joint enrollment, shared staffing, internships, mastery learning and virtual learning.
Both the charter system and the IE2 system allow for more flexibility to tailor program. However, under the IE2 contract, the greater flexibility is given in exchange for increased accountability, Gilleland said.
With the charter system, local school counsels, made up of teachers, administrators, parents and business partners, would play a guiding role in the educational process.
School budget priorities, school-wide behavior plans, textbook adoptions, principal recommendations and safety plans will require counsel review and recommendations, according to Gilleland.
“Education is a community effort and an effort taken seriously by the citizens of Dawson County,” Gilleland wrote in the preliminary application for charter school status. “Dawson County has always valued education. The community takes tremendous pride not only in the facilities, but is deeply involved in volunteer work, partnerships, and guiding councils which help make decisions that drive the quality of education for our students.”
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