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Charter status possible
System to learn decision today
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Dawson County could soon join the ranks of school systems in the state seeking more flexibility.


According to Superintendent Keith Porter that could mean improvements in the areas of leadership, literacy and technology.


Porter plans to appear today before the Georgia Department of Education Board, which could approve the local district’s application for charter system status.


According to supporting documentation for the meeting, “it will be recommended” by State School Superintendent John D. Barge that the board grant Dawson County Schools a five-year charter beginning July 1.


Said Porter: “We should leave the meeting May 11 knowing whether it’s been approved.”


According to Matt Cardoza, director of communications with the state department of education, the state currently has eight charter systems, with two approved so far for next year.


Cardoza said the state school board considers certain attributes when reviewing charter system applications.


Those include “education innovations to improve student performance above and beyond state averages, flexibility needed to implement these innovations, and [the] amount of school-level authority over education, personnel, finances [and] scheduling.”


If approved, Porter said the system would begin to “implement the charter goals and the tenets of the application for the 2011-2012 school year.”


That process would include training current school councils to become the governing boards required for a charter system.


“There will be a change in title for those people, but there will be big changes in their responsibilities ... they’ll also have more input into different areas of operating the school system,” Porter said.


On Sept. 13, the Dawson County school board voted 4-0 to move forward with its plans to apply.


The decision followed a public hearing where parents and residents had a chance to weigh in on the issue.


Former Superintendent Nicky Gilleland, who worked as a consultant for the county on the charter system application, said “the main reason for the charter ... is that it allows us to waive rules that hinder some of the things we want to do as a school system.”


Under a charter heading, he said, the school board would continue to have “ultimate governance in the school system.”


The governing boards would have specific duties and responsibilities in order to “help set the goals and culture for each school,” Gilleland said.


If granted, the charter designation would last five years, at the end of which the state commission would review the local school system.