Under state law, all public school systems are required to choose if they are going to remain a traditional, “status quo” system or opt to become a charter system or an Investing in Educational Excellence system.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the law was passed a few years ago to give districts more flexibility in how they run with the tradeoff of making them more accountable to meet education standards set by the state and federal governments.
Tippins said school districts must declare which route they choose by July 1, 2015.
Because Cobb would face losing $44 million in waivers if it stayed a status quo system, such as the one that allows it to increase class sizes beyond what is set by the state, Chief Academic Officer Mary Elizabeth Davis said at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting the district isn’t considering that an option.
Davis said a charter system takes a one-size-fits-all approach in its performance goals: “All schools try to do whatever innovative and creative techniques would be appropriate to try to meet that overall district goal in a charter system.”
Cobb’s large size makes IE2 the better route to go because it allows the district to set goals for individual schools, she said. Three districts in the state — Gwinnett, Forsyth and Rabun counties — are IE2 systems.
Board member Scott Sweeney called the potential move one of the most important decisions facing the school board.
Davis said the district plans on submitting its letter of intent in November.
Prior to that, interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale plans on calling a retreat for the school board to weigh its options, although he said the choice is obvious.
“After my staff analyzed the options, evaluated the input we received from stakeholders, and had conversations with policy-makers and leaders at the state level, the decision was very clear,” Ragsdale said. “IE2 will allow our district and our school communities to have local flexibility while providing a system of support. After all of the considerations have been taken into account, I am convinced that IE2 is the best option for the Cobb County School District.”
There is no cost to become an IE2 school, Davis said.
No to Banks
Also Wednesday, two proposals by member David Banks fell flat.
Banks proposed tapping into the district’s rainy day reserve — which he said has an excess of $100 million — to compensate teachers who oversee extracurricular clubs such as a chess team, as well as a plan to pay for eighth- and ninth-graders to take the preliminary SAT.
The state Board of Education pays for 10th-graders to take the test.
Banks said it makes sense to him to make the investment of $14 per student — a total nearing $300,000 — to take the PSAT more than once to better prepare them to take the SAT.
Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn did not agree.
“I don’t believe I can support this; $300,000 would fund at least five or six new teachers, reducing class sizes for a year,” said Scamihorn.
Kathleen Angelucci, board chairwoman, voiced concern about missed classroom time and said she was very cautious about adding to the number of tests students are already required to take.
“Fifth grade is Iowa (Test of Basic Skills), seventh grade is Iowa, eighth grade is ReadiStep, 10th grade is PSAT or the ASVAB (a test to determine aptitude to join the military) … 11th grade is the SAT or the ACT,” Angelucci said, “We also have the EOCT, which is now the GMAP.
“When you consider $300,000, to me, that’s just astronomical,” she added, saying parents or students who want to take the PSAT in addition to the one the state pays for in 10th grade should pay the $14.
If that’s a hardship, Angelucci suggested appealing to the school board for the money for an individual student.
Member Tim Stultz suggested looking into tutoring to help students prepare, while Ragsdale hinted the PSAT could be losing its effectiveness since more colleges are moving to the ACT to assess potential students.
Ultimately, Banks did not get the three votes needed to put the PSAT funding on the agenda at the board’s next meeting.
On the issue of extracurricular clubs, Angelucci thought money would be better spent on restoring the pay cut teachers took during the recession.
The board also approved three promotions. Kennesaw Elementary School Assistant Principal Alison Broughton will now lead Baker Elementary as its principal. Kevin Kiger, who was a hiring supervisor for human resources, will now be the executive director of employment and software engineer Ryan Pynes will become the director of technology program management.
Broughton will see her pay increase from $78,443 to $96,419. Kiger’s salary is going from $77,817 to $86,085 and Pynes’ pay is going up by about $3,000 to $95,197.