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Town Hall meeting is Tuesday

The Grady County School System will host a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Southside Elementary School auditorium beginning at 7 p.m.
According to School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis, personnel with the charter school division of the Georgia Department of Education will facilitate the information gathering session for interested residents and school staff.
The purpose of the meeting is to examine and explore school governance options available to the public school system.
Topics to be discussed will include: criteria for individual charter schools and charter systems, as well as the Innovation in Education Excellence program.
”By 2015, all school systems in Georgia must decide to maintain the status quo or go charter or go Innovation in Education Excellence,” Dr. Pharis said.
The superintendent says there are advantages to each option, but cons as well.
Currently the school system benefits from flexibility in state requirements and guidelines that in future will be offered only to charter schools, charters systems or systems involved in Innovation in Education Excellence.
For example, according to Dr. Pharis, the local school system is benefiting from a class size waiver. The maximum class size for first grade classes is 23 now, but if you had one or two with 24 or 25 you can win waivers from the state. In the future, if we maintain the status quo, we will not be eligible for state waivers.
Through budget cuts and the elimination of positions the local system has also benefited from flexibility under the state rule that requires 65 percent of state funding be spent on direct instruction.
Another benefit, in addition to having more flexibility, Dr. Pharis says that charter systems receive $100 more per full-time student equivalents than do noncharter systems like Grady County.
”The big question is if that funding level will be maintained by the General Assembly, but if it is, that would be an additional $440,000 for Grady County Schools,” the superintendent said.
Dr. Pharis says it would be up to the Grady County Board of Education to make a decision regarding any changes in school governance.
“This is an information gathering session and we do not have to make any commitments at this time. I’ve been talking with the folks at the state for over a year now and I think it is smart for us to take a look at all of our options,” Dr. Pharis said.
Following the presentation by state department of education officials, a question and answer session will follow, according to Dr. Pharis.

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