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School governance council elections on horizon
by Noreen Cochran
October 01, 2013 07:41 PM | 1879 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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This month, Fulton County parents or guardians who want to be founding members of their children’s school governance councils will start campaigning for election.

At stake is a greater say in the future of more than 22,000 students and a portion of the $7.8 million seed fund set aside for custom-made, innovative programs.

In an open letter to prospective candidates, Superintendent Robert Avossa, Ed.D., said serving is the key to unlocking the power of a charter, or waiver from state requirements.

“The charter system brings a new era of increased flexibility and autonomy for our schools,” he wrote. “School governance council members will work hand in hand with the principal to develop strategic plans, consider best uses of resources and design innovative practices that align with school needs.”

The first wave of 20 of the system’s 100 schools, known as Cohort 1 elected its councils in February.

At the 37-school Cohort 2, qualifying ends Oct. 15 and online voting ends Nov. 19.

Each 10- to 12-member council will include three parents, two teachers and, at high schools, two students.

School principals are nonvoting members who will appoint two staff members and nominate two community members for council approval.

The council’s five responsibilities are a strategic plan, a budget, requests for flexibility, principal recruitment and principal performance reviews.

Cohort 1 councils crossed off their first to-do list item Monday by turning in their strategic plans for school board approval.

“I enjoy being part of the budgeting and strategic planning process,” council member and parent Jen Freyer said about her decision to serve at Autrey Mill Middle School in Johns Creek. “I am interested in supporting projects that have been proven effective in top schools and help prepare our students for high school and life in general.”

Brad Glenn, a council member at Heards Ferry Elementary School in Sandy Springs, said he wanted to help his alma mater, now attended by his two children.

“I’m a big believer in public schools,” he said. “A big part of that belief is that it’s my responsibility to roll up my sleeves and help make a difference.”

Glenn said since his election in February, much has happened – but behind the scenes.

“As you’d expect, the first six months of the governance council have been a steep learning curve,” he said about training and planning. “We are learning our way around.”

School Governance Director Korynn Schooley said the buzz will soon begin.

“They’re about to forward their RFFs,” she said. “There will be opportunity for public comment.”

At its meeting last week, Heards Ferry council members got a taste of the kind of requests they can make.

Local School Governance Facilitator Crystal Clarke said innovations they see fit for their school may range from “yoga in the morning” to “treadmills in the classroom.”

“It’s my job to get you a Yes on that,” she said.

It won’t come easy, though.

First up is a Nov. 11 deadline to post the request online for 30 days of public comment including a town hall meeting, a Jan. 17 cut-off date to send a final version to Avossa and a Jan. 31 school board decision.

Parent Darlene Trigg said it will be worth it.

“We have the opportunity to come up with some really good ideas,” she said.

Rhonda Hudson, parent of two Westlake High School students, said she leaped at the opportunity to help restore the south Fulton school’s reputation as a magnet for Ivy League recruiters.

“My project is to make sure teachers get what they need so they can teach how they need to teach,” she said. “In essence, I want to be part of the legacy of Westlake returning back to its glory. Then when we leave, I can say, you know what? I left it better than I found it.”

Chantrise Holliman, a parent and the school’s ninth-grade academy coordinator, said the 12-member council has better chemistry than its predecessor, the 25-member local school advisory council, on which she served.

“When you have that many people, it is difficult to make sure that everybody is on the same page and everybody is on the same team,” she said. “You discover people have other agendas.”

The remaining schools, Cohort 3, will elect councils in the 2014-15 school year.

On the web: http://bit.ly/19O9FwL

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