BOE gives nod to IE2 contract

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted unanimously Saturday in favor of the Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) Partnership Contract, which includes a strategic plan and plans for individual schools. It now goes to the state for review.

Saturday's vote means the local district will continue efforts to be the first school system in Georgia to pursue a partnership with the state Board of Education under House Bill 1209. The measure allows local school systems wiggle room by entering into a contract with the state BOE, in return for heightened standards.

Should the contract be accepted, the Gwinnett district must agree to meet accountability measures beyond what is required to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act; in exchange, the state BOE could grant the school system flexibility from some state rules and mandates.

All four board members present at the specially called meeting voted in favor of the contract. One member was out of town but has voiced his support in the past, said Gwinnett schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

Leaders hope the state will be able to review the submitted contract in January, and reply before local budgeting talks begin in February.

If approved by the state, the flexibilities, or changes made to rules and procedures, would be available to the local system July 1.

"Our local schools will implement different areas of flexibility," Roach said. "We think this will be an extremely good thing for our schools, our students and our teachers."

Principals, working with teachers, school councils and PTA members, will lead school efforts to implement the specific flexibilities - and the accompanying accountabilities - that will help them meet their goals.

The path to this point hasn't been without turbulence.

When the Gwinnett BOE held a public hearing on the proposed contract, hundreds of teachers, parents and community members showed up, including critics who complained the district hadn't sought meaningful public input on the plan.

Others have complained of a lack of transparency on the BOE's part as the proposal was being created.

The school board held a public hearing Dec. 11 on the IE2 partnership contract, but critics say the timing wasn't appropriate to gather meaningful public input.

A copy of the 700-page document is available on the district's Web site, www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us, but it's not so daunting as it sounds, Roach said. Bookmarks lead anyone who's interested straight to plans for particular schools.

The first nine pages outline areas of flexibilities, Roach said.