BOE approves flexibility contract

SUWANEE - Georgia's largest school system has become the first to enter into a partnership contract with the state, agreeing to increased accountability in exchange for increased flexibility.

The state Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved Gwinnett County Public Schools' Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) Partnership Contract, said Dana Tofig, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.

"We are really excited about this because we see it as such a golden opportunity for our students," Gwinnett County school board member Carole Boyce said.

Speaking during Thursday's Gwinnett County Board of Education meeting, Boyce assured community members they will have the opportunity to be involved as each school creates its five-year improvement plan.

Schools will have the opportunity to implement flexibilities from some state mandates as they develop their Local School Plan for Improvement, or LSPI, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said.

LSPIs have been used for a number of years, but the IE2 partnership contract will allow schools to create an enhanced five-year plan instead of a one-year plan, said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement will monitor the school district's progress toward meeting annual goals and will report these findings to the state Board of Education each fall, according to a news release from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The school system will provide interventions and sanctions throughout the contract period to those schools that do not meet their annual IE2 accountability goals. Schools that do not meet their goals by the end of the contract period will be converted into charter schools.

Wilbanks said the school system began talking about entering into a partnership contract in 2006 but work on the plan picked up this summer, after the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 1209.

School board member Robert McClure said what is being allowed by IE2 is not a new concept to the school system. The district's theory of action for change talks about granting flexibility to schools meeting student achievement goals.

"You cannot impart what you do not possess," he said. "Flexibility will finally be in our hands to impart to our schools."