The September regularly scheduled meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education featured many items including approvals for several resolutions discussed at an earlier work session, presentations from teachers and staff, and recognition for students and staff awarded at the state and national level over the summer months.
2019 legislative priorities approved
The board unanimously approved four legislative priorities that were drafted and revised by Jennifer Caracciolo, director of communications for Forsyth County Schools, after her presentation to the board last week.
Caracciolo said that in the past week they had refined the four priorities with minor modifications based on feedback given at the work session.
The final approved 2019 Legislative Priorities that will be presented to lawmakers include increasing state funding for starting teacher salaries; adopting the nationally recommended school counselor-to-student ratio; providing state funding for school safety; and increasing state and local partnerships by providing greater flexibility, fully funding QBE and increasing Capital Outlay growth for student enrollment.
According to Caracciolo, they modified priority three, providing state funding for school safety, to provide flexibility at the local level for how systems could use the money.
Bearden said that now that the priorities have been approved, they will be sent out to other metro area partners and their legislative delegation.
Resolution to support impact fees approved
The board unanimously approved a resolution to approach legislators in support of allowing school impact fees at a county’s discretion.
If approved by lawmakers and Georgia voters, this measure would amend Georgia law and allow local boards of education to assess and collect impact fees from new construction to finance public school construction.
"I think we spent a lot of time talking about it the other day, and there are a lot of reasons why we think it’s a good resolution to send to our state delegation, but I think that the bottom line is, it's the first of many steps towards local control," said Forsyth County Board of Education member Kristin Morrissey, who represents District 2.
"It’s just a matter of allowing the delegation to support that, so we have the choice to make the decision to have school impact fees."
The board previously brought lawmakers a similar resolution in 2015 that Morrissey said led to a "good conversation" with the senate finance committee but that ultimately failed.
"This is the first of many steps," Morrissey said.
Opposition of a state-mandated school calendar approved
The board formally voiced their opposition of a state-approved school calendar currently being discussed by a state committee, which would potentially impact all 180 school districts in the state of Georgia.
According to Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden, the current county school calendar is supported by the about 85 percent of the community and by eliminating local control, any future flexibility would be lost.
"Our calendar is something that we have worked on for years to the point now that we feel that we have a balanced calendar that is very much approved by our community in general," Bearden said. "I think the last statement sums it up, that a strong local and state partnership relationship is based on trust and flexibility, not a one-size-fits-all mandate that eliminates the individual."
At the previous work session, board members brought up several concerns with the proposed school calendar change, including the impact it could potentially have on testing, dual enrollment programs and classroom performance.
"Basically, what we are asking is that we continue to be allowed to work with our community to develop a school calendar that best meets the needs of our students," Bearden said.
Three recognized for state and national awards
Seth Landers, a third-grader from Whitlow Elementary School, was recognized by the board for winning the 2018 River of Words Environmental Art and Poetry National Grand Prize, for a painting titled ‘Rainbow Trout Travels.’
Louisa Holcomb, nurse at Chattahoochee Elementary School, was recognized for earning the title of Georgia School Nurse of the Year by the Georgia Association of School Nurses.
Carrie Beth Rykowski, a teacher at the Academies of Creative Education, was recognized for receiving the Presidential Educator Award for Science and Math.