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Board frowns on Race to the Top program
Officials say school district is already there
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Forsyth County News

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Also during Thursday’s meeting, the Forsyth County school board approved plans to renovate South Forsyth High School’s science labs.

Lindsay, Pope, Brayfield & Associates will handle the architectural design. The firm will charge 10 percent of the estimated construction cost, which is expected to be about $900,000.

The board hopes to get a design by March and do the work during the summer, so the new labs can be ready by next fall. 

The Forsyth County school system doesn’t need to “Race to the Top.” District leaders believe it’s already there.

The national grant competition, run by the U.S. Department of Education, aims to improve education quality and results.

In Georgia, it is worth between $200 million and $400 million over four years, to be distributed to participating school districts based on specific criteria.

But the overall program didn’t sit well with the local school board during its meeting Thursday.

The board noted the district has met at least four goals of the state’s “race,” including turning around low-achieving schools and developing and retaining great teachers.

While gaps remain in the state’s plan, board members indicated it involves new policies they believe the local system doesn’t need.

“Join the race? We’re already there. We’re racing to the top,” said board member Tom Cleveland. “Feel free to follow us.”

Associate Superintendent Lissa Pijanowski presented the concept to the board with Superintendent Buster Evans during the meeting.

Pijanowski pointed to the system’s current Investing in Education Excellence contract, which gives the board flexibility from some state mandates, as a better plan for Forsyth.

“There are certain facets of [Race to the Top] that we certainly believe in whole-heartedly, and are actually implementing as part of our IE2 and strategic plan,” she said.

The district received the state’s information Dec. 2. Evans said having to respond by Jan. 8 is an impractical time frame.

“We feel that we need more information to be able to come to [the board] and say ... we want to present this as something for you to adopt,” he said. “But we feel that because we do have high-performing schools, we are not impacted at this point.”

Board Chairwoman Ann Crow said the state’s plan, which includes performance pay for teachers, could make recruiting difficult.

“You’d have some counties that didn’t opt to go into ‘Race to the Top,’ so you would have utter chaos in the state as far as trying to decide what system you’re going to go [to],” she said.

Board member Mike Dudgeon said the program could be beneficial for districts that need improvement and additional funding, but not for Forsyth.

“We’re not broke,” he said. “We don’t need fixing. It’s as simple as that.”