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Flexibility plan in states hands
District seeks freedom from some mandates
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Forsyth County News
If early returns are any indication, the Forsyth County school system’s quest for flexibility from state mandates has been well received.

School board members have spoken to various local school councils recently to raise awareness of the district’s application for Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, status.

Board member Mike Dudgeon said his experience at West Forsyth High School was positive.

“I think it’s about as well received as anything we’ve done in a long time,” he said. “They’re already ... thinking about ways they can take advantage of this and especially do some creative programming for the kids.

“There’s a lot of pent-up excitement out there, and this will hopefully be the first start of letting it go.”

The school board voted Thursday to send the application to the state board of education.

The proposal asks for flexibility in 14 areas, including class size, instruction scheduling, student promotion and retention and the language assistance and early intervention programs.

Along with each area of flexibility, comes increased accountability, which is also highlighted in the proposal.

The state board will review the proposal and possibly make modifications. Negotiations on a flexibility contract will continue into early this month.

A public hearing on the plan is set for March 16, with a local school board vote scheduled three days later. The final version could be approved in April.

Parents, teachers and other education stakeholders were invited to a public hearing Feb. 16.

If approved, each of the county’s 35 schools would get to decide which, if any, areas of flexibility to use.

Board Chairwoman Ann Crow said parents and teachers she’s spoken to “appreciate the fact that it will give us the flexibility, but also will save a lot of money.”

“Money that we can put to better use in better ways within the system,” Crow said Thursday. “And that’s one thing that we’ve been trying to do for a long time is to be very efficient and to use our resources wisely. This will allow us to do that.”

The board also approved the draft version of its 2009-12 strategic plan, which includes the flexibility initiative in its pursuit of alternate funding and resources.

The new strategic plan, which involved many public meetings, incorporates ideas to help students excel.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said the most important parts of the plan, which takes effect July 1, are also the most recent additions.

“This is our system’s third strategic plan and with each cycle of the planning, we build on past success and continue to raise the bar.”