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Parents get last shot at flexibility plan
State board could vote on measure next month
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Forsyth County News
The Forsyth County Board of Education heard arguments Monday night from parents and others for and against its pursuit of flexibility from some state mandates.

The hearing, held at Otwell Middle School, was the district’s second on its application for Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, status.

The meeting concluded the school system’s two-month-long effort to discuss with the public how to improve the proposed contract with the state. The local board approved the application Feb. 26.

If the state board of education accepts the district’s contract proposal, the school system would receive freedom from some state requirements in exchange for increased accountability.

School Superintendent Buster Evans told the school board last week that negotiations were finished and the state board could vote on the matter April 2.

Evans described the recent meeting with the state Board of Education and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement as “an outstanding visit.”

He said the state board supported the school system’s 14 target areas, which include class size, instruction scheduling, student promotion and retention, language assistance and early intervention programs.

The state board, Evans said, made only one recommendation, which would add an extra measure of accountability at the high school level, specifically the annual targets for the SAT writing section.

After a brief explanation of the district’s plans Monday night, attendees addressed the board and other school officials with questions, suggestions, praise and criticism.

Janet Webber proposed that the system consider a blended program with Georgia Virtual Academy, which is a state-approved public online school program.

“The parents need to take the directive to do what’s best for their kids and I want parents to know that there are options out there and we can work together in ways to increase our testing scores, and increase the kids that have special needs and really help those who are gifted excel,” she said.

The mother of five said her children have attended Forsyth County schools and participated in the Virtual Academy, with good experiences in both. She said she has also homeschooled her children.

Carmen Allen, a local education advocate, cautioned against the plan, saying it could have unintended consequences.

“We’re going to end up without local control,” she said.

Allen also worried whether it could negatively affect special needs students.

Brad Wilkins, who is a parent and serves on the local school council for Vickery Creek Elementary, said he likes the district’s proposal and suggested it come up with a list of what won’t happen.

Evans said the plan is “created to give children opportunities for greater achievement not penalties for less.”

He also said it supersedes the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability requirements.

“Let me assure you again our group of students with special needs is a part of the group that will continue to be measured,” he said. “They’re not just measured for meeting expectations, but will be from meeting expectations to exceeding expectations.”

He also said cutting services is not part of the plan.

If the state accepts the plan, each school in the district would be able to decide which, if any, areas of flexibility to use.

E-mail Julie Arrington at