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Plan scores high
District seeks state flexibility
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Forsyth County News
An initiative that would give the local school system more flexibility from state mandates was well received at a public hearing Monday night.

The first of two meetings on the district’s Investing in Educational Excellence, or IE2, application drew positive feedback from parents, educators and school staff gathered in the Otwell Middle School cafeteria.

Associate superintendent Lissa Pijanowski presented the basics of the application which, if approved by the state board of education, would give Forsyth County Schools leeway in 14 areas.

Among them are the district’s class sizes, student promotion, language assistance, early intervention programs and scheduling for instruction. If approved, some of the flexibilities could take effect with the 2009-10 school year.

“A lot of the things our community members have told us they would like for us to accomplish ... we need additional flexibility to do them,” Pijanowski said.

“Maintaining high achievement in our district is a must. It’s what you expect in our district ... We see a vehicle for doing this not only in our strategic plan but IE2.”

In exchange, each area would face additional accountability beyond the state’s adequate yearly progress requirements.

Pijanowski said the strategic plan — a statement of the systemwide vision, mission, beliefs and goals — is one requirement the district must meet.

So far, Gwinnett County is the only one of the state’s 180 school systems to have secured the flexibility program. With an expected state budget shortfall, however, several school systems could join Forsyth County in pursuing more freedom.

South Forsyth High School assistant principal Jeff Cheney if granted that flexibility, the system should remember what “got us here.”

“Our outstanding professionals got us here,” Cheney said. “... If we start looking at budgets and cutting, a lot of times we start looking at cutting that. Keep training our teachers and give them the possibility of more flexible classrooms.”

Education advocate Carmen Allen cautioned the group of about 50 that “flexibility can be a double-edged sword.”

“Before we jump into this plan, we need to understand what exactly does that flexibility mean, just how flexible,” she said.

The plan is available online at

The board is scheduled to vote on the current application to the state on Feb. 26. Another public hearing will follow on March 16 to gather more public feedback.

On March 19, the board will take a final vote on the matter, with the application going on to the state in early April.

E-mail Frank Reddy at