The plan may not fit Forsyth County, but a local education official who sat on a committee to help Georgia secure Race to the Top funding said it’s a big deal for the state.
“We’re thrilled for Georgia to have all this funding," said Forsyth County Schools Associate Superintendent Lissa Pijanowski.
"It really is a shot in the arm in terms of where we are economically as a state funding public education. Having that additional money going toward
Georgia will be great and Forsyth County will benefit from that down the road.
“We know that several good things will come from Race to the Top.”
Forsyth County is not among the more than 25 school districts -- including those in neighboring Cherokee, Hall and Gwinnett counties -- who will partake in the grant.
Over the next four years, Georgia will get about $400 million of more than $4 billion being offered by the federal government to help fund an ambitious plan for education reform.
Gov. Sonny Perdue called the success a “truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”
In December, Forsyth’s school board members were briefed on the Race to the Top grant. No vote was taken, but the program didn’t sit well with members.
The board noted the district had met at least four goals of the state's "race," including turning around low-achieving schools, and developing and retaining great teachers.
"Join the race? We're already there. We're racing to the top," said board member Tom Cleveland at the time. "Feel free to follow us."
According to Pijanowski, the $200 million that will go to individual school districts will be divvied based on the districts’ poverty rates.
“We have the lowest poverty rate in Georgia,” she said. “Our best efforts would be concentrating on our IE2 contract ... and seeking that $4.7 million in i3 money that would go directly to the Forsyth County students.”
The i3, or Investing in Innovation, program is another grant offered through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Forsyth is a finalist for the grant and stands to receive about $5 million toward bridging the achievement gap among struggling students.
The system is also well into its Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, contract with the state. The contract gives Forsyth more freedom from state mandates in exchange for increased accountability.
Between i3, IE2 and the system's status as one of the best in the state academically, Pijanowski said Race to the Top wasn't the best fit for Forsyth.
“One of the facets of [Race to the Top] were low performing schools,” she said. "We’re very fortunate in Forsyth not to have any schools that are in ‘needs improvement’ [category of federal Adequate Yearly Progress ratings].”