At the most recent work session of the Forsyth County Board of Education, the board was presented a number of different presentations and discussion items on topics including policy updates, 2019 legislative priorities, school impact fees and a proposed state school calendar change.
2019 legislative priorities presented to board members
The board was presented with four legislative priorities for the 2019 school year by Jennifer Caracciolo, director of communications for Forsyth County Schools.
Caracciolo said that this year their priorities are more specific than previous years and they were formed along with other metro Atlanta school superintendents.
According to Caracciolo, these priorities include providing state funding for one school resource officer in every Georgia school; providing state funding to decrease the ratio of school counselors to students from 1 in every 450 to 1 in every 250, as is nationally recommended; providing state funding to increase the starting salaries for Georgia teachers to be nationally competitive; and increasing state and local partnerships by fully funding QBE, providing greater flexibility, increasing Capital Outlay growth for student enrollment, and maintaining the state tax base and local control.
"I just want to say that I like that it's more specific, and I think that's what our delegation was looking for last year," said Forsyth County Board of Education member Kristin Morrissey, who represents District 2. "They wanted to help us when we have general things that we have all the time, so this is so much more specific."
Board Chairwoman Ann Crow, who represents District 1, pointed out the importance of working with other school systems to draft the yearly priorities and make sure that they are consistent across the board, since many of them could potentially affect every school system in Georgia.
These priorities will be put up for approval at next week's regularly scheduled board meeting, held on Tuesday Sept. 18, and will be taken to lawmakers in November, according to Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden.
Resolution to support impact fees approved
Morrissey presented the board with a measure to approach legislators about amending Georgia law to allow school impact fees at a county’s discretion.
According to Morrissey, Georgia currently allows counties to decide what impact fees they want to implement at the local level but specifically prohibits impact fees for schools. If a bill to amend the constitution was approved by lawmakers and Georgia voters, local boards of education would be able to assess and collect impact fees from new construction to finance public school construction.
"Forsyth County has implemented impact fees for road improvements, for parks, for libraries and public safety, but again, not schools because it's not allowed at the state level," Morrissey said. "So the whole point of this discussion is to encourage our delegation and other members of the state assembly to change the constitution to allow individual counties, municipalities, to vote and decide whether they choose to have impact fees for schools or not.
"It’s just a matter of local control across the board."
The board previously brought lawmakers a similar resolution in 2015 that Morrissey said led to a "good conversation" with the senate finance committee but that ultimately failed.
"I think we presented Forsyth County data showing how well we spend the funds that we do get, that we are fiscally responsible and we are also very high succeeding," Morrissey said. "I think they were impressed with that, but in the end the bill did not make it out of committee."
Morrissey said that with the previous resolution, lawmakers suggested raising mileage rates rather than go through with the proposed amendment.
After a discussion by the board members about the ramifications of the resolution, Bearden announced that the resolution would be brought for a vote at the regularly scheduled board meeting, held next week.
Proposed school calendar change discussed
The board also voiced their disapproval for recent state efforts to assess the feasibility of moving the start date of Georgia public schools later in the year, saying that the measure was "not a good idea" and would do more harm than good for Forsyth County Schools.
"Every decision we make around education should be guided by what's in the interest of our students," Bearden said. "I think we've built a calendar in this county that best serves our students, and I think that should be the guiding principal in any of these conversations."
Board members brought up several problems with the proposed school calendar change, including the impact it could potentially have on testing, dual enrollment programs and classroom performance.
"I think that all of those points need to be taken into consideration when we are talking about the potential change of a school calendar," Bearden said.
Bearden said that about 85 percent of local residents approve of the current Forsyth County Schools calendar.
At the end of a brief discussion, Bearden stated that he would draft a resolution for the board’s approval at the next regular meeting next week.