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Candidates need facts on schools
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Forsyth County News

We are writing to address three issues that continue to be debated by candidates for school board: three-tier start times, standards-based grading and reporting and public input.

The three-tier start time was instituted to get students to school on time and decrease traffic around our school campuses; it also allowed us to separate middle and high school bus riders in North Forsyth. 

Those goals have been met.  Additionally, the three-tier system has saved the taxpayers of Forsyth County more than $3,000,000 in local money and continues to save in excess of $1,250,000 annually.

Moving to a standards-based system is not new in FCS — it began long before the state adopted the new GPS curriculum. Forsyth County has been considered a flagship district by the state Department of Education.  

In our effort to create a world class school system the Teaching and Learning Division researched best practices, involved educational experts and studied the effects on student achievement. Guidelines were drafted, pilots conducted and parent feedback solicited to ensure understanding and make modifications before implementing the reporting practices.  

The academic progress seen by FC students, places them first in the state this year in most areas.  Regardless of the myths, the facts are:  K-3 students continue to use the system; but in 4th grade, report cards are not finalized, as teachers are studying the best way to assign traditional letter grades while grading against standards. Results show our students have thrived on this system.

It is commonplace to criticize elected officials regarding the lack of input. This year the policy of receiving community input at board meetings has been attacked.  The foundation of the policy has nothing to do with stifling input. 

The most qualified experts in each field are hired to inform final decisions, and parent involvement is solicited, valued and utilized in making final decisions. A few examples of task forces and committees including parent/community members:  Vision 2010, Finance Task Force, Middle and High School Improvement, Math, Redistricting, Foreign Language, and Grading and Reporting. 

The current Web site also provides for community input.

A school system belongs to all members of the community it serves, not only to those who speak the most frequently or the loudest. Our current board understands its role: making policies that guide our work, hiring a qualified superintendent and adopting a budget that supports our goals (with a millage rate envied by all metro communities).

The results in Forsyth County have been extraordinary, indeed.   

Ellen S. Cohan, retired associate superintendent of teaching and learning and Jane B. Fuqua, retired associate superintendent of educational leadership

Editor’s note: A more detailed commentary authored by the retired associate superintendents can be found in the community blogs on this Web site.