This week's Commerce News
This week's Commerce News
This week's Commerce News
|FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 19, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA|
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Boley Brown, left, and Doug Haynie, right, were two of the volunteers working Saturday on the Habitat for Humanity house on Cabin Creek Drive. Built with volunteer labor and with some donated materials, the house is essentially a weekend project. Habitat for Humanity continues to seek donations of time, money and materials for its ongoing mission to alleviate substandard housing in Jackson County. For information or to volunteer, call 335-9787.
Mobile Home Parks
At Center Of Nicholson Zoning Debate
Education Proposal Has Good, Bad Parts, Superintendent Says
Smaller classrooms and more teachers and an extra layer of bureaucracy at the local level are all part of Gov. Roy Barnes' new education proposal. The man who runs the Commerce School System sees both good and bad in the initiative made public last week.
"I guess we'll wait and see how it all shakes out," commented Larry White, superintendent.
What's good about the proposal?
"The most positive thing is the reduced class size in grades one through three," White said, "although I don't fully agree with the way the governor wants to do it."
Barnes would have a maximum class size in those grades of 20 students. When the 21st arrives, the class would have to be split or another teacher added in the same room.
That can pose a burden, White says.
"The funding is to be based on a 1:17 ratio. If you barely go over the minimum size, it will be a little more expensive to handle that class. Numbers just don't shake out perfectly."
White would like to see systems able to use a paraprofessional to assist a teacher in situations where classes are just barely over the maximum size.
If the legislation passes and the General Assembly funds it, Commerce stands to gain some $263,000 in additional state funds. But it will be required to spend that and more.
"That's more than offset by the number of extra teachers you've got to hire. It's kind of misleading," White said.
The governor would also put a maximum class size of 11 for SIA (special instructional assistance) students those who are a grade or more below where they should be and who are targeted for special assistance.
"People ask, where's the bricks and mortar. The governor's response is to put more than one teacher in a classroom if you have to," said White.
Commerce has 50 such students currently, most of them in kindergarten.
One of White's biggest concerns is the creation of a new governing board, the creation of local school councils. These people would be appointed, two by the school PTA or PTO, two members of the faculty and chaired by the school principal. That committee would appoint a sixth member.
Each school would have such a committee that would meet monthly to make recommendations to the board of education on the school calendar, codes of conduct and dress, curriculum, goals and priorities, responses to state audits of schools as conducted by the new Office of Accountability, make reports to the public on the school profile, selection of new principals from three candidates chosen by the board of education, school budget priorities (including capital plans), extracurricular activities, school based and community services, the community use of facilities, school board polices, and receiving and reviewing reports on school personnel.
"Doesn't that spell out all the duties of the school board?" White asked.
Ironically, before introducing his proposal, Barnes stressed the need to reduce the school system bureaucracy at its "worst point" between the local board of education and the public.
The result would be only three more school committee meetings a month in the Commerce system, but in the Jackson County School System, each of its eight schools would have a school advisory council.
"The board of education can overturn any recommendation of the panel, but that will result in more politics," the superintendent predicted.
The proposal will do a lot of shifting of funds. Schools will no longer get "weighted" funding for labs. Funding for central office administration and school principals is going down statewide, although not in Commerce. On the other hand, money will be set aside to offer 10 percent of the students in each system 20 extra days of instruction.
"That would be good for us. I always thought if we can get summer instruction, especially with the lower grade levels, and get some reading going on during the summer, that would be a big plus," White said. "You could do it with an extended day, Saturday academics ... I can see in our case where it would be real beneficial to do a 4-week summer program.
"We'll be OK, but it will be tight. We do gain some money. When the bill is passed and we get our allotment sheets from the Department of Education, we can figure out how many teachers we've got to hire and how it shakes out for us."
The legislation should create intense debate. State Superintendent of Schools Linda Schrenko has already voiced opposition to some parts, even as Barnes insists that the package must be passed intact.
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