Stephens Co. BOE Approves Charter System Application

The Stephens County School System will send its charter system application off to the state for consideration.

Tuesday, the Stephens County Board of Education unanimously approved the application at its regular monthly meeting.

The Stephens County School System has been working on the application since January, when it made the decision to pursue charter system status with the state.

Since then, the school system has worked with others in the community to draw up the application.

Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said she feels the process that has resulted in this charter system application went great.

“We had a lot of input from a lot of different people and we are not proposing to anything drastically different from what we have done in the past,” said Whiten.  “But we do realize as a community that we have to get our kids prepared for the workplace and for jobs and we want to be the ones to do that.”

Whiten went on to say that economic development and preparing students for careers is a major focus of the charter system application Stephens County is submitting to the state.

“There are going to be opportunities for our kids, but a lot of time they do not have the skill level necessary to get those jobs and we want to make sure we give our kids the background and what they need to be able to take these jobs,” said Whiten.

In a charter system, a local Board of Education reaches a contract with the state Board of Education regarding the operation of the school system.

Whiten said in that contract, a local Board can request to do things differently than normal state rules may allow.  In return, she says the state sets requirements and benchmarks for performance that the school system must meet.

According to Whiten, the flexibility of a charter system is very important.

“There are some things that are state rules that we would be able to waive, to do things for the kids,” said Whiten.  “We feel like we have made the best choice.  We think it is going to be a good thing.”

With the local board having signed off on the application, it now goes to state officials for their consideration.

Whiten said that the school system will send that off in the coming days and begin working with state officials.

“They (the state) will send some folks out to do a site visit and talk to some of our people,” said Whiten.  “Then, they will take a look at the language in the application.”

Whiten said the state may tell StephensCounty to change certain things in the application.

“We will do that and we will work on that until it satisfies that state group that will ultimately approve it,” said Whiten.

Whiten said the plan is to have the state approve StephensCounty as a charter school system in time for the 2014-2015 school year.