More than 135 Georgia school districts have either been granted Strategic Waivers School System (SWSS) status or their letters of intent were awaiting approval. Bulloch County School district is now one of them.
During the State Board of Education’s scheduled meeting in Atlanta on February 18, the Bulloch County School district was unanimously approved for SWSS status. The Bulloch County Board of Education will enter into a legally binding five-year performance contract with the state in exchange for flexibility from certain state education laws and regulations. The contract begins this year.
This contract gives more input and control to local public schools. The schools will have flexibility from about 30 specific state laws and regulations that educators have long believed hinder innovative practices. However, they must perform higher on the College and Career Ready Performance Index and show a three percent improvement each year on the gap between their baseline performance index score and a perfect score of 100.
“With a community like ours that is rich in post-secondary, business, industry, and fine arts resources, this new school flexibility model can create more of the incubator-type model needed to spur innovation and increase opportunities for faculty and students,” Superintendent Charles Wilson said in the press release.
The Bulloch County Board of Education and Superintendent Charles Wilson have been preparing for Georgia’s school flexibility trend and increased school-level autonomy for five years. They have been putting strategic district initiatives in place to help principals and teachers work with parents to better guide and spur innovation in their schools.
According to the Bulloch County Schools website, these are a few of the key initiatives:
First, the district worked with the community to develop a strategic plan. For the first time, there is now alignment from the board room to the classroom for school improvement.
Second, all school administrators and teacher leader teams have received training in school improvement planning from the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement. They are now equipped to better create performance cultures within their schools.
Third, the district is working to establish true professional learning communities (PLCs) and is continuing to support schools in this implementation. These teams allow teachers to better collaborate and plan across grade levels and academic subjects to effect student achievement.
Fourth, the district continues to invest the best data analysis and instructional technology tools to guide and deliver instruction. Fifth, the district created an Aspiring Leaders program for current assistant principals and teacher leaders who are preparing for future leadership roles within the district.
Superintendent Wilson stated that “The Strategic Waivers School System option is an opportunity for us to be more innovative and to work with the community to decide how we want to work with what we have, and to do what we want with the least constraints from state government”.