Originally created 11/29/00

State studies education system



ATLANTA - The position of state school superintendent could be weakened in coming years because educators and leaders want the various offices and departments in Georgia's education system to report to one person.

Some members of Gov. Roy Barnes' Education Reform Commission suggested Tuesday that an education commissioner should be appointed to create a seamless flow of information and communication among the various education agencies in the state, reaching from the Department of Education to the University System of Georgia.

The panel of business leaders, teachers and legislators is meeting this week to present its final recommendations to the governor regarding his second phase of education reform legislation, expected to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session.

"I don't at this current time intend to introduce legislation (to create an education commissioner)," said Rep. Kathy Ashe, R-Atlanta. "(But) in setting up this (state) Office of Accountability and other things, we've created an organization that demands oversight. It's a system that's bigger than kindergarten through 12th grade."

The governor's staff said the Education Coordinating Council, newly created under this year's reform laws, hopefully will provide the communication and information sharing many officials were asking for Tuesday. The council consists of the governor, State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko and several other top education officials, including University System of Georgia Chancellor Stephen Portch.

But some top leaders weren't sold on the idea of restructuring Georgia's education system.

"Structure isn't going to change our major challenge, which is student achievement," Mr. Portch said. "You can alter the structure all you want, but it still won't change the problem."

The governor wasn't present for the discussion, arriving at the meeting after the commission had moved on to other topics. He and Mrs. Schrenko have been publicly at odds over education reforms since the beginning of the year.

Other changes discussed during Tuesday's meeting included creating career paths for teachers and principals. Currently, there are no opportunities for advancement for teachers who want to remain in the classroom.

"We've got a fair shot at getting a career ladder for teachers passed this time," said Mr. Barnes during a commission break. "It's got to be a competitive process. That's what's always tangled it in the General Assembly."

Reach Shannon Womble at (404) 589-8424.