Originally created 03/15/03

School leaders meet in Atlanta



Flexibility and more local control with state mandates are two of the issues local school superintendents will address when they meet with state officials today in Atlanta.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, Georgia Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox and State Board of Education Chairwoman Wanda Barrs have invited school superintendents and principals from each of Georgia's 180 school districts to a listening session at the Governor's Mansion to share ideas about K-12 education.

State officials have been holding a series of such sessions with the education community. Parents, pupils and teachers have had an opportunity to voice their concerns. Principals also are scheduled to meet with the three today.

Richmond County Schools Superintendent Charles Larke said he is anxious to speak to Mr. Perdue and Ms. Cox about tenure, charter schools, school councils and the termination of employees.

"I think the hiring and firing should start and end with this school board," Dr. Larke told board members Thursday.

If passed, House Bill 515 would allow employees to appeal the local board's decision to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. The appeals process would take effect Oct. 1, for suspensions, terminations and nonrenewals beginning with the 2003-04 school year.

Columbia County Schools Superintendent Tommy Price said he will discuss state-mandated class sizes and end-of-course testing.

"The things that we will be looking at are flexibility, giving more local control - things that don't have any cost associated with them that would make a lot of difference to us," he said.

Mr. Price said he plans to throw his support behind the governor's education legislation, particularly the one-year moratorium on class-size mandates.

In 2000, a four-year phase-in to lower class sizes began. The governor's legislation would stall the implementation for a year. Mr. Price said lowering class sizes means more classrooms, something the state cannot fund during the current budget crisis.

School councils and the amount of control they have is another issue that Dr. Larke plans to speak out on.

The law requires each school to have a school council that acts like a school board. The council has the authority in matters of school operation.

"They have been given too much control," Dr. Larke said.

The governor said he plans to compile the results of all the listening sessions into a report and release them at an education summit in the summer.

Reach Ashlee Griggs and Melissa Hall at (706) 724-0851 or newsroom@augustachronicle.com.