The Bryan County Board of Education recognized the following people during its April 23 meeting:
• Governor’s Honor Program: Kevin Zhu, Richmond Hill High, science finalist; Jacquelyn Buelow, RHHS, social-studies alternate
• National Merit Finalist: Jayden Freeze, RHHS (Freeze will attend Harvard)
• Washington Youth Tour Delegates: Corinna Shimalla, Amanda Worden, RHHS, $1,000 scholarships; James Ward, RHHS, $500 scholarship.
• Carver Elementary School Science Olympiad team: Margarte Fontaine, Stephen Jones, Emily Buerger, Maya Giorgianni, Aiden Gray, Natalie Cuson, Hayes Valentine, Evan Wiebold, Thailor Harris, Cecilia Mateo, Samntha Cuson, Emma Highsmith, Annalin Crawford, Lizzie Mazel, Lucy Tuttle, Dillen Scott, Carter Pena.
• Retirees honored: Linda Cave and Susan Catto, Bryan County Elementary; Lisa Safley, Bryan County High; Sherry Davis, Lanier Primary; Jean Grant, Richmond Hill Elementary; Eleanor Agnew and Nancy Murphy, RHHS; Doris Lovell, Rita Faircloth and Susie Reed, Richmond Hill Middle; Melanie Joseph-Harris, Richmond Hill Primary; Priscilla Williams, School Nutrition Program.
The Bryan County Board of Education charted its immediate future during its April 23 meeting by voting to make Bryan County Schools an Investing in Educational Excellence, or IE2, school district.
The option is one of three choices every public-school system in Georgia has to make by July 1.
The decision gives Bryan County Schools more latitude over how it goes about its business, but it also requires more accountability from the state. The system will have to set — and meet — certain performance measures over a five-year period or face the loss of local control.
Board Chairman Eddie Warren said IE2 is the best fit for Bryan County Schools “at this time.”
“But no matter the choice we make, the children are still the No. 1 priority of the board,” he said. “We will make happen what we need to happen to ensure a great education for the children of this county.”
The IE2 option is offered by the Georgia Department of Education, and the board’s decision allows Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher to set up a contract with the state, according to Dr. Brad Anderson, who is the system’s superintendent for teaching and learning.
According to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, if the system doesn’t meet its goals in at least three of the five years of the contract, then the BoE could lose governance of schools that don’t make the grade.
The other options on for Bryan County Schools to become a charter system, which would essentially give each school a council with decision-making powers, or remain status quo.
The last option would require Bryan County Schools to continue operating as normal, but it would have to follow all state policies and requirements — such as minimum class sizes — despite deep cuts in state funding over the past decade-plus.
IE2 gives Bryan County Schools more flexibility in dealing with state requirements so long as it meets its goals in improvement. Most of the systems similar to Bryan County Schools have chosen the IE2 option, according to Anderson.
The Bulloch County and Savannah-Chatham County school systems also opted for IE2, and Effingham County is leaning toward that option. The Liberty County district chose to become a charter system.
Anderson said both IE2 and the charter system allow school systems more local control while also demanding more accountability, but there’s little room for flexibility or innovation under the status-quo option.
A public hearing will be held in the fall “for the purpose of listening to public input regarding the contract,” Anderson said.
He said IE2 will allow Bryan County Schools to seek waivers from state requirements, “which will enable the system to exercise flexibility and innovation in the allocation of resources to increase student achievement.”
It also will link “district and school-level decision making and governance,” according to school officials.
Still, IE2 doesn’t give Bryan County Schools free rein, Brooksher said.
“This is not a pass to do whatever we would like, but an opportunity to use well-researched practices and innovation to improve student achievement,” he said.