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School officials are progressing in their work to get Baldwin's first charter system application and petition ready for submission.

It was mandated by Georgia law for all school districts in the state to submit a final decision to the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) as to what school operating system that would adhere to in upcoming academic years.

The Georgia General Assembly established June 30 as the deadline.

The Baldwin County Board of Education submitted a decision to the GaDOE in May to become a charter system.

The next phase for the school district is to submit a charter petition, which officials have been working on since July.

At October's regularly scheduled board of education meeting, Matt Wark, assessment and accountability director, presented the school board with a copy of the 49-page first draft document of the charter petition for review.

“This entire document is broken up into three sections – the case, the expectations and the governance,” Wark said.

Baldwin School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price reminded school board members that officials will also solicit input from the community.

“We will be putting out a survey to get input. The board will not vote on a final charter application until the December board meeting. We definitely want you to look at it, and we welcome your suggestions,” she said.

In the charter application, officials must draw out what specific challenges the school district is facing, as well as provide innovative objectives that the charter system will aim to achieve to overcome those challenges.

Challenges listed in the current draft of the charter petition discuss the economic factors that play into the education of Baldwin’s youth.

The document states: “Milledgeville has not been immune to the challenges of the economic recession, and is one of the most highly impacted areas of the state in terms of unemployment, with an 11.3 percent unemployment rate in 2012, compared to the state rate of 8.5 percent (Kids Count, 2012). Additional countywide challenges include nearly 37 percent of residents living below the poverty line, and 51 percent of children living in single-parent households."

The draft also details some of the successes of the school system, illustrating how specific challenges have been accessed and resolved thus far.

For example, a low figure in the amount of local students participating in dual enrollment was recently addressed by school officials.

The charter states that "Baldwin County students are fortunate to have access to three higher learning institutions to participate in dual enrollment opportunities: Georgia College and State University, Georgia Military College and Central Georgia Technical College. The district recognized the need to have more students participate in dual enrollment. At the end of 2014-2015 school year 757 dual enrollment credits were earned."

A charter system will allow for implementation of innovative practices, flexibility waivers and a local school governance, which is also addressed in the first draft of the charter.

"Through the use of innovative practices and flexibility from state requirements, the Baldwin County School System will be able to address all challenges to student achievement through increased community and parent involvement, providing a culture and climate that promote academic excellence, encourages a life-long love of learning and assurances that as children transition from one grade level to the next, their educational choices are designed for individual success and graduation equals a readiness for the next steps in life."

Price and school district professionals have held two public meetings in October regarding the charter system application, soliciting input from the community.

As of now, school board officials will continue to review the first draft of the petition and provide feedback as the process continues.

For more information, contact the Baldwin County Board of Education at 478-453-4176.

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