Charter System Foundation Announces Awards for Outstanding School Districts

Representatives of Calhoun City Schools are presented a check for being named Charter System of the Year.  Photo:  Jon Richards
Representatives of Calhoun City Schools are presented a check for being named Charter System of the Year. Photo: Jon Richards
The Charter System Foundation, which promotes and supports Georgia’s 40 charter school systems, announced the winners of its 2016 awards program on Wednesday. Marietta City Schools was named the Georgia Charter System Innovator of the year, while Calhoun City Schools was named the Georgia Charter System of the Year. The awards were presented at a ceremony hosted by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.

The Calhoun system was recognized for its efforts in redefining the classroom by using flexible calendars, virtual learning, and the use of the community as a classroom. This approach provides students with unique learning opportunities that prepare them for college and careers. The system has a 95% graduation rate, which tops traditional public school systems. Calhoun City Schools was awarded a $10,000 grant by the Georgia Association of Realtors to further enhance their reforms.

The Innovator of the Year award was presented to Marietta City Schools for its efforts in creating the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center at Marietta City High School. The center promotes student achievement and well being via tutoring and mentoring, health and wellness programs, and even food and clothing pantries that students can take advantage of, no questions asked. “Marietta City Schools could not be more deserving of this award,” said Cagle. “They actively remove barriers to success so that every student cannot only thrive, but graduate college and career ready.” The system received a $10,000 grant from Comcast.

The Peach State currently has 40 charter school districts, ranging from the small town Warren County Charter System to the urban Marietta City Schools. Charter School Systems, which are authorized by the Charter System Act passed by the legislature in 2007, allow participating systems some freedom from statewide educational mandates in exchange for more accountability at the individual school level.

Lt. Governor Cagle worked with then-Senator Dan Weber to pass the Charter System Act. During his career at a state senator, Cagle grew frustrated with what he called band-aid solutions to the educational issues in Georgia. “What I witnessed was a system that was more focused on compliance than they were on achievement. And we had to change that model,” Lt. Gov. Cagle said in his keynote address at the awards ceremony.

He told the audience that the starting point for educational success is with the community, and what the community needed. But, he said, “It’s not just about what the community’s needs were, but also the need of the individual student, because I believe fundamentally that when you design an educational system around the need of the individual student, you will have educational excellence. You will have success.”

The most recent annual report from the State Department of Education showed that charter systems did better than traditional public schools on every academic measure of the Georgia Milestones. The Lieutenant Governor wrapped up his talk with his definition of an ideal school. “We have a school, and that school has a floor. But in that floor, there are no cracks for a student to fall through. But also in that school, there is no ceiling. The ability exists for that student to go as far and as high as he possibly can.”

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