On Saturday, January 9, the Superintendent of Bibb County Public Schools, Dr. Curtis Jones, appeared on Central Georgia’s largest television station– Macon’s WMAZ-TV– and its weekly public affairs program– CLOSE-UP. Jones is serving in his first year as Superintendent here in Macon-Bibb after serving in the same capacity in the city of Griffin which is about an hour north of Macon. Jones was asked by the show’s moderator– WMAZ’s Randall Savage– a myriad of questions about the current state of Bibb’s public school system and some of the things that his office is trying to do in order to facilitate better communication with the community.
One of the things that Jones stressed is to get a better control of disciplining children. He told the ‘Close-Up’ moderator that there are too many suspensions and said “students need to be in the classroom”.
Jones was asked the question if the size of the Bibb County School Board will be reduced from its current number of eight. The Superintendent believed via discussions with other local officials that there will be no reduction of school board seats– for now. However, prior to Jones’ arrival in February 2015, local Republicans who live outside of Bibb County such as Crawford County’s Robert Dickey and Twiggs County’s Bubber Epps–part of the Bibb County legislative delegation– had let it be known that he could bring legislation to the floor of the General Assembly in regard to reducing the size of the Bibb County School Board.
There would have been a strong likelihood that a majority-black school board seat would have been consolidated via redistricting which is currently controlled by conservative Republicans. Bibb County is a majority-black county and its public school student population is approximately seventy percent African-American.
Another major issue is Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to ‘takeover’ struggling public schools in 2016 via a constitutional amendment. Jones was directly asked about his thoughts for the first time and said the following:
“I am not excited about it.”
In February 2015, prior to Jones’ arrival, the school board led by Thelma Dillard had quickly approved IE2 or a contract with the State of Georgia in regard to our public school system.
IE2 Partnership Contracts are intended to provide local school districts with greater governance flexibility as a means to increasing student achievement. As created by House Bill 1209 (2008), Local Boards of Education (LBOE) can enter into multi-year contracts with the State Board of Education (SBOE) based on strategic plans developed in partnership with Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). Such plans must identify specific school-level student achievement goals that are in addition to current federal accountability requirements.
If Bibb County Public Schools fails to live up to their contract with the State of Georgia, it gives Republican Nathan Deal and the State of Georgia the power to ‘takeover’ this majority-black public school district. In essence, representative democracy would take a backseat. Why should this be a serious option as an operational system?
A state takeover of school districts or individual schools has become more popular as a conservative Republican solution in the past decade after leaders in Louisiana created the Recovery School District, or RSD. In this model, the state identifies its low-performing schools and creates a school district according to school performance rather than geography.