by Georgia Charter Schools Association
By Elisa Falco
Former State Senator George Hooks of Americus (D-14th), has every reason to smile. His courageous support for charter schools while he served in the Georgia General Assembly, has now borne fruit and his confidence in the local school board may even have been restored in the process.
Earlier this summer, the Sumter County Board of Education boldly asserted a commitment to change and innovation by voting 6-3 to approve the petition of Furlow Charter School.
The new tuition-free K-12 public school, which would open in 2015-16, has a singular mission to improve student achievement in Sumter County. The charter school not only has to outperform other schools in the local district, it must also exceed average performance in the state.
It’s a tall order, but Furlow has a plan. The school’s roadmap to more effective education for all children is a project-based learning approach that encourages students to think critically and be active participants in their learning. Parent engagement and volunteerism is also a priority.
Furlow Charter School will offer a low student-to-teacher ratio, and “teacher looping,” where students have same teacher for two grades until completion of grade 5. The charter school would require four units of foreign language and fine arts plus two units of service learning. An extended day schedule will be instituted to support academic success.
The approval of Furlow will be music to the ears of Senator Hooks, a lifelong Sumter resident, who held the Senate chamber spellbound in 2012 when he boldly characterized the local schools he attended as a youth, and where his daughter teaches first grade, as being “in chaos,” and then voted in favor of the controversial Charter School Amendment.
The Georgia Charter Schools Association, which consulted with the Furlow petitioners on their charter, is grateful to Senator Hooks and views the approval of Furlow Charter School as a tremendous win for families and for education in Sumter County. We expect that Furlow will bring students back into the Sumter system, and with them additional revenue for the County. We are confident that the charter school will be an engine for change and that the successful innovations piloted at Furlow can be implemented into the larger school district.
And we hope Senator Hooks will now see visible evidence of a return on his legislative investment in better public education.
Elisa Falco is Vice President of School Services for the Georgia Charter Schools Association.