Information » Strategic Waiver System

Strategic Waiver System

Columbia County School District has contracted with the Georgia Department of Education to be a Strategic Waivers School District.

By June 2015, state law required all Georgia school districts to choose a framework for leading and operating schools. The Columbia County School District currently benefits from annual financial savings through state waivers no longer available after July 1, 2015, unless a contract is developed to become either a charter system or a Strategic Waivers School System. The Columbia County School District has contracted with the Georgia Department of Education as a Strategic Waivers School District.

What is a Strategic Waivers School System (SWSS)?

A SWSS enters into a contract with the State Board of Education granting the district freedom from identified Title 20 provisions, State Board rules, and Georgia Department of Education guidelines. The SWSS contract affords Columbia County schools flexibility to innovate in teaching and learning to increase student achievement throughout the district. By pursuing a SWSS contract, Columbia County will be relieved of some of the state rules and mandates that negatively impact the operations of our schools.

Why did Columbia County pursue SWSS?

It is evident our community is committed to advancing student learning through increasingly more innovative learning experiences while maintaining a structure of support and connectivity to the larger school system. After careful examination, the district has concluded that a SWSS partnership is the best option for meeting the community’s priorities and for ensuring that Columbia County schools are the premier choice in education today and in the future.

What other options were available?

The state has outlined three options: SWSS, charter system, or Title 20/No Waivers System, which allows for no flexibility to innovate and no financial savings from waivers to state rules. Both the SWSS and charter system options increase the district’s access to flexibility through state waivers; however, SWSS will allow Columbia County to establish performance goals tailored for each school and customize the innovations in each school to meet and exceed those goals. The school principal, leadership team, and teachers then devote their energy and expertise to advancing student performance.

When will this take effect?

The 2015-2016 school year.

What budget/financial implications will the SWSS contract have on Columbia County schools?

This recommendation is revenue neutral. The SWSS contract will ensure we have access to annual savings through state waivers, and although there will not be any additional funding, the SWSS contract will allow the district to use its current resources more effectively.

What is meant by system flexibility?

In exchange for increased accountability, Columbia County will be relieved of some state rules in order to incorporate innovative practices. Currently, some schools have explored small scale innovations to improve students’ learning experiences. The system flexibility granted through SWSS will allow strategies proven to improve student performance to be implemented on a larger scale. Local schools will engage their teachers, parents, and community members through the strategic planning process in order to consider strasegies to further advance teaching and learning.

How will school goals be set?

The district will work with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to establish performance areas of focus. Each school will then have individualized goals within each indentified performance area.

What happens if a school does not meet its goals?

Schools will be expected to reach the student performance goals established through the SWSS contract. Through the SWSS process, the school system will craft the details that define how a school not meeting performance goals for five consecutive years will be addressed. However, school improvement in Columbia County is monitored continuously, so before any school faces the consequences outlined in the partnership contract, the school system will provide interventions to help those schools.

How will this affect my child?

Regardless of the Columbia County school your child attends, you should be confident that your child’s school will be held accountable for high standards and increased student performance based on the individualized goals for that school.
Is Columbia County the only school system doing this?

No. Currently, the majority of districts in the state have letters of intent to pursue a SWSS contract have been filed with the state. Cobb, Gwinnett, Forsyth and Rabun Counties are already operating with SWSS contracts.