Parents given choice to move children

By Trina Trice

Dr. Tonya Mahone-Williams, principal of Fountain Elementary School, is hopeful that parents won't pull their children out of her school.

Fountain and Haynie elementary schools, along with Forest Park and North Clayton middle schools must offer parents the Public School Choice for failing to meet adequate progress for student performance, according to the No Child Left Behind law.

Letters will be going out to parents to let them know what their options are, said Judy Alger, Title 1 consultant for the Georgia Department of Education.

"They'll be notified in writing," she said. "Parents have to fill out a form expressing their desires to have their child transferred."

If parents opt to remove their children, they must choose among a small list of better performing schools that are within a reasonable distance.

The school district provides transportation to the student as long as the home school remains on the Needs Improvement list.

Low income and students with low scores on the CRCT get top priority for transportation, though.

When Alger, formerly the director of supplemental programs for Clayton County Schools, worked with the seven Clayton County schools on the Needs Improvement list last year, she didn't see a large exodus of students.

"That was not one of our concerns," she said. "For the most part the parents are more interested in supplemental services."

Schools on the Needs Improvement list for two years must offer parents supplemental services, such as private tutoring, for their children.

Mahone-Williams isn't expecting a large number of withdrawals, though. She plans to keep her daughter, a first-grader, at Fountain Elementary School.

"My interest is just as vested," Mahone-Williams said. "But I believe in what we're doing here. I hope that the parents trust our teachers are working to help our children. But we know it's going to take some time."

Last year, Anderson, Hendrix Drive, Huie, Lake City, McGarrah, Riverdale and West Clayton elementary schools were on the Public School Choice list.

School officials could choose to follow the plan used last year, as all schools placed on the Needs Improvement list are no longer on it.

In early August, school officials met with principals and prepared informational packets for parents and principals prepared School Improvement Plans.

The next step involved meeting with parents to go over the No Child Left Behind law.

By mid-to-late August Student Services reviewed and implemented parents' requests to transfer their children to better performing schools.

School officials are currently working with a committee that is reviewing the AYP report and the next plan of action, said Jerry Jackson, spokesperson for Clayton County Schools.

"They're looking at the data submitted, looking at many other variables that may have caused those schools to be deemed poor performing schools," he said. "Once that data is digested, then the (school system) will make information available."