The affair kicked off in the lobby of the Fox Theatre on Wednesday with the Westlake High School jazz ensemble performing the Duke Ellington classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Then the show moved inside the Egyptian Ballroom for the main act: Robert Avossa’s “Strategic Plan 2017.”
OK, you can’t exactly dance to that. But Avossa, the superintendent of Fulton County Schools, said he booked the Fox (AT&T picked up the $9,000 rental cost) because he wanted to put education at center stage. And that he did, finally revealing — after a little more than a year on the job — his five-year plan to take one of the best schools systems in the state and “make it great.”
Among the 300 invited guests who attended were Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and State Superintendent John Barge. When Avossa took the podium, he cut straight to the chase, projecting a chart on an overhead screen that showed where Fulton ranks nationally in on-time graduation rates.
Not so hot compared to Hillsborough County, Fla. and Fairfax County, Va. In 2011 Fulton’s on-time graduation rate was 70.1 percent. Hillsborough’s was 84.3 percent, and Fairfax was No. 1 in the nation — 91.4 percent.
He set three main goals to achieve by 2017: raising the on-time graduation rate to 90 percent; raising the percentage of students whose math and reading SAT scores are high enough to meet the admission requirements of Georgia’s four-year colleges, now 73 percent, to 85 percent, and; testing students on their “career readiness,” so that eventually 100 percent of Fulton graduates will be ready for jobs.
Avossa said Fulton has the flexibility to pull it off since Georgia this year designated Fulton as a charter system. That frees the district from some state regulations, such as required hours that student sit in a classrooms. That will allow the system to develop lesson plans for students individually. And, as a charter, Fulton can — and will — pay teachers more, rewarding the best with pay raises.
Among numerous other initiatives detailed in a 28-page booklet handed out at the meeting are a plan to create a new set of semester-long courses offering a greater variety of subjects and to develop a “career ladder” for teachers to keep the best in the system.
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