The newly re-established Georgia Charter Schools Commission is in its second month of operation, having started in late January.
Seven members, including Gwinnett County resident Jose Perez, were appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal last month to sit on the commission.
It's been a fast two months for the commission, and there's much that needs to be done. The members recently hired an executive director to help do just that.
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Following a contentious debate about whether such a commission hurts or helps public education in Georgia, the members know all eyes are on them.
For Perez, who served on the state Board of Education from 2004-2011, the commission is about doing what's in the best interest of Georgia's children.
Patch caught up with Perez to learn a little more about his thoughts on serving on the board and public education. (The second part of the interview will run tomorrow.)
Patch: What was your reaction to being appointed to the commission?
Perez: I was pleasantly surprised to receive the call to serve, and when asked, I will. Then as I learned the names of the other appointees, I was humbled.
Patch: As a new member of the Georgia Charter School Commission, what will be your No. 1 goal? How do you plan to hold the commission to a high standard?
Perez: My goal remains to focus of what is best for the kids. With that goal always in the forefront my contribution to the Commission will always be to ensure a safe school environment for successful learning. Good intentions will never be good enough for me. In God I trust, all others must bring data to support the feasibility, academic achievement, and sustainability of the proposed charter school. Wasting two years of a young mind is absolutely not acceptable.
Patch: that he "cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education."
As member of the commission he was speaking of, why should Georgia parents and others see the commission as a worthwhile endeavor, over any other method of approving charter schools in the state?
Perez: I respect Dr. Barge and his opinion. Being fiscally conservative, I often agree that less is more. However, the constitutional amendment passed and the Charter Commission is in place. So, now we must work together to devise ways that ensure our future, our kids get the best education has to offer.
Patch: In the next four years of President Obama's tenure, what do you hope federal policies focus on? What hasn't work, what has, etc.
Perez: I do not have sufficient information to speculate on how the administration policies will impact Georgia Charter Schools. However, it is the state policies that we should focus on since in the U.S., education is primarily a State and local responsibility.
If I remember correctly, the Federal amount spent on Georgia during the 2011-2012 budget was below 10% of the total K-12 budget. And that contribution included funds not only from the Department of Education but also from the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture's School Lunch program.
The additional Race to the Top funding provided to Georgia to enact improvements will result in future operational savings, and the further alignment with the Common Standards will serve to reduce testing and texts costs and improve overall academic performance.
Patch: When you were a student, did you attend a public school or private school? What was your lasting impression of the education you received?
Perez: Before answering my personal education history, I want to remind readers that Charter Schools remain public schools in every sense of the word.
Regarding my journey, I am Cuban by birth and for my first six (6) grades I went to Catholic school in Havana. But, once here I went to public school and like everyone else had a handful of teachers that made a difference in my life, and a few jerks that I only remember for what not to do. But, overall my experience was very positive and I today owe all that I am to the public education that I received in this great Country.
A better testimonial is that all three of my (adult) kids are the product of the Norcross Cluster of Gwinnett Public School System and are very successful. And, my grandchildren have begun a similar journey and I expect them to be successful as well. I remain a firm believer that education and perseverance forge the path to prosperity, and all we are doing to our educational system is taking if from good to great.
(Read the second part of this interview tomorrow on Patch.)
More on Charter Schools:
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission meets every fourth Wednesday of the month, and it's next meeting is March 27. For more information on charter schools in Georgia, click here.