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School officials discuss career academy
Officials with the Glynn County School System want to know what's going to happen to the Golden Isles Career Academy when the school's charter is altered to bring it in compliance with state law.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Andrea Preston said the changes will mean the career academy will have to become completely self sufficient. The school system, which provides $2 million annually to operate the facility, would have little to no say in the direction of the school, she added.

A new charter will make the school autonomous.

"That would go against why the school was first created," Preston said.

Preston and others asked the question during a meeting Wednesday with the county's delegation to the state. The delegation includes Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, and Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.

A lawyer with the state department of education notified the school system earlier this year the charter for the career academy would have to be altered because its approval four years ago was an error.

Atwood said if the state made a mistake in approving the charter, the state should be the one to fix the issue, not the local school system.

Chapman had another idea.

"Would it be such a bad idea?" Chapman asked, referring to making the career academy a self sufficient entity. He also asked school administrators if they have been happy with the way the academy has been operating.

Superintendent Howard Mann acknowledged low enrollment at the school has not been ideal, but he is confident the program is poised to be a success.

He stood by the assertion that if the school system is giving the career academy $2 million a year, it wants to be involved in its operations.

Board member Mike Hulsey wanted to know what was going to be done about ongoing austerity reductions in state funding that have removed more than $40 million from the local school system budget since 2003.

"We are leaning a lot on our teachers and principals to keep things going, and it is becoming more and more for them to handle," Hulsey said.

In the last four years, the school system has laid off more than 200 teachers and furloughed employees, he said. It is only going to get worse, Hulsey added.

Chapman asked how the school system would feel about selling the career academy to Altamaha Technical College, which is using the facility until it gets the funding to build its own school.

Incoming board member Ingrid Metz thought selling it made sense if vocational and technical programs were moved back to the regular high schools. She asked the delegation to consider bringing back the vocational tech diploma so not every student is forced to earn a college preparatory diploma.

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