At the start of the next school semester, North Springs will be converting to a new system wide charter under Fulton County.
Presently, Fulton County has about eight charter schools under its jurisdiction and is the largest charter system in Georgia. North Springs is one of these charter schools. As a charter school, North Springs exercises more freedom than non-charter schools within Fulton County. One of these privileges is enabling students from both North and South Fulton County to attend the school. South Fulton students are able to take specific charter buses that carry them from schools like West Lake, Langston Hughes, and Banneker to North Springs.
North Springs is a conversion charter. Principal Dr. Ruiz describes what a conversion charter is. “We still have to have an application and our contract to waive certain state laws is between us and the state. Only difference, is that when it comes to personnel and budget, the district is in control of that. For example, the school board of Fulton still gives me my budget and hires the principal and the teachers,” says Ruiz.
As a the largest charter system in Georgia, Fulton County has more flexibility “from many one-size-fits-all state education requirements” according to the county website. The transition to more charter schools began during the 2012-2013 school year. The county split its schools into three cohorts. The first two cohorts began their transition to charter schools in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 respectively. The ultimate goal is to have “90 charter system schools” by the summer of this school year. One of the rules outlined by the FCS Charter School Offerings for the 2014-2015 school year is “to replicate the successful practices throughout the system.” In other words, create a system in which all schools are charter schools under the same charter.
North Springs is a part of the third cohort, meaning that it is the last to convert to the system charter that has been in place for the past three years.
When the new charter is put into effect, North Springs will see some new changes. One of these changes is that North Springs will no longer be able to accept students from all around the county. Ruiz says, “differences for our school will mean that we can no longer accept students from around the state as a “Charter” student. Currently any student North and South that was not accepted into the magnet but wanted to stay at NS, could apply to the school through the charter and we had to accept him or her. Now that we will not be a charter, we will no longer accept student that are not in our zone or accepted into our magnet.”
In regards to other organizations within the school, “we moved from a governance board of parents to a more streamlined governance council of parents with designated seats for teachers, staff, community members, and students,” says Ruiz.
But the new charter has its benefits. Under the new charter, the school will have more “money for innovative ideas…as well as give us support from the district and schools that have already gone through cohort 1 and 2 of the system charter,” says Ruiz.