Whitfield County Schools could adopt the district’s first tuition system for out-of-district students today.

Among the items on the agenda for a Board of Education meeting at noon at the central office is a proposal to charge students from outside Whitfield County a yearly fee of $1,027.08.

“We recommend a tuition policy that is based on what an average Whitfield County resident would pay in local funds for a residence within the district,” said Richard Schoen and Kenny Sheppard in a written proposal to superintendent Katie Brochu. Schoen, the system’s executive director for assessment and accountability, and Sheppard, the chief financial officer, based the calculation on the current average property tax as divided among Whitfield County’s almost 13,000 students.

“Our recommendation is based on the residential gross digest per student,” Sheppard said, “and would change every year based on the value of residential property, the applicable millage (property tax) rate, and our FTE (the school system’s Full-Time Equivalency) population.”

The two provided examples of seven area school systems’ tuition policies and said their proposal most closely resembles Dalton Public Schools’.

At last week’s board work session, vice chairman Tim Trew said the policy — which could affect 16 Whitfield County teachers from out of state whose children attend local schools — is needed because of the system’s growing reputation for quality.

“We have become a system of choice,” Trew said. “Students want to be here, and that’s a good thing. But we can’t give them something for nothing. There’s no free rides.”

Proof of residency

The board also plans to tighten the reins on its policies for determining whether a student is actually a resident of the district or one of its school zones. These policies, which are up for second reading, have come under more scrutiny in part because space is at a premium due to local growth and state-mandated smaller class sizes. Students who provide false or misleading proof of residence may have their enrollment terminated immediately.

“We’ve had a problem in the past with falsely notarized letters,” board member Holly Ridley said. “This is a concentrated effort to make sure these students are either in the district or making an effort to move.”

Trew said many students work the system for athletic benefit, and characterized the proposed policy changes as “weak as water.”

“I was pushing for (proof of a custodian’s) true custody through the court system,” Trew said.

Schoen said guardianship is not always so cut-and-dried.

“Many students live with a relative for years and never get that custody,” Schoen said. “Others move in with their parents while they’re house hunting, and all they have to provide is a utility bill and an affidavit.”

Out-of-state students would not be allowed unless they are children of full-time employees. The superintendent would have final say in the appeals process to determine a student’s school zone.

The board is also expected to:

• Give final approval to its fiscal year 2007 budget, which includes nearly $99 million in local dollars, an increase of more than 10 percent over a year ago.

• Hear the second reading on student conduct policy changes and minor dress code policy changes that basically allow sweat pants and forbid gloves inside school buildings.

• Announce 2006-2007 assignments for more than 20 assistant principals and four remaining members of the reorganized central office staff.

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