Board cancels meeting

By Trina Trice

The Clayton County Board of Education will have to defend itself and the school system to keep its schools accredited.

Meanwhile, the school board cancelled its called meeting scheduled Thursday night. No reasons for the cancellation were given. The next scheduled board meeting follows spring vacation April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at 1058 Fifth Ave. in Jonesboro. And while this is going on, two other events are working. The grand jury continues gathering evidence in its probe of the school board and lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would fill a vacancy on the board by election this year.

In a letter dated March 5, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools requested information from interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis concerning possible violations against the organization's "Accreditation Standards."

SACS accredits more than 12,000 public and private educational institutions from pre-kindergarten to university level in 11 Southeastern states and in Latin America.

The organization has received a "number of phone calls and letters concerning actions of the (school board)," the letter stated.

"We're asking for Clayton County to respond to information we've received," said Mark Elgart, executive director of SACS.

Although Elgart said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the information his organization has received, the nature of the concerns pertain to the relationship the school board has to the day-to-day operation of the school system.

Stated in the letter, school officials must address whether or not the school board is in violation of disregarding the following: developing written policies and procedures that promote effective operation; adopting policies and procedures that should be implemented under the direction of the school system's administrative team without interference; and establishing policies and procedures that recognize and preserve executive, administrative, and leadership prerogatives of the administrative head.

SACS wants to know if the school board is following its own policies and wants to make sure it does not have any hand in the daily operation of the school district. The school board should function only as a policy-making body, Elgart said.

School officials have until April 15 before SACS will conduct an onsite inquiry.

"We'll act fairly quickly once we get the information back," Elgart said.

In a prepared statement read Wednesday afternoon, Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware said the board has instructed Chavis "to cooperate fully with the SACS request ? We want SACS to see what a great school system we have today."

It is rare for a school system to lose its accreditation, but it can happen Elgart said.

In the past, the top three reasons school districts have lost accreditation have been lack of resources to maintain quality staff or educate students, providing an unsafe working and learning environment, and problems with governance, as could be the case with Clayton County.

"It's a very serious situation," Elgart said. "The nature of the inquiry is rare and should be taken with the utmost responsibility."

The organization's Georgia Secondary and Middle School Committee is reviewing the allegations brought against the school board at its next scheduled meeting in June.