Board discusses probation

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County Board of Education officially addressed its probation for the first time since its accrediting agency placed it on probation in May.

At its regular business meeting Monday night, the board responded to the most recent Southern Association of Colleges and Schools report, which noted progress had been made but said "significant challenges" remain.

The board scheduled a series of meetings and retreats to address the concerns listed in the SACS report.

The board had already scheduled a meeting with the Georgia School Boards Association at 8 a.m. Saturday to discuss the 39 applicants for superintendent and the way to narrow that pool down to the best applicants.

The hiring of a new superintendent is a critical component of SACS lifting the probation, said Mark Elgart, executive director of the SACS Commission of Secondary and Middle Schools.

Although the school system has been on probation since May, the board never officially met to discuss the initial SACS report, which placed the system on probation.

On Monday, though, the board will meet at 6:30 p.m. to review the SACS report and map out a strategy to address the concerns of the report.

The board also scheduled a meeting for January to discuss board policies and the duties and responsibilities of the board.

"I find no great deficiencies in our policy so as to make us not in compliance with SACS," board attorney Gary Sams said.

The board has policies in place, but just needs to follow them, he said.

Topping the list of SACS concerns was the board's failure to follow its own policies.

One policy in question was the ability of one member to write a letter on behalf of the board without the other board members knowing.

Chairwoman Nedra Ware wrote a letter to SACS immediately following its Oct. 8 visit to the system. She did so without the knowledge of the other board members.

One policy that needs changing is the way the meeting agenda is set, board member Barbara Wells said.

The superintendent, chairman and vice chairman set the agenda, while any member can ask that an item be added, but items requested for the agenda aren't always put on the agenda, she said.

"I don't think any of us should be denied to put something on the agenda," Wells said.

In compliance with a SACS request, the board named a monitor to observe the board and ensure that it follows its policies. The board chose Sams, who had unofficially been serving in that capacity.

In other business, the board approved Hardy Watkins as assistant principal of North Clayton High School, Janice Sills as assistant principal of Smith Elementary and Samuel Jackson as principal of Church Street Elementary.

The board also opened up bids for its health and dental insurance.