Board points to progress

By Greg Gelpi

The school system has made progress in all areas to get off probation, Clayton County Board of Education members said.

More than five months into the Clayton County school system's probation, the board met Monday night for the first time to discuss what has been done and what needs to be done to get off probation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the system's accrediting agency, placed the school system on probation in May. A SACS review team visited in October and found little progress had been made and "significant problems" remained.

Using the Oct. 27 SACS report as a guide, the board checked off each of the SACS recommendations, noting for the record any progress made and anything left to do.

"It appears to me that we're in line with the SACS report," board member Carol Kellam said.

Board attorney Gary Sams, appointed by the board to oversee its progress, agreed with the direction in which the board is moving.

"This is just part of the journey to get to where we want to be," Sams said, adding that "after a few false starts" there have been improvements.

Board members expressed similar optimism prior to the October SACS visit, only to be disappointed by a report that found only "cosmetic" improvements had been made.

One of the significant charges placed against the board was that some members tried to micromanage the day-to-day operations of the school system.

In the only motion of the regular session of the meeting, all nine board members agreed not to "unduly" meddle in the school system's daily business.

The board scheduled a policy retreat for January to address two SACS recommendations. SACS said the board should review all of its policies and make changes where appropriate.

The board also drafted its own mission statement, one that is in line with the school system's mission statement. A final version of the statement will be voted on at the board's December meeting.

The SACS report also directed all board members to receive adequate training.

"So far, we can check that because we have all gone through training," board member LaToya Walker said.

Board member Allen T. Johnson is the only board member yet to receive training, according to the board. He was recently elected in a special election and will be trained next month.

The board is also conducting a national search for a permanent superintendent in accordance with SACS recommendations. The board contracted with the Georgia School Boards Association to conduct the search, which drew 41 applicants.

SACS placed the school system on probation in May for not following its own policies. When a SACS review team returns in the spring, it will remove the probation, extend the probation or revoke the system's accreditation. If accreditation is revoked, students graduating from county high schools won't be eligible for the state's Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship program.

The board tentatively scheduled a meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday to continue discussion of its search for a superintendent. The board's first superintendent meeting, which was held Saturday, was held in executive session.