Board ?appears' to have made progress

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County school system "appears" to be making progress to get off probation.

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam has met with Mark Elgart, the executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary and Middle Schools, for the second time in only weeks.

Pulliam became superintendent of the Clayton County school system in February, inheriting a system that was on a year-long probation imposed by SACS. The accrediting agency imposed the probation for the school board's failure to follow its own policies and the school board's interference in the daily operations of the school system.

"I think the county is progressing," Elgart said. "It appears, we won't know anything until we visit, that the board is moving in the right direction."

Elgart cited the system's national search for a superintendent and the hiring of Pulliam as a result of the national search as progress, but reserved saying how much progress the system had made until a team visits the system in April.

"When the SACS team comes to visit in April, I believe they will find the work we have done and are doing can be deemed appropriate to getting the school system off of probation," Pulliam said in a press release. "I believe we have demonstrated that things are better and continue to improve. Our progress is positive, even as it is incremental. I met with Elgart to make sure we're on the right road. I have assurance we are traveling on the right road."

As part of the progress, Pulliam said she has been able to start getting her "leadership team" in place through the appointments of three senior administrators from two school systems she used to work for.

Despite school officials expressing optimism prior to the midyear review in October, a visiting team from SACS found only "cosmetic" improvements had been made.

The team stated in a report the need to conclude the national search for a superintendent, hire a permanent superintendent, review board policies, define the roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent and formally meet to discuss the initial SACS report that put the system on probation. The school system didn't meet to address the initial SACS report until November after being placed on probation in May.

Elgart said a date for the SACS visit marking the one-year point of the probation will be set later. When SACS returns, probation could be extended, lifted or accreditation could be revoked. If accreditation is revoked, then the county's graduating seniors will no longer be eligible for the state's Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship program.