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Restoring full SACS accreditation is recommended

By Bob Paslay

bpaslay@news-daily.com

Clayton County schools should be restored to full accreditation, ending two years of probation and warning status, a committee is recommending to the accrediting agency that slapped the probation on the system.

School Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said Monday night the visiting team has made this recommendation to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and a final vote on those recommendations could come by Friday.

Only a third of the nine-member board that was in place two years ago when the harsh sanctions were imposed still sit in those seats, the rest a casualty of not running again or voters turning them out at the polls.

One of those who has seen the sanctions and then now the removal of them is Board Chairwoman Ericka Davis, who called it a "rough two years," but said she is "thrilled" by the decision.

She credited everyone from the teachers, staff and board members to Pulliam, who pledged when she was named to that post to get the district off probation. Davis said the decision sends "a resounding message" to the community that the district is committed to providing a quality education for all its students.

Pulliam thanked the board members for "investing the time and energy to do what was necessary and right" to restore full accreditation.

A year ago a team visited the district and officials had hoped full accreditation would be restored then, but SACS lifted probation but left the district in a "warning" status that meant it would continue to monitor progress and make another visit which it did this spring.

While it is not 100 percent sure the

recommendations will be adopted Friday, the pattern of the past has been to take the on-site team's recommendations.

The school system was placed on probation after the superintendent was fired in January 2003 and some board members were accused of meddling in the day-to-day running of the schools, in not following board policy or conducting meetings in accordance with rules of order. The decision set off a fire-storm of controversy including packed board meetings and calls for board members to resign. Pulliam's announcement Monday night received a standing ovation from the audience. If the probation had not been lifted, students were in danger of losing state scholarships and teachers would have found it harder to find jobs in an accredited district, coming from a non-accredited one. Davis thanked teachers for "sticking with the district" and seeing it through.

In addition to hiring Pulliam, board members pledged a variety of training and actions to assure the district would be in compliance and would be taken off probation.

Operating budget approved

In the other major action coming out of Monday night's packed school board agenda, the $456 million operating budget that goes into effect July 1.

Tentatively, the millage rate for the district has been left at last year's 18.916. But hearings to get public input will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 27 and 6 p.m. July 11 before the millage rate if finalized.

The budget calls for 2 percent pay increases for all employees and 3 percent for teachers and it eliminates a number of positions including all instructional technology specialists.

Two major changes made to the budget from initial approvals was a shift in money for two major studies. A study on security of the schools and how to improve it was increased from $300,000 to $500,000 in the wake of gang and violence activities at the schools.

In addition, a study on the compensation of all employees was reduced from $500,000 to $300,000. The board also eliminated raises for a number of administrators who got mid-year hikes, and this saved the budget $28,384. Those mid-year hikes to assistant superintendents and others caused some controversy when they were given earlier this year.