'Warned status' up for review

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County school system's accrediting agency will send a review team to check on the progress of the school system today and will issue a report concerning the system's "warned status."

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement placed the school system on "warned status" in May 2004 after lifting a yearlong probation.

The probation was imposed in June 2003 after a series of controversial actions by the board, which included violating its own policies, filling a vacated board position and suddenly ousting then-Superintendent Dan Colwell. Since then, the school system has hired a new superintendent, a special election was held to fill another vacated board position and five new board members took office in January.

"I'm very hopeful and optimistic," board chairwoman Ericka Davis said. "I think we've been under the microscope for quite some time."

The school board has made progress in many of the areas that SACS previously cited as needing improvement, Davis said.

"This is by far a well-trained board," she said, adding that all five board members who took office in January received training prior to their first board meeting.

SACS had recommended the board receive training to define the roles and responsibilities of school board members and the superintendent to prevent further micromanagement by school board members. Davis said that Superintendent Barbara Pulliam has a clause in her contract which directs all community concerns to her, which will help prevent micromanagement.

"We make sure that we funnel those constituent concerns to her," Davis said.

Board members have also engaged the community more and been more visible in the community, she said.

It's been almost two years since SACS placed the school system on probation, and Davis said that she would do a dance and throw a party if the school system could get off "warned status."

The purpose of today's visit is to "see if the school district has continued to progress," said Mark Elgart, the chief executive officer and executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement Commissions on Elementary, Middle and Secondary Schools.

The team will meet with the nine members of the Clayton County Board of Education, Pulliam and other school officials, Elgart said. The team will have 14 days to issue a report of its findings, and the Georgia Council on Accreditation and School Improvement will vote on whether to end the "warned status" at its June 10 meeting.

The council can extend the "warned status," lift the status or place the school system on "advised status," an "interim" status, Elgart said.

He said that he has had contact with Pulliam since the last accreditation visit in May, 2004, but didn't feel that it would be appropriate to give his opinions on whether or not the school system has progressed enough to have the "warned status" lifted.