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SACS to Clayton: Another schools investigation 'warranted'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Schools are going under the microscope of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for the second time in five years.

"SACS CASI has determined that an on-site investigation is warranted, and necessary, to evaluate the adherence of the Clayton County Schools to the accreditation standards," said Mark Elgart, president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, on Friday.

"Based on review of the documentation received to date, the Governance and Leadership accreditation standard will be the focus of the on-site investigation," said Elgart, in a letter to Clayton County Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan.

Clayton school board members have been awaiting a response from SACS since the agency was sent complaints about the activities of board of education members. Officials with SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI) had been reviewing the documents provided to them to determine if an on-site visit is warranted.

The verdict: an investigation will take place.

"The purpose of the on-site investigation is to provide all parties with the opportunity to provide information and evidence related to the stated concerns, so that an informed decision can be made as to the validity and extent of alleged violations of the standards of accreditation," Elgart said.

Investigators will look at the school system's compliance with standards dealing with teaching and learning, resources and support systems and stakeholder communications and relationships.

SACS CASI received complaints from Rod Johnson, vice chairman of the board, along with board members Norreese Haynes, Sandra Scott and Lois Baines-Hunter, and from school employees and members of the community.

"Each complaint cites concerns regarding the actions of fellow board members of the Board of Education and makes claims that such actions are in violation of accreditation standards," Elgart said in his letter to Duncan.

System spokesman Charles White referred reporters to a district statement issued on Wednesday: "The school district understands the gravity of the SACS accreditation issue, and welcomes their review ... We recognize that the board, district staff and our stakeholders must take ownership of these problems, chart a course of correction, with the partnership of SACS and our community, and then follow up and make the appropriate changes to assure the best schools for our children - They deserve no less."

Ericka Davis, the board's chairperson, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Elgart said a review team would consist of professionals from across the state, who are trained by SACS. He also said the investigation would include a two-day on-site visit in January.

The investigating team will issue its report, with a recommendation for no action, probation, or a loss of accreditation, 30 days after the visit ends.