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'Here we are again' angry parents complain of SACS probe

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County parents, upset their school district faces the threat of a loss of accreditation, say they are preparing to do "whatever is necessary," including a recall of school board members, to stop the action.

"We have a Board of Education that is in disarray," said Calvin Tysinger, a member of a group calling itself District 9 Concerned Citizens Group. He said most of the members are from northeast Clayton County.

"The only thing we can think of is the community needs to get involved. There's a lot of tit-for-tat going on between board members. I have to take pause and wonder, are they there for their own personal gain, or to help the children of Clayton County?" Tysinger said.

Mark Elgart, the president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), informed the school system on Friday that his agency will be performing an investigation to see if the board of education, and the district, have violated four out of seven standards of accreditation.

The investigation will be the second in the last five years. The school system was investigated in 2003, and placed on probation for two years.

The result of the new investigation could be another period of probation, or loss of accreditation. The last school system to loose its accreditation was Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools, in 1996, according to Elgart.

"I'm going to be disheartened even if this school system is put on probation again," said Anthony Williams, founder of Diverse and Dedicated Support (D.A.D.S.), and a member of the District 9 Concerned Citizen Group. "We just got off of probation, and here we are again."

"There is this thing called 'a recall,' and it's not off the table," Tysinger said.

Under Georgia code 21-4-4, 30 percent of Clayton County's registered voters have to sign a petition to get a recall election on the ballot. The code also says a recall petition can't call for the removal of more than one public official, which means the required amount of voters would have to sign nine separate petitions to hold a recall election for the entire board.

The official who is the subject of the recall petition has to have "conducted himself or herself in a manner which related to and adversely affects the administration of his or her current office, and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public," according to the code.

Also according to code 21-4-6, the public official who is the subject of the recall application has four days to file a petition with the county's superior court to review the recall request to see if there is cause for a recall. If the court decides to conduct a review, all other recall-related activities are suspended until the judge reviewing the application issues a "ruling of sufficiency."

If the judge finds there are grounds for a recall, the public official then has 10 days to file a discretionary appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Once the recall application has been certified, the local elections official will issue official petition forms, which are provided by the secretary of state's office, according to code 21-4-5. The public official listed on the petition is then notified that the petitions have been issued for circulation.

The county's elections official calls for the recall election no more than 10 days after the judge certifies there are sufficient reasons for a recall. The election will be held no more than 45 days after the call for an election is made. The election can't be within 30 days of the call for the election, though.

"We voted them [the Board of Education] in to office, so they should answer to us," Williams said.

The District 9 group will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the SACS issue on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center, 3499 Rex Road.

If Clayton County schools lose accreditation, students cannot qualify for the HOPE scholarship and will have a harder time getting into college. Teachers will have difficulty transferring their service to another school system.