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School system on vacation until July 9

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County school system has been on vacation since Tuesday, but some employees spent Tuesday and Wednesday working on the issue of accreditation at the Central Administration Complex in Jonesboro.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools set a Sept. 1 deadline to meet nine mandates for improvement, or the school system will lose its accreditation. The district can set up a show-cause hearing before that deadline to demonstrate to SACS officials why the accreditation should not be revoked.

Corrective Superintendent John Thompson set a deadline of July 15 to have the school system ready for a show-cause hearing. A dozen school system employees, mostly members of Thompson's transition team, spent Tuesday and Wednesday reviewing accreditation-related documents.

"We're in the office because we want to make sure we do maintain our accreditation," said Julie Lewis, the school system's general counsel. "It was nice to get in here when it is quiet because I was able to get a lot of work done."

Thompson has emphasized recently that the school district has completed 90 percent of the work it needs to do to get ready for a show-cause SACS hearing. At a work session of the school board on Monday, the superintendent said most of the remaining work involves "gathering evidence" for SACS officials in August.

The SACS mandates are:

· "Establish a governing board that is capable of fulfilling its roles and responsibilities."

· "Remove the influence of outside groups/individuals that are disruptive to the work of the school district."

· "Enact and commit to an ethics policy that governs the actions and work of the members of the Board of Education and staff including appropriate steps when said policy is violated."

· "Implement a comprehensive review of board policies that includes training for board members on the purpose and expectations of said policies."

· "Conduct a full, forensic audit of financials by an independent, certified accounting firm and take appropriate steps to address the findings of such an audit."

· "Conduct a comprehensive audit of student attendance records and take appropriate steps to ensure that attendance records are accurate and meet legal requirements."

· "Ensure that each member of the board is a legal resident of the county and is eligible to hold the elected seat on the board."

· "Secure the services of outside consultant(s) with expertise in conflict resolution, governance and organizational effectiveness."

· "Appoint a permanent superintendent with the experience and expertise to lead the school district and establish the proper conditions for effectiveness."

No school system employees will report to work today, or on July 8. The district will resume operations on July 9, said Charles White, school system spokesman.