According to Corrective Superintendent John Thompson and Clayton County Board of Education Chairperson Michelle Strong, the following progress has been made to save the district's accreditation:
Mandate No. 1: Establish a governing board that is capable of fulfilling its roles and responsibilities.
Progress: The board has participated in several training sessions, which covered productive board meetings; Robert's Rules of Order; interviewing techniques; power and influence strategies, and ethics. The school system also offered a training session to 33 school board candidates and current board members on Saturday -- at the same time as the SACS update meeting. Board members David Ashe, Sandra Scott and Lois Baines-Hunter, who is running for re-election in District 2, opted to attend the accreditation update meeting instead.
Mandate No. 2: Remove the influence of outside groups and individuals that are disruptive to the work of the school system.
Progress: Teachers organizations, such as the Metro Association of
Classroom Educators (MACE) and the Clayton County Education
Association (CCEA), are no longer allowed to use the district's e-mail system to advertise their services. According to Thompson and Strong, board members are no longer affiliated with outside influences; board members are refraining from the appearance of improprieties, and district employees are not allowed to participate in board-related actions, unless the superintendent tells them to do so. What still has to happen: The board has to continue ongoing training dealing with their legal and ethical responsibilities.
Mandate No. 3: 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.
Progress: In late April, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed HB 1302 into law, which established an ethics commission, and a new code of ethics for the board. Board members revised their own code of ethics to match what is outlined in the new law.
What still has to happen: During the June 30 work session, the board will take up the issue of censuring board members Ashe and Scott for alleged misconduct. Board members will also work with the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to develop a way to receive and process ethics complaints.
Mandate No. 4: Implement a comprehensive review of board policies that includes training for board members on the purpose and expectations of said policies.
Progress: There has been ongoing training for the board members. The board has reviewed policies dealing with ethics; public participation at board meetings; monthly business meetings; board and staff member relationships; fiscal management, and administrative personnel hiring. What still has to happen: The board is still reviewing, and revising its policies.
Mandate No. 5: 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.
Progress: Thompson said he met with SACS president Mark Elgart, who explained his agency wanted to see the 2006 purchase of 155 acres of land in Riverdale, as well as the purchasing and human resources departments audited. The school system has hired Laurie Dyke from the Investigative Accounting Group to conduct the audit. Thompson said the audit began a month ago.
What still has to happen: The school system will create an action plan based on the results of the audit.
Mandate No. 6: Conduct a comprehensive audit of student attendance records and take appropriate steps to ensure that attendance records are accurate and meet legal requirements.
Progress: The Governor's Office of Student Achievement had an investigator audit the attendance records, but Thompson said the person was inexperienced, so the district hired PM Investigations to conduct another audit of the records.
What still has to happen: The school system will create an action plan based on the results of the audits.
Mandate No. 7: 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.
Progress: Secretary of State Karen Handle's office investigated the residencies of all nine people who sat on the board as of Feb. 15, the day the SACS report was released. The investigator determined all nine board members lived in their respective districts.
What still has to happen: An affidavit of residency will be required
whenever a new board member is elected. The school system is working on creating a procedure to review residency expectations every year with the board.
Mandate No. 8: Secure the services of outside consultants with expertise in conflict resolution, governance and organizational effectiveness.
Progress: The school system has retained the services of Randy Reece, a conflict resolution consultant, to help the board members review governance; student attendance; human resources; fiscal services; policy development; hiring practices; employee compensation, and bidding and purchasing practices.
What still has to be done: The school system plans to keep using
Reece's services in the future.
Mandate No. 9: Appoint a permanent superintendent with the experience and expertise to lead the school district and establish proper conditions for effectiveness.
Progress: The board hired Thompson to lead the school system until June 2009.
What still has to happen: The new board, which will be seated in January, will immediately begin the search for Thompson's replacement