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NAACP leader questions corrective superintendent plan

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education's decision to hire a corrective superintendent is a sign the board is "not being good stewards of the taxpayers' money," according to Dexter Matthews, the president of the county's chapter of the NAACP.

The board decided on March 15 to postpone its search for a permanent superintendent, so a corrective superintendent could be brought in as one step to prevent a loss of accreditation for Clayton schools.

On the same day, the AdvancED Accreditation Commission unanimously accepted a recommendation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to revoke the district's accreditation on Sept. 1, if nine mandates for improvement are not met. One of the nine mandates is the hiring of a permanent superintendent.

The board decided to make the change because public feedback data collected by the search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates showed the community didn't have faith in the board's ability to hire a highly qualified superintendent.

"Well, we don't trust them to hire a corrective superintendent, either," Matthews said. "The more chances they have to spend our money, the worse off we are."

The board could make a decision to hire either Dr. John Thompson or Dr. Santiago Wood to fill the position as early as March 29.

Matthews joins a growing number of people who are criticizing the board's plans to hire a corrective superintendent.

On Monday, James Bostic, one of two liaisons between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Clayton board, expressed his desire to see more retired superintendents from Georgia, or the Southeast in general, added to the list of finalists for the position. Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale) appeared before the board and urged the system's governing body to drop the idea all together.

The board received the blessing of Dr. Mark Elgart, the president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, before postponing the permanent superintendent search.

"The SACS report said hire a permanent superintendent, though," Matthews said. "We [the Clayton County chapter of the NAACP] would rather [the board] follow the report than do this."

The board will now pay the search firm to perform two searches for the district. The firm found candidates for the corrective superintendent position. It's also being asked to find candidates for the permanent school chief position in 2009.

In a March 24 letter to Dr. Benny Goodman, chairman of the AdvancED board of trustees, Matthews pleaded for intervention to stop the hiring of a corrective superintendent. Matthews said the change in direction was unacceptable, because "this will cost the county a great deal of money to find a 'corrective' superintendent then a year later find a 'permanent' superintendent."

On Tuesday, Goodman, who is also the superintendent of schools in Fort Smith, Ark., said he has not yet received the letter, but added "it's a long way from Georgia to Arkansas."

In his letter to Goodman, Matthews also asked the board of trustees chairman to review how SACS reached its decision to revoke the school system's accreditation.

The local NAACP leader believes the policies state a school system has to go through two "warned" and "probation" statuses before it loses accreditation.

"It is very hard to understand how you expect school districts to follow standards and policies when AdvancED/SACS does not follow its own standards and policies," said Matthews in the letter. "There appears to be nothing in your own policies that takes a district from 'accredited' to 'dropped.'"

Goodman said there's no path a school system goes through before it loses accreditation, though. One section of the AdvancED policy covering accreditation says there are "three statuses that may be conferred on a school/district: accredited, accredited warned, and accredited probation."

A different section lists three forms of "non-accredited status" - applicant, candidate, and dropped."

The policy doesn't explain a list of stages a school system has to go through before it looses accreditation. It does say the accreditation will be dropped if the district "refuses to adhere to the standards and policies in successive years."

Matthews insisted he was interpreting the policy correctly.

"If you read it, it says you go from accredited, to accredited warned to accredited probation, and then to dropped."