Schools to announce accreditation plan next week

After spending Wednesday in a meeting with the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Clayton County Corrective Superintendent John Thompson is getting ready to tell the public what he plans to do about the school system's recent loss of accreditation.

SACS revoked the district's accreditation earlier this month after the system met only one out of nine mandates for improvement. But there is still a possibility this year's seniors will receive diplomas from an accredited school system.

Clayton County school leaders have 12 months to meet the remaining eight mandates, and the district's accreditation would be retroactively re-instated, if those requirements are fulfilled. If they are not met, however, the district would have to begin the accreditation process from scratch -- a process which takes two to three years to complete.

In the coming days, Thompson will reveal his new plan to save accreditation to the Board of Education, and the public.

"I'm going to roll out a plan to save the accreditation at the [school board] meeting on Monday [Sept. 22]," said Thompson on Wednesday.

Thompson took a public beating on Aug. 28 at a meeting with parents hours after officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) announced the district's accreditation would be revoked.

Some wanted to know how they could believe the superintendent when he previously expressed confidence in the district's original plan to avoid an accreditation loss. Others said they lost faith, but everyone wanted to know how the school system is going to get its accreditation back.

If the accreditation crisis facing Clayton County Schools were a poker game, though, then Thompson is wearing his best poker face --at least for a day.

Thompson said a press release, updating the media on the accreditation issue, is being put together by the school system's communications department, and could be released today.

SACS and district officials are carving out a progress chart, which will allow SACS officials to check off mandates as the school system meets each requirement. This will allow the district to know how much progress it is making throughout the process.

Thompson was so tight-lipped about the accreditation issue, he wouldn't even give an estimate about how long it would take the school system to complete the re-instatement process.

He did express some optimism after his meeting with SACS President Mark Elgart, however.

"We had a great meeting [with SACS], and that's all I'm going to say at this time," said Thompson. "I'm not trying to be difficult or anything, but we agreed not to say anything until the press release was sent out. It should answer all of your questions."

The remaining mandates which must be met to get the accreditation re-instated 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.

· 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.