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BOE chairperson: SACS team 'impressed' by Heatley

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Board of Education Chairperson Alieka Anderson said the county's school system can likely scratch another one of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' (SACS) original nine mandates for improving the district off the list, after an accreditation-review team met with schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley on Thursday.

The accrediting agency's four-person review team met with Anderson, Heatley, and school board member Jessie Goree, in a joint meeting on Thursday morning as the team began its two-day review of the school system, according to Anderson. It is the first time SACS has sent a review team to evaluate the district since the agency restored Clayton County Public Schools' accreditation - on a two-year probationary basis - in May.

In addition to this being the first SACS review since the accreditation was restored, it is also the first since Heatley took the helm of the school system. One of the outstanding mandates, when the accreditation was restored, was the hiring of a qualified superintendent.

Heatley was hired less than a month after the accreditation was restored.

"I think SACS is impressed with the decision we made concerning the superintendent," Anderson said Thursday evening. "I say that because, during our meeting, they said he definitely had the qualifications and expertise to lead this school system."

The same review team will visit the school system every six months to see how the district is progressing toward meeting remaining mandates for improvement from SACS.

Although the review team focused on the superintendent mandate during its meeting with Heatley, Anderson and Goree, the team members also asked questions about how the school system, and the board, are working toward meeting the other remaining mandates and recommendations for improvement, according to Anderson.

Those other mandates and recommendations are: the establishment of, and commitment to, an ethics policy that governs the actions of board members; the implementation of recommendations from a forensic, financial audit that was conducted last year; the initiation of the comprehensive review process - with community involvement - to determine the district's vision, mission and values; the implementation of a comprehensive, strategic-planning process; a review of the district's organizational structure, and the establishment of an action plan designed to resolve problems and conflicts involving district employees and the school board.

Anderson said she and Heatley explained to the review team that the board members and district leaders will undergo training every six months on how to work together, and that the district's civility policy - which is mainly targeted toward community members - is being re-tooled to "add more teeth" to hold board members more accountable to the policy.

"They seemed to be very pleased with the progress we've been making," Anderson said.

The team met with the remaining seven members of the school board separately, Anderson said. She said she, too, was supposed to meet with the team again, separately, but the team members told her they would not need to meet with her again after the meeting with her, Heatley and Goree together.

Anderson said the team also interviewed Heatley's cabinet, as well as several public officials. The review team's visit is scheduled to wrap up today.

SACS President Mark Elgart could not be reached for comment Thursday night.