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SACS begins Clayton Schools check-up

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A review team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will arrive in Clayton County today for a two-day visit to evaluate the school district's progress toward regaining full accreditation from the agency.

When Clayton Schools regained its accreditation last year, it was on a two-year probationary basis, with a provison that the school district would be visited by a review team every six months to monitor improvements.

School System Spokesman Charles White said the review team is scheduled to spend all of its time at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, in Jonesboro, conducting interviews and going over the documentation provided by the school system to show what progress is being made.

"They are not going to be visiting individual schools," White said. "They are going to be reviewing school system documents, and interviewing district employees, from the principal level and up, as well as community members and business leaders."

The visit is part of an ongoing effort by school system officials to get back in favor with SACS. In 2008, Clayton Schools became the first school system in the nation in nearly 40 years to lose its accreditation, largely because of what the agency deemed a "dysfunctional" school board. The district regained its accreditation -- on a two-year, probationary basis -- last May.

This will be the team's second check-up visit since Clayton Schools regained SACS accreditation. After the first visit last October, the review team, in its follow-up report, expressed optimism that the school system was heading in the right direction.

After that visit, the school system was elevated from "emerging," to "operational," status in the areas of hiring an experienced, permanent superintendent; implementing the recommendations from a full, forensic audit of financial information for the district, and initiating a comprehensive process for reviewing, and revising, the school system's vision, mission, and values.

The school system has yet to reach "operational" status on four other SACS mandates, including: Committing to an ethics policy governing the actions of school board members; implementing a comprehensive, strategic planning process at the school, and district, levels; conducting a review of the school system's organizational structure, and establishing an articulated action plan for dealing with the resolution of conflicts involving staff members and school board members.

On Tuesday, School Superintendent Edmond Heatley told school board members there will be a total of four visits from the SACS review team, including the one conducted last fall, and the one beginning today. He told the board members the questions will likely focus on the district's recently revised strategic plan.

"They are going to be looking at our plans of where we're going in the future," he said.

These district-wide accreditation review visits are separate from the site visits that are being made throughout this year to individual schools in the county. Those visits are designed to see how well each school, on its own, is meetings SACS' standards for accreditation.