Heatley to announce SACS

By Curt Yeomans


After a longer than normal wait, the residents of Clayton County are now a couple of days away from finding out what a review team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools had to say about Clayton County Public Schools, after visiting the district nearly two months ago.

Superintendent Edmond Heatley is scheduled to present school board members with what is expected to be the third consecutive positive report on the school system's progress. In May 2009, SACS officials restored the district's accreditation -- on a probationary basis - citing improvements in the school system. Last October, a review team said "pockets of success" were beginning to emerge in the district.

Heatley will give the report during the school board's monthly business meeting, which will be held on Monday, at 6 p.m., at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

"The report that I will share Monday evening, as part of my 'Superintendent's Report,' reflects the findings of the April visit of the SACS Review team," Heatley said in a written statement. "The information contained therein, reinforces the work of the district and its internal review team."

In the past -- at least going back to early 2008 -- the findings of SACS' review teams have been made public by the accrediting agency usually a month, or less, after a visit. This time, however, the findings will be made known to the public 52 days after the review team completed its mid-April visit. The review team visited April 15-16.

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said the delay is due to the fact that Heatley was having "some back-and-forth discussions" with SACS officials to gain some clarification on parts of the report. She said board members are anxious, though, to find out what the review team said.

Although Anderson said she's been told by Heatley that it is a positive report, she added that even she has not been made privy to the detailed contents of the document.

Initially, in 2008, there were nine mandates the school system had to meet to satisfy SACS officials. The accreditation was revoked in late August 2008, when only one of those mandates was met. The accreditation was restored just over eight months later, the district had met all but three of those original mandates, while four new mandates were added.

The school district was put on a two-year probation to meet the remaining mandates, and must be reviewed every six months. After last October's review, the district only had one of the original mandates that it still had to meet, and one of the new mandates had already been met.

SACS Spokesperson Jennifer Oliver, who has seen a copy of the report, said there has been no change in the system's probationary status. "A two-year probation was put into place, because we thought that was an appropriate amount of time to address all the things they still had to address," Oliver said.

She said there is nothing in the report that she would consider "earth-shattering," and nothing that would suggestd the school system is sliding backwards. In fact, Oliver said, "they've made some progress" toward being in full compliance with SACS' mandates for regaining full accreditation.

Still, Heatley pointed out that the school system will continue to have work to do as long as the district remains on probation. "While the district's leadership is pleased that we have received positive feedback from the SACS Review Team in recognition of our hard work, we will not be satisfied until our district earns and maintains a clear status for our accreditation," he said.

In other action at the meeting, the school board is expected to vote on a charter for the "Universal Martial Arts Charter School of Distinction," which was pitched to the school system as "a school of academic excellence with martial arts mastery." The school system's charter review committee is recommending denial of the charter petition, because of academic concerns.