By Johnny Jackson
While the presence of AdvancED/SACS in some Atlanta-area school systems is viewed as ominous, a visit from the education accreditation agency is seen as a plus by officials of the Henry County School District.
A team of 12 education professionals is scheduled to visit Henry County Schools next week to evaluate the system for accreditation renewal.
"We are looking forward to the AdvancED/SACS visit in early May," said Henry Superintendent Ethan Hildreth.
"The visit by the accreditation team will give us an opportunity to share the good work going on in Henry County Schools, and to receive helpful feedback," Hildreth said. "We work diligently to provide the best education possible for the students of Henry County, and this is an important step in that continuing process."
The school system is in the review process for renewing its five-year accreditation with the K-12 Division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), said Jennifer Oliver, vice president of communications for AdvancED. AdvancED, an international education accrediting agency, is the parent organization to SACS, which also serves post-secondary institutions.
The SACS K-12 Division serves 6,000 school systems, 27,000 schools, and 16 million students nationwide. The division is expected to have a group of education professionals, known as the SACS Quality Assurance Review team, to evaluate Henry County Schools' education goals, objectives, and effectiveness.
"They will be looking to see if the school system is meeting the standards for accreditation," said Oliver. "The team will make sure the school system has an active, continuous improvement process, and that it is focused on student achievement."
The review team is expected to conduct interviews with the superintendent, school administrators, school board members, community leaders, parents, and other stakeholders on Monday, May 2, according to Tony Pickett, Henry's executive assistant to the Office of the Superintendent.
Pickett said the team also plans to visit several public schools throughout Henry County on Tuesday, May 3. He said the team may conduct follow-up interviews, and collect additional data from school officials on Wednesday, May 4, before a team representative presents unofficial recommendations for system-level accreditation.
"We introduced system-level accreditation in 2004," said Oliver. "Henry County earned its system accreditation five years ago."
Oliver said public schools continue to be accredited, individually, in many school systems across the country, and had been accredited individually through SACS the previous 100 years. The county's oldest public school, Henry County High, was accredited in 1955.
"We've seen an increase in school systems moving toward system-level accreditation in recent years," Oliver said. A benefit is holding school board members accountable through an interview process they would not be involved in during a school-level accreditation evaluation, or review, said Oliver.
"The board of education sets the vision and the course for the school system, so their involvement in the school system's evaluation is of great importance," she said.
Oliver said the school system is currently accredited on a "clear status," which means there have been no reported concerns.