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Clayton Schools accreditation review begins today

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Clayton County Public Schools will be back under the scrutiny of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools this week when the accrediting agency begins what is expected to be its fourth, and final, review of the district during a two-year probationary period scheduled to end this spring.

The school district has been on probation with the agency, also known as SACS, since May 2009. At that time, SACS restored the system's accreditation on a probationary basis, after a nine-month period in which the school system was unaccredited. The district had lost its accreditation the previous year, largely because of the actions of the Clayton County Board of Education, which was deemed by SACS to be "dysfunctional."

As part of the probationary process, the district was required to undergo four reviews, occurring every six months, until the two-year probationary period ended. The latest accreditation review is scheduled to begin today and last through Thursday, according to the school system's web site.

"The only difference this time [from previous visits] is that, after this review, the team will actually make an accreditation recommendation, and that will be forwarded to the Georgia Council [for SACS] for approval," said Jennifer Oliver, a spokesperson for SACS' parent organization, AdvancED.

"They will vote to accept, or review the recommendation, and then final acceptance will be voted on by the full [AdvancED Accreditation] council in June," she added.

Oliver said there are several recommendations that the review team could make to SACS' Georgia Council, and the AdvancED Accreditation Council. They include: revoking the district's accreditation again; recommending full accreditation, without any stipulations; and

recommending that the system be accredited on "advisement," accredited "warned," or accredited "probation."

Oliver explained that "advisement" means there is an area in which the district does not comply with SACS standards, but is aware of the deficiency and is working to address it. A "warned status," she said, means there are multiple deficiencies that the district "may, or may not, be aware of." And, "probation" means the district has several deficiencies, but is not doing anything to address the situation.

How many deficiencies exist is going to be a critical part of the team's assessment, she said.

She added, however, that favorable reviews of the district over the last two years, point to a more favorable result coming out of this week's visit. Full accreditation without any stipulations is what district leaders have been hoping for, for several months.

Oliver said the SACS team will review documents provided by the school system, including records of school board meetings, and will also conduct interviews with Superintendent Edmond Heatley, members of the Clayton County Board of Education, other district leaders, and school principals.

Last month, the school system submitted a report to SACS that argued that "significant positive changes" have been made in the district, and that "student learning is the primary focus of our work."

In early March, when the report was submitted, School Board Chairperson Pamela Adamson called the submission a "landmark report," and said school leaders were looking to hear good news out of this visit.

"We're hoping we get a really good result," she said.