SACS schooling in Clayton County’s future

Ministers, CSU planning accreditation info forum

— Clayton County ministers and education leaders will explain the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ new concerns about the county’s board of education to residents next month at Clayton State University.

“The purpose of the informational session is to clear up misinformation, rumors, and concerns regarding our school system and accreditation,” said Rev. Mike Glanton, president of the Clayton County Ministers’ Conference, in a written statement.

The Clayton County Ministers’ Conference, Association of Christian Ministers of Clayton County, Forest Park Ministers Association and Clayton State University are partnering to host a SACS information forum at the university Dec. 3. The event, which is open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the university’s Student Activities Center.

Parents, teachers, community and business leaders are expected to learn why Clayton County Public Schools’ accrediting agency is concerned about the behavior of board members during the meeting.

The event will provide residents with a rare opportunity to find out about the concerns straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. That is because it is expected to include a presentation from Mark Elgart, president of SACS’ parent organization, AdvancEd.

The forum was organized after news broke that SACS had concerns about board governance issues. Those issues came to light when a letter Elgart wrote to school system officials surfaced in September.

It represents the third time SACS has expressed concerns about board governance in Clayton County schools in the last decade.

“The current Board of Education continues to operate with much conflict between and among board members, as well as individual board members launching attacks on the school system and its personnel,” Elgart wrote in his Sept. 24 letter to then-Superintendent Edmond Heatley.

The district must address SACS’ concerns before the agency sends a review team to the school system for a regularly-scheduled evaluation next spring.

The last time the accrediting body expressed concerns about Clayton County schools — in 2008 — it took the extraordinary step of revoking the district’s accreditation. It was the first time in 40 years the agency had taken such a drastic step to punish a school system.

But, it wasn’t the first time the district had been in trouble. Five years before that, SACS put the district on probation for two years, because board members were allegedly micromanaging the school system. That situation played a part in how the agency dealt with the school system four years ago.

However, the accreditation loss didn’t last long. It was restored nine months later — albeit on a two-year probationary basis — in May 2009. The probation was lifted last year.

Elgart has said the situation in Clayton County schools isn’t to the point where another loss of accreditation is imminent. However, he has also said it is a possibility if politics are not excised from the school system.