JONESBORO Clayton County Public Schools may be facing its third accreditation crisis in less than 10 years, as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is once again expressing concerns over the district’s governance, according to school board members.
Board members received a warning letter from SACS Tuesday, and the accrediting agency — which revoked the district’s accreditation in 2009 — listed concerns about the conduct of board members. The letter all but accuses board members of continuing the micromanagement that got the district in trouble with SACS four years ago.
“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,” SACS President Mark Elgart wrote in the letter.
The school system has until Jan. 15, 2013, to respond to SACS’ concerns before the accrediting agency decides whether to investigate the board’s actions. The school system was already scheduled to undergo a review for full district accreditation next spring.
Governance was the central reason why SACS revoked Clayton schools’ accreditation three years ago and it took nearly a year for the district to get it back. Once it got it back, it had to stay on probation for two years before SACS finally lifted the last remaining sanctions in May 2011.
Before that, the district was put on probation in 2003 over governance issues when the school board fired former Superintendent Dan Colwell.
Although the district’s last accreditation crisis ended last year, when SACS lifted the two-year probation that followed its nine-month loss of accreditation, Elgart’s letter to Superintendent Edmond Heatley reveals the district never really left the agency’s microscope.
School board Chairperson Pamela Adamson said she was not surprised, and pointed to repeated conflicts involving board member Jessie Goree as a likely cause for the new accreditation issues. Goree, who frequently battled Heatley at board meetings since 2009, has been censured and stripped of her voting rights as a board member because of her conflicts with the district’s administration, said Adamson.
Adamson said Gov. Nathan Deal should get involved, and consider removing Goree from office. Deal’s predecessor, Sonny Perdue, removed four Clayton school board members on the same day the district lost its accreditation in 2008.
“The majority of the people on this board are good people who work for the children of this county,” said Adamson. “We just need some help.”