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Clayton schools earning district-wide accreditation

JONESBORO — After battling accreditation issues for the better part of a decade, Clayton County citizens heard from officials their school system “ranks among the best.”

Officials recommended Wednesday that the system receive its five-year system-wide accreditation.

School spokesman David Waller described the announcement as a hallmark for the system.

“This is a big deal,” said Waller. “Our students can compete with students anywhere in the world.”

Dr. James Brown led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools external review team during its visit this week to help determine if the system should receive accreditation.

Brown, a retired deputy superintendent from Gadsden County Schools in Quincy, Fla., said he was apprehensive before his visit.

“I heard that it was a failing school system and they had internal problems,” he said.

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Photo by Johnny Jackson Dr. James Brown led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools external review team that recommended Clayton County Public Schools be accredited system-wide.

Brown said his initial angst was based on perception and misunderstanding about the system. He said his perception changed when he and other team members spoke to people in the community.

The team conducted 881 interviews with 288 teachers, 209 students, 172 administrators, 168 parents and business partners, 36 support staff and eight school board members.

Brown reported passing marks from the SACS review team of education professionals.

The system scored highest on maintaining a well-managed and supportive learning environment. It scored lowest for its use of available hands-on digital technology in the classroom.

Brown recommended the district increase student interaction with technology and improve its progress monitoring and feedback methods.

“It is not indicative, and I repeat, it is not indicative, that you are not doing a good job,” said Brown. “We want to see you continue to make improvements. Believe you me that the Clayton County school district ranks among the best.”

Superintendent Luvenia Jackson agreed with Brown.

“There is still work to do,” said Jackson.

She said the system is working to make improvements in governance, instruction and academics. Its students, she said, are already academically on par with statewide averages.

“We’re right at the state level for our test scores,” she said. “We are not at the bottom of the list but we are not where we want to be.”

Board members Alieka Anderson and Jesse Goree were thrilled about the accreditation recommendation.

“I’m excited,” said Anderson. “I think everybody on this board has been working for the children. That’s what we’re here for.”

“This is the best,” added Goree. “We have district accreditation and we have set a new standard.”

Clayton County has waited five years to attain system-wide accreditation outright, said Waller.

The system lost its accreditation in 2008 over concerns about school board governance.

Although accreditation was restored in 2009, the system was placed on two years probation. It was placed on probation before — in 2003 — for similar board governance issues.

Waller said the system has been in the clear since 2011, operating under school-level accreditation.

Jackson said staff and faculty in the system have been working ever since to restore the faith of the community and SACS.

“I want to thank the staff and all of the board members for their support,” said Jackson. “We knew — we just knew — we believed we’d be celebrating.”

Jackson expects a final report later this spring.