Accountability

Ga. District’s Fiasco Prompting Reforms

By Linda Jacobson — January 21, 2009 1 min read
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Dismayed by a school district’s loss of accreditation because of its former school board’s behavior, business leaders, educators, and other experts across Georgia have worked for months to craft recommendations for avoiding such disasters in the future.

With the legislative session now under way, some of their proposals, such as mandating training for board members and requiring ethics and conflict-of-interest policies for school boards, could become law.

Last September, the 50,000-student Clayton County district, south of Atlanta, became the first in the nation in almost 40 years to lose accreditation after misdeeds by the nine-member board. The district, with a completely new board, is working to earn back accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools before a one-year deadline expires. (“Loss of Accreditation Rocks Georgia District,” Sept. 3, 2008.)

Meanwhile, the five-member board for the 4,000-student Haralson County district, in the northwest part of Georgia, is accused of similar misgovernance, such as not following a chain of command and interfering with district business that is out of the realm of board members’ responsibility.

Phil Jacobs, a co-chairman of the Commission for School Board Excellence, which was created by the state board of education, said several other districts’ accreditation could also be at risk.

Mr. Jacobs said his commission’s work could serve as a model for other states.

“This wasn’t about trying to fix Clayton,” said Mr. Jacobs, the retired president of AT&T Georgia, formerly BellSouth.

Mark Elgart, the president of Advanced, the parent organization of SACS, said in a press release that the measures proposed by the commission “will position Georgia as a model state for school governance.”

AdvancED, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education—a business-led group—organized the commission, along with the state school board.

Other recommendations include a call for nonpartisan board elections and a provision that when boards are unable to govern themselves, the state board of education be allowed to intervene.

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A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Education Week

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