A report released by the accrediting body last week announced the district’s status dropped from “accredited on advisement” to “probation” through the end of 2013 as a result of a special review team visit in October.
“Essentially, first and foremost, they found the system was operating with ineffective governance,” said Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED. “The Board of Education is not carrying out its role and responsibilities in an effective manner that is meeting our standards.”
The team reported fighting and division among the board, intimidation and other negative behavior, and board members not adhering to their roles and not operating as a collective body.
Elgart said the district’s financial issues were another main reason for the probation status.
“There are a lot of questions around financial management,” he said. “Currently the system is in deficit with no real plan or ability to improve that situation.”
The special review team also found there to be insufficient levels of technology and problems surrounding the district’s system of hiring staff.
AdvancED laid out a set of required actions the district must follow. A monitoring team will visit DeKalb no later than May 31 to check on progress. Another visit will take place prior to the end of the year to fully evaluate the school system.
“It’s important that we take all steps necessary to ensure that we are in compliance with SACS/AdvancED standards and procedures, and we will work very hard in the coming year to restore the district to full accreditation,” said DeKalb County Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. “In the meantime, I’d like to assure parents and the public that our accreditation is not at risk.”
Elgart said the district has a long road ahead. At the end of the year, AdvancED will decide whether DeKalb will become fully accredited, stay on probation or lose accreditation. He said even if the district goes back to being fully accredited, the accrediting body will continue to monitor DeKalb for two to three years.
He added it is rare for school systems on probation to lose accreditation. More than 90 percent of school systems take the actions necessary to address issues, he explained.
A monitoring team from AdvancED will visit the school district twice next year before re-assessing the accreditation status.