The Clayton County school district lost its accreditation four years ago and is still struggling to recover from the damage that accompanied that. Clayton has since regained the approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), but a letter the agency sent to the school board about infighting and micromanaging sounded alarms for the district and the community. The district must respond to the letter in writing by Jan. 15. To try to head off any potential problems, Clayton County interim schools chief Luvenia Jackson met last week with Mark Elgart, the head of SACS, the agency that grants accreditation to Georgia public schools. Jackson said Monday the district accreditation is not in jeopardy. Here are excerpts from the superintendent’s conversation Monday with reporter Tammy Joyner.
Q. What was the gist of the meeting?
A. We just asked for a meeting to clarify some points he made in the letter. We (also) wanted to make him aware the board had every intention of conducting a national search (for a new superintendent) or using a firm to help in that process.
Q. Why do you think the letter caused so much consternation?
A. It was misinterpretation by the public.When you look at their accreditation process and different levels of accreditation, there’s no letter of concern in that process. It was a letter to say ‘Look at what you’re doing because we don’t want you to be on any status except fully accredited.’ It did not put us on any probation or take away our current status. We’re fully accredited.
Q. How did the meeting go?
A. I felt better. The meeting helped clarify what he wanted us to focus on. In addition to using experts for the (superintendent) search, it was about the governance behavior. He thought interaction between board members should improve. Then there was concern about outside influences having impact on some board members. (SACS feels) any agency that would interfere with the policies of the board or the day-to-day operation of the district or superintendent should be limited.
Q. You’ve been on the job now about two months. What is your take on the board?
A. The board has shown improvement in their interaction with each other and with the employees. Therefore, the monitoring process that SACS does has a positive affect on the district. We’re focused in the right direction as to the direction of the board and with each other, making sure they’re looking at their policies, particularly their ethics policies, and not the day-to-day operation of the school district and that the lines of authority are not blurred.