Clayton County strutted its stuff Saturday, celebrating its schools keeping full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and a restoration of community pride.
Teachers, district staff, school board members and local politicians kicked off a community celebration for several hundred residents with the “Electric Slide.”
But it was when the leaders got down with “The Wobble” hip-hop line dance -- to the complete astonishment of nearby students -- that it seemed Clayton could do just about anything.
“Just because we did not have accreditation for a minute doesn’t mean there aren’t people out here working hard for this community,” said Joy Laster, a 2011 North Clayton High grad headed to Clemson University in two weeks. “A lot of us out here are doing good things and going places in life.”
SACS yanked the school district’s accreditation in 2008, then restored it on a probationary basis in 2009.
After years of work by a new school board and staff, SACS returned full accreditation in May. But the hard work remains, leaders say, keeping the community unified and getting more parents involved so that unethical behavior by school officials and board members never returns.
“Accreditation was lost because of the governance of the school district,” said school board Chairwoman Pam Adamson, who was among a slate elected to fix the problems. “We have all worked together to straighten that out and focus on equipping our children for whatever they want to do after graduation.”
Despite three years of budget cuts, the district has not eliminated any programs for students. In fact, a new Junior ROTC program is being launched at one high school and plans are under way for forums to get more student input, Deputy Superintendent Stefanie Phillips said.
Brenda Burgos of Jonesboro brought her family to Saturday’s party at the Gerald Matthews Soccer Complex in Lovejoy to show her support of the district's improvements.
She drove 45 minutes each way last year to get her daughter, Thalia, into a middle school with an honors program.
Thalia, 14, will be heading to Mundy’s Mill High School when school starts on Aug. 8. A softball player, Thalia has plans for a college career playing fast-pitch and studying sports medicine.
But Burgos is not complacent. She also wants the best for her son Ezekiel, who turns 9 later this month and is a rising fourth-grader at Kemp Elementary.
“After the whole controversy, it’s important to have this [celebration],” said Burgos, an account manager at a chemical company. “But what I wanted for her, I want for him. We all have to keep it going.”
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