Cobb school board calls meeting to discuss Cognia, accreditation

The Cobb County School Board is gathering for a special meeting to discuss accreditation on Monday. (Christina Matacotta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

The Cobb County School Board is gathering for a special meeting to discuss accreditation on Monday. (Christina Matacotta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Cobb County School Board will convene a special meeting on Monday to discuss its accreditation by Cognia, the agency with the power to downgrade the status of the state’s second-largest school district.

Cognia told the board to change the way it conducts business last year after the agency received complaints from board members, teachers and residents. The agency conducted a special review that was released in November and included a list of directives for improvement for Cobb.

The board has yet to discuss the agency’s findings publicly. But Board Chair David Chastain told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that’s what Monday’s meeting will be about.

“It relates to the special review,” he said. “It’s for the superintendent to communicate information from Cognia to all of the board members at once.”

The special meeting was announced Friday morning, and will take place at 12:30 p.m. Monday. A notice from the district said the purpose of the meeting is “to discuss Cognia communication regarding accreditation status.” A more detailed agenda was not published by Friday afternoon.

The meeting will be open to the public and will be broadcast online. There is no public comment during special meetings, a district spokesperson told the AJC.

There has been no change to the district’s accreditation status, Cognia’s spokeswoman Mariama Tyler told the AJC on Friday.

The agency allowed the district to retain its accreditation status while addressing the recommendations it outlined in the special review. The district must schedule a progress review by December.

Cognia directed the board to adhere to its code of ethics, get an external expert’s assessment of its governance and use the findings to improve effectiveness and trust. It also told the board not to rush into making policy changes, and to use data to make decisions.

Board members Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre’” Hutchins published a Facebook Live video on Friday where they discussed not having any information about the special meeting. They learned from Chastain that Superintendent Chris Ragsdale was calling the meeting, they said, but no details about the topic.

“I remember being told it’s never good to be surprised at a board meeting,” Hutchins said. “Good policy and good board governance requires that we come ready and prepared.”

Howard agreed: “There’s no reason for us to walk into a surprise.”

Howard and Hutchins were two of the three Democratic board members who complained in a letter to Cognia that the four Republican board members were silencing them in meetings and ignoring their attempts to put items on agendas. That letter, as well as separate complaints about student inequities and spending, are what prompted Cognia’s review last year.

Although the board has not discussed the review publicly yet, the district has been in contact with another agency. Consultants from the Georgia Accrediting Commission visited each of the district’s high schools in February, said Phillip Murphy, the organization’s executive director.

Cognia accredits most of Georgia’s public school systems.