DeKalb County school board members meet with accrediting agency

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Members of the DeKalb County Board of Education are meeting this week with the district’s accrediting agency as part of a planned progress monitoring effort to check on the board’s ability to work together, board Chair Vickie Turner said.

A spokeswoman for Cognia, the state’s largest accrediting body, said the visit is “business as usual.” But Turner explained the meetings were prompted at least in part by the superintendent turnover and facilities problems the district has dealt with since the spring.

Cognia evaluated the district in March and renewed its accreditation to 2027.

The review was mostly positive, but found that board members were “not working together collectively” to support the district’s mission.

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“It is incumbent upon every board member to set aside personal agendas and focus their efforts on governing together in the best interest of the school system,” the agency’s evaluation stated. “Change in behavior is ultimately the responsibility of each individual board member.”

In the weeks following the accreditation review, the board came under fire from state officials over poor facilities conditions at Druid Hills High School and for firing Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris in a split vote after less than two years on the job. These events, and an interest in meeting with interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley, drew Cognia back for another visit, Turner said.

“We knew at that time that they had some things they wanted us to look at,” Turner said about the spring evaluation. “Then I think in the flurry of all the things that have been going on in DeKalb since April, they felt it necessary to go on and schedule that visit to come back and just monitor the progress.”

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Board member Joyce Morley said the “check-in” is good for the district.

“It’s always good to have someone on the outside — especially someone who knows about education — checking in on us,” Morley said.

The conversations with board members have been about how they work together as a team, Turner said.

“I was proud to say I think we’ve made some good strides and some progress in the district overall, and steadied the ship, so to speak,” she said.