Cobb school district to undergo special review by accrediting agency

The accrediting agency for the Cobb County Schools will conduct a special review of system’s governing practices, according to the district.

Cognia Accreditation Services will carry out its investigation at the request of the school board’s Democratic members: Charisse Davis, Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre” Hutchins.

According to a letter written to Cognia in January, the three members say they have sent written requests to the entire board and superintendent requesting to add discussions about early literacy rates, support for employees and board training to meeting agendas.

The members say they did not receive a response to their letter and the requested topics were not added to the following meeting agenda, which they say violates Cognia’s standards for school boards.

“The … silencing of board members who would like to not only talk about positives, but also publicly address challenges, continues,” the members wrote.

The Cobb County School District said Thursday it was notified by Cognia in February of the complaints, which center on the board of education’s governing practices. The district in late March sent a 10-page response to the complaints. Cognia also received similar complaints from community members and organizations, the district said.

Mariama Tyler, a spokeswoman with Cognia, declined to specify how many complaints from the community it received, but said they were numerous. The special review is a fact-finding investigation triggered by the complaints, and no timeline has been established on when it will start, Tyler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It’s really about where the evidence takes us,” she said.

Parties involved with the review will have the chance to go over the information collected from the investigation. The district will bear any costs associated with the review, Tyler said.

Cognia’s spokeswoman said findings from the review could affect the district’s accreditation status, which Cobb schools said was extended through 2024. Institutions accredited by Cognia can be classified as either accredited, accredited under review or accredited under conditions. Cobb schools’ status remains accredited, Tyler said.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, quoted in a district news release, said the review is “unusual” since Cognia extended the district’s accreditation a little more than a year ago. He said the district will cooperate with Cognia’s review, and is confident that the organization that will find that the district is complying with its standards.

“While the district’s record speaks for itself, we know there is always room for growth in all areas, including effective board governance and interactions,” he said. “The district is committed to continuous improvement in meeting our obligations under Cognia, state law, and board policy.