Ga. attorney general seeks changes from SACS

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens on Wednesday asked the head of the company that accredits public schools to provide more information on how investigations into troubled school systems are conducted.

Both Olens and Mark Elgart, who leads the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, agreed there are areas where the accrediting body can become more transparent.

Their meeting was the first since Olens said earlier this month he wants SACS to voluntarily release more information about school accreditation decisions.

“The reports often are vague, lacking information that the public would like, and he acknowledged that they need to make improvements in that regard,” Olens said. “They’re a private agency, but their work affects the public big time.”

SACS needs to improve its investigative processes now that a state law gives the governor authority to remove school board members when school districts are put on probation, said Elgart, the president and CEO of AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.

After SACS put the DeKalb County School District on probation, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended two-thirds of the elected school board and appointed replacements. SACS also has raised accreditation issues school systems in Atlanta and Clayton County in recent years.

“We’re constantly working to improve what we do every day,” Elgart said. “What are the records we release and in what fashion? We’ll discuss this and make a determination in how we can do that in a responsible way.”

Olens said he wants SACS to provide more details about how investigations are run and release more information about their findings. He declined to provide specifics about what changes he hopes for since discussions just began Wednesday.

“When you’re talking about children in schools, the public deserves not only additional transparency about SACS, but to know more about the discussions through the process,” Olens said. “There were no statements made today that provide discouragement to me.”

More openness is needed from SACS because its sanctions against school districts can result in students losing scholarship opportunities and property values declining, Olens said.

“There’s no disagreement that we have some areas to improve on,” Elgart said.