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SACS Revisits DeKalb Schools This Week

A decision on the district’s probation status could be made public by the end of January 2014.

On Dec. 17, 2012, SACS placed the district on Accredited Probation status, pending the resolution by the district of eleven ‘required actions’ by the end of this month. Courtesy DeKalb County School System
On Dec. 17, 2012, SACS placed the district on Accredited Probation status, pending the resolution by the district of eleven ‘required actions’ by the end of this month. Courtesy DeKalb County School System
DeKalb County School District Superintendent Michael Thurmond and the school board will go back before a monitoring team from AdvancED, the parent company of accreditation agency the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS), beginning Monday with hopes that the district can soon be removed from the probation it was placed on this time last year.

On Dec. 17, 2012, SACS placed the district on Accredited Probation status, pending the resolution by the district of eleven ‘required actions’ by the end of this month.

“I’m confident that our administration and school board have met and exceeded all 11 action items,’’ School Board Vice Chair James McMahan told Patch. “I would hope that the SACS’ review team would take all the hard work we’ve done the last nine, 10 months and remove us from probation.”

The probe marked the second such since 2010 for the district by the regional oversight agency for area schools. The investigation was sparked by an acrimonious budget process that got parents and district observers complaining about the district's finances.

Last December, SACS said the district had until the end of May 2013 to make progress in complying with the Special Review Team’s required actions and subsequently must have those completed by Dec. 31, 2013.

The requirements were:

1. Devise and implement a written, comprehensive plan for unifying the DeKalb County Board of Education so that the focus can become serving the needs of the children of the DeKalb County School District.

2. Ensure that all actions and decisions of the DeKalb County Board of Education are reflective of the collective Board and consistent with approved policies and procedures and all applicable laws, regulations and standards, rather than individual board members acting independently and undermining the authority of the Superintendent to lead and manage day-to-day operations.

3. Establish and implement policies and procedures that ensure segregation of duties of the governing board and that of the administration including the elimination of Board working committees that result in board members assuming administrative functions that should be the responsibility of appropriate staff.

4. Implement and adhere to fiscally responsible policies and practices that ensure the DeKalb County Board of Education will adopt and ensure proper implementation of budgets within the financial means of the school system and that support the delivery of an educational program that meets the needs of the students.

In May, SACS returned for a three-day review in DeKalb and issued a report of its findings two months later. The report showed that all 11 required actions of the school district were "in progress," and that the district had made "recognizable progress."

But in addition, the report noted that, "The overall progress of the district in addressing the required actions is still evolving and significant work remains to be accomplished."

Thurmond, who was named interim superintendent in February, and then had the “interim” dropped from his title and his contract extended in October, said in a statement two months ago that, “Any objective analysis would conclude that we have made noteworthy and significant progress and much work remains to be done.”

AdvancED President and CEO Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D. said in a statement about the mid-year review: “The district has implemented a plan that will improve operational efficiency throughout DeKalb County School District and continue to rebuild trust with internal and external stakeholders.”

The AdvanceED monitoring team is also expected to meet with principals, teachers, administrators, and more this week. A decision on the district’s probation status could be made public by the end of January 2014.

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