SACS: Too powerful? Too petty? Or is its heavy hand needed?

The AJC has posted the long piece on SACS that many posters read yesterday in the print newspaper and urged me to open for discussion on the blog. I wanted to wait until it was online so I could provide a link.

Written by AJC reporter Heather Vogell, the story on AdvancEd and its president and CEO Mark Elgart addresses mounting criticisms that the accrediting agency has overstepped its bounds and arbitrarily focuses on petty governance squabbles among school boards while ignoring more serious academic lapses in districts.

My own question is whether SACS is assuming the role that voters should assume — monitors, critics and watchdogs of the people they elect to run their schools. In the Clayton County of a few years back, voters elected a poor slate of school board members. SACS essentially did what voters should have done and rousted the bunch from office.

So, in some senses, SACS saves voters from the bad decisions they make in choosing the boards that manages their schools and their school taxes. If  a similar governing board existed for the General Assembly, I bet there would be sessions where legislators would be put on probation or even lose accreditation. But there is no private monitoring agency hammer to come down on erring lawmakers, so voters have to live with their choices.

According to the story: (This is only an excerpt. Please try to read the full piece.)

AdvancED, run by hard-charging President and CEO Mark Elgart, has since 2006 built a brand that boasts it drives quality education for 27,000 schools and 16 million students in 69 countries.

But with a seemingly magnetic attraction to discord, AdvancED is rapidly accumulating critics who say the agency has no place meddling in the politics of elected school boards. Accreditation, they complain, has become a weapon wielded by powerful interests — such as the business lobby — when they don’t get their way. And AdvancED stands to benefit.

“They’re enjoying the notoriety this is giving them,” said Sam Wilkinson, a school board member in Burke County, N.C., whose district is set to lose accreditation in June. “In their eyes, it’s made them seem important again.”

Georgia is ground zero for accreditation trouble: Six of the eight districts that AdvancED has put on probation nationwide are here.

Like some of the districts it polices, AdvancED itself appears to be at a crossroads.

It took in more than $21 million during each of the past two fiscal years, records show. It moved into a spacious new building — a sleek, modern glass castle with high ceilings and ample seminar rooms — in an Alpharetta office park.

But tax records show the agency was more than a half-million dollars in the red in the 2009 fiscal year, with assets that declined by about $3 million. It carries $9.5 million in debt for the new facility.

AdvancED and SACS are facing legislative challenges, too. While Georgia passed a law last year elevating the importance of accreditation, North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar public universities from considering SACS credentials for admissions or scholarships and make the state the primary accreditor, instead.

The story also looks at Elgart’s role in the disputes on the APS board, disputes that some people contend are simply the messy price of democracy and should not be treated as dysfunctions requiring SACS intervention.

In October, the new chairman, Khaatim Sherrer El, asked SACS to mediate. But Elgart’s role quickly escalated from peacemaker to judge.

E-mails obtained by the AJC show Elgart drafted a memo on Oct. 23, signing Burks’ and El’s names, proposing the district consider hiring AdvancED for “mediation and professional support services.” The memo said El would step down and Burks would regain the chair.

That plan, it said, “will remove the concerns of the State of Georgia and SACS regarding the state charter.” The memo, Elgart told El and Burks, should be sent to the entire board. It never was. El did not step aside.

Elgart now says El agreed to the moves during a phone call but changed his mind. However, records show El sent Elgart an e-mail after the call and before the memo, rejecting the idea of restoring Burks.

Two days after drafting the memo that went nowhere, Elgart sent a formal letter to Hall and Burks, whom he called the board’s “chairperson,” warning that the district’s accreditation was at risk because of failures to meet the AdvancED standard on governance and leadership. Three months later, despite a judge’s ruling that El’s chairmanship was legitimate, SACS issued a scathing report castigating the board for infighting. It said some members’ actions “eroded public trust.” SACS put the district on probation.

“The charges in the SACS report are vague,” Fort said. “They wanted to tell board members how to vote, which I think is beyond the pale.”

In Wake County, N.C., AdvancED’s heavy hand almost cost it a client. Last year, the NAACP complained to SACS about the school board’s move to dismantle a long-standing student assignment plan that sought to achieve socioeconomic balance in schools. A new board majority advocated the change. AdvancED threatened to downgrade the district’s accreditation. But the board didn’t back down.“A school board cannot be required to cede its statutory authority over student assignment as part of an accreditation review,” board lawyer Ann Majestic wrote to AdvancED.

The board considered dropping AdvancED accreditation altogether, but didn’t, and in March, the organization put Wake on “warned” status — a step from probation. Elgart said recently the primary problem has been the board majority “ignoring” data that showed the current student assignment system was successful.

The disputes involving SACS, AdvancED and Elgart in North Carolina have been unpleasant enough that state representatives introduced a bill March that could undercut the organization. The proposal would bar public colleges and universities from using information related to high school accreditation to determine admissions, loans or scholarships except when the state does the accrediting.

The bill would also make the state responsible for developing a rigorous accreditation program for public schools.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled board

105 comments Add your comment

gamom

April 10th, 2011
12:17 pm

I don’t think its too powerful or too petty. districts have to answer to SOMEBODY

RE: SACS

April 10th, 2011
12:29 pm

What I don’t like is that the students and teachers suffer loss of accreditation because of dysfunctional school board member. Take CCPS. Those school board members are long gone into oblivion, but the system is STILL feeling the affects.

chillywilly

April 10th, 2011
12:29 pm

I think SACS is an outlaw organization lead by the state’s No. 1 Outlaw, Mark Elgart. I’ve always suspected that SACS was in bed with the Chamber of Commerce. This report confirms my suspicion. SACS, Chamber of Commerce and that Step Up Tea Party crowd are a bunch of hypocrites in my opinion. Khatim El, STAND YOUR GROUND against these irrelevant, strolling pushing, dog walking, cup cake baking hypocrites.

Ernest

April 10th, 2011
12:37 pm

I agree with RE: SACS. It seems the long term impact of the CCPS decision was to ‘punish’ the community for the decisions they made with respect to Board members. Everything that I understood about that situation was that teachers were doing their jobs in the schools, in fact perhaps shielded the students from the actions of that Board.

How do you find the balance between necessary oversight with respect to board governance and classroom instruction?

2 cents

April 10th, 2011
1:04 pm

lol, they have to answer to “SOMEBODY”; that is the reason school boards are elected; the public in the district choose; i would love it to go one step further and also elect the super.

catlady

April 10th, 2011
1:35 pm

The role of SACS should be to monitor if the indicators of quality are there, such as library materials, written procedures, etc. It should NEVER be allowed to insinuate itself between the board members and those they represent–those who elected them. This means if the board members act like 4 year olds, it is up to the voters to get them out of office, not up to SACS. It means if there are disagreements on the board, SACS should BUTT OUT.

What if, in our history, we silenced disagreements? Would the US even be a nation? If there were only unanimous votes allowed for laws, or elections, or Supreme Court rulings? This is, in effect, what SACS has moved toward. It is an illegal usurpation of power!

In a local case, a board member strongly disagreed with policy and plans set by the supt and rubber stamped by the other board members. S/he made every effort to register the disagreement. One of the board members complained to SACS, and SACS swooped in like an avenging angel and threatened the accreditation of the system. The board member ultimately resigned, and SACS gave the benediction. NOW, as it turns out, the board member’s concerns have come to fruition; the things s/he warned about have come true and the system is in dire financial straits. In this instance, SACS should not have had any part in this “problem”–if the voters had been dissatisfied, they could have voted out or even recalled this member. If we had heeded the warnings s/he tried to make public, the system and its employees would not be nearly the pickle they are in now! SACS should NEVER inject itself into local governance, stifle debate, and nullify the power of the voters! No private group should be allowed to do that!

The sooner Georgia gets out from under the thumb of SACS, and says, “Thanks, but no thanks,” the better off we will be. As in any power situation, the quest for more power erodes the democratic process. Time to give this “entity” its walking papers. If it wants to go into politics, let it file the appropriate papers, undergo the appropriate financial scrutiny, and be subject to the same oversight as other political groups (such that it is.)

RE: SACS

April 10th, 2011
1:38 pm

I agree with you, catlady!

Nikole

April 10th, 2011
1:58 pm

I think I’ll start my own accrediting agency…..

East Cobb Parent

April 10th, 2011
1:59 pm

I agree with Catlady. I think we have given SACS too much power, SACS should not have the authority to dictate how the board should vote or which vote should stick. Think Cobb County, SACS didn’t care when a 4-3 vote approved a balanced calendar, but a 4-3 vote to revert to a more traditional and SACS is all ears. I personally spoke to Mark Elgart when Cobb was discussing the Standards Based Report Cards. Elgart supported SBRC, SBG, never giving 0’s and a balanced calendar.

Greg

April 10th, 2011
2:09 pm

The state has abducated it’t authority to a private entity. One of the many problems with this is that no one, save the AJC, monitors the behavior of SACS. So what if everything the critics says about SACS and Elgart is true? There is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It would seem that Dr. Elgart is a prime example of this adage.

Voters don’t just need to change the school boards, they need to change the legislature and Governors who want to pass the buck on education to a hired gun.

intownparent

April 10th, 2011
2:18 pm

Most voters are too stupid to elect a decent school board… so someone occasionally needs to step in an get a hold of the situation. If only there was a SACS for Congress and the President.

Extremes make me scream...

April 10th, 2011
2:37 pm

Where were your sentiments about SACS when Clayton County was going through its ordeal? Many of you believed some how the “all knowing SACS” knew better than the citizens in Clayton County or that somehow the children and the citizens of Clayton brought this on themselves.

SACS did not remove the last four idiots from the school board. A group of concerned citizens filed a lawsuit charging malfeasance on the infamous 4 remaining board members. When a judged agreed the school board members were not doing their jobs and detroying the school system, the judge deliberated that the 4 board members were garbage (my words not the judge)!!! Then and only then Sonny Purdue was able to remove them. You see, it still boiled down to the citizens taking a stand.

teacher&mom

April 10th, 2011
2:38 pm

SACS is only as powerful as we allow them to be. The power of Advanced Ed/SACS has shifted. It is now based on fear and intimidation…similar to a school yard bully. Do it our way or else….

North Carolina has the right idea. Drop SACS like a lead balloon. Walk away from the bully. There is more than one way to accreditation. Who says it has to be through SACS?

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
2:44 pm

http://www.theteachersadvocate.com/id137.html

The above article is the first entry that comes up nearly every time that you Google “Mark Elgart.” It is an article that I wrote about him three years ago yesterday (when the AJC’s article came out in the Early Edition). This “April 9, 2008″ article was not by any means my first salvo against Mark Elgart and SACS. Mr. Norreese Haynes and I have been constantly criticizing Mark Elgart and SACS for over three years now. Again, just Google my name juxtaposed to Mark Elgart’s name, and you will see how long my constant drum beat has been against the hypocritical Mark Elgart and the phony SACS money-making organization. You can doubt me if you wish, but Norreese and I were the only lone wolves howling in the desert on this one for the first few years. Catlady has too been harping against SACS in more recent times and calling upon the AJC to investigate this boondoggle called “SACS accreditation.” By the way, Elgart’s been causing a real mess in other places outside of Georgia too. Check out the two storms brewing in North Carolina — Wake County and Burke County, I believe.

The Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS). This new organization of mine will grant “SACS Accreditation.” Lest anyone tries to jump on this bandwagon, I am announcing its existence now on this copyrighted blog! Ha! So, if any of you superintendents and headmasters are tired of Mark Elgart and his mess, just contact me and my new organization, the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS), and we can do “business.”

I remember when some people scoffed at the notion that I could start a new teachers’ union. They’re not laughing anymore, are they? My new organization will be putting together an illustrious board composed of people with hundreds of cumulative years of educational experience. (By the way, Catlady, would you like to be a member of the board?) I will be the CEO, and I guarantee you that I know more about education, have more experience in dealing with schools, and have far better credentials than Mark Elgart. You folks know that I am a straight-shooter and treat all folks fairly. No hidden agendum or agenda. I probably won’t even throw around these do-gooder phrases like “quality,” “excellence,” “togetherness,” etc. I will not expect school boards to sit around and hold hands, singing “Kum Ba Ya.” If board members want to slug it out when fighting over policies and practices (yes, practices!), then great! They were elected by their fellow citizens to do such. And, if their fellow citizens don’t like what they are doing, then they can vote them off the school board. This is how democracy works, and the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS) will respect this. School board members arguing and disagreeing in public will not affect its SACS Accreditation, but will only serve as an example to the school children of democracy in action.

Let me stop for now. I’m just too excited to type right now! Ideas of bubbling all in my cerebral area! Website design, brochures, marketing blitz, etc. I have so many things to do right now! Spread the word! John Trotter has formed another accrediting organization, the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS)! (c) John Rhodes Alston Trotter, EdD, JD, April 10, 2011.

catlady

April 10th, 2011
2:46 pm

Did I read somewhere that Maryland is moving to cap SACS’ power?

teacher&mom

April 10th, 2011
2:54 pm

@intownparent: We need to be careful about our willingness to let someone step in an remove duly elected officials…even the ones we don’t like or agree with. Once you open that door, you can’t close it.

I’m reminded of the book “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. Throughout the book is the idea of complicity. The author describes the Ayatollah as a philosopher-king who, “did to us what we allowed him to do”.

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
2:55 pm

Catlady: Tell Maryland to contact the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS), my new organization. We can do business with Maryland and give them SACS Accreditation!

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
2:59 pm

@ teacher&mom: Are you suggesting that Mark Elgart is acting like The Ayatollah of Accreditation? My SACS will be much more respectful of the democratic process. I guarantee it! I love the rough and tumble of spirited political debates!

catlady

April 10th, 2011
3:08 pm

Dr. T: You are having WAAYY too much fun with this!

East Cobb Parent

April 10th, 2011
3:11 pm

Dr. John Trotter – I googled Markie a few weeks back and hit that article

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
3:18 pm

@ Catlady: You know me. You know how I am. I always have loved a good fight. One Deputy Superintendent with whom I have always gotten along (no, I am not talking about former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jim Williams of DeKalb but I did always get along with him too — and still talk with him occasionally like I do with the one I am talking about now) used to say about me: “John, these other guys just don’t know how to deal with you. You see, I realized a long time ago that you are like a pig — you love fighting in the mud!” He pretty much summed it up. I love a good political battle. Heck, we can’t duel anymore, right?! I guess it’s just in my DNA.

afadjato

April 10th, 2011
3:23 pm

Yes that agency needs to trimmed to size. They cannot put the lives and future of children on their plates and tass it around. I am waiting for some young person to challenge their authority in court. It needs to be broken down to its pieces. Now colleges do not care about its students, all they care now is to satisfy SACS who are so picky on every minute thing. Now they are even telling people how they should teach. I do not think they should even exist.

catlady

April 10th, 2011
3:25 pm

Ms. Downey, can you have someone fix the banner on this page: “Share our Strength’s” by the Aquarium? That typo hurts!

dougmo2

April 10th, 2011
3:32 pm

Dr. John,

Wasn’t Norreese removed from the Clayton County BOE because he was shacking up in Cobb County? BTW you have a MAJOR conflict of intrests when you are a member or representitive of a teachers union and a school board member.

APS Parent #2

April 10th, 2011
3:52 pm

The Georgia Department of Education, headed by an elected official (just like the state itself (via the Governor); the city (via the Mayor)), sets the state’s curriculum standards, mandatory tests, and other rules and regulations directly related to public education in Georgia. In addition to setting the standards for learning in the state, the GDOE also reports the testing results (such as for the EOCT, graduation tests, SAT, ACT, CRCT, etc.) by school, district and statewide (even disaggregating the data somewhat). All public school systems in Georgia must file annual reports with their data. That data provided the AJC reporters with their first insight into the story of the CRCT erasures that stopped all 9 board members from their rubber-stamping parade.

If the state prescribes the standards, houses and analyzes the data, then why isn’t the GDOE the one who runs quality control too? Well, they do provide quality control when I think about it because the GDOE deteremined that the CRCT erasure investigation that Butler-Burks, Dr. Hall, the Chamber and the Atlanta Education Fund spearheaded was insufficient.

SACS does not accrediate APS middle or elementary schools which is where the CRCTs are given. But where was SACS when the AJC and others started questioning the accuracy of other APS high school data such as the graduation rate? The graduation rate is linked to education. What about how well the APS students perform broken down by race and socio-economic factors throughout the city and now within the small schools forced upon the high schools by Dr. Hall and Bill Gates?

I’ve read the SACS report several times. Those who live on the north side love it because it gives them cause to StandUp and say the CRCT doesn’t matter. Those on the south side who care about the long and short-term effects on cheating cringe at it because it throws under the bus (and runs over repeatedly) the five board members who finally stood up to the rubber stamp and are trying to ask Dr. Hall and her staff the real questions about whether the system is doing all that it can to educate the children of APS.

Anyone who operates a budget in the red would surely welcome the extra fees, free dinners to the Capitol City Club or Piedmont Driving Club, etc, that the wealthy Atlanta business community might provide if things were crafted a certain way. I’m not making any accusations, but just noting that SACS’ focus does not seem to be on the educational side of the equation (which would be all about the quality or lack thereof of education in APS) but on the political side of the equation (the duly elected officials). In politics, most deals are made in the backroom before they hit the boardroom and the SACS report looks strange skipping from November 2009 to June 2009 with NO mention of the mess Butler-Burks and her cronies were making of APS and the board of education during those months.

As long as the Georgia constitution requires local boards of education to be elected, then SACS needs to keep its focus on the educational side of the equation. The legislation that should be rushing through the final days tomorrow should not be giving the Governor power to remove one school system’s board members, but to rearrange the power grid between the GDOE and SACS.

BTW – Mr. Elgart, where did your kids attend school if you have any?

, Visit their website – there is a ton of material there.

Oversight on public education should not be solely left in the hands of a non-profit which earns money from fees, services, etc.

Atlanta Education, Politics and Business

April 10th, 2011
4:01 pm

SACS is the instigator when it comes to playing Russian roulette with accrediation. If SACS only “cause” for putting APS on probation is a divided board vote, then that is not “cause” to hold the high schoolers in APS hostage.

The StepUp parents and the parents filing ethics complaints against the 5 are also playing Russian roulette with the accrediation. When the gun goes off, I just hope that the children can duck out of the way of SACS, the business community, the StepUps and moral crusaders.

This is just about politics and who can control the job factory d/b/a APS @ 130 Trinity and/or the data which the business community can market to attract businesses to the city. Too bad when those businesses relocate here, they’ll have to apply their children to private schools to receive a real education.

Liz Smith

April 10th, 2011
4:07 pm

I think SAC’s is ineffective and will forever be until they make unscheduled visits. Schools and their staff waste too much time planning, meeting, and making strategies to be able to check off some item on the SAC’s list which might be performed just the one time in expectation of or before a visit by SAC. Teachers could better spend this time teaching. Local officials’ feet should be held to the fire in checking the academic performance or like there of in schools. They are the ones who should lead in the efforts to put strategies in place to correct any deficiency and determine if these goals have been met. I guess the principal should be a very capable person, well learned in the field of education: research, teaching, leadership and supervision. This would exclude many of the athletic coaches who later go on to become principals.
As far as cheating on tests is concerned, I would wager that 85% of the schools in Georgia (both black and white) do so with the knowledge of the principal and certain key staff members and teachers.
If one could find a way to make parents more responsible and supportive of their children’s education, I think that every rank or rating needed to become a good school with students of excellence would improve.

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:16 pm

Nope, Norreese Haynes was removed from the school board because he was stepping on too many toes! The Georgia Secretary of State issued two reports after extensive investigations (very extensive with many interviews) stating that there was no evidence that Norreese Haynes was living outside his school board district. But, did this matter to Eldrin Bell and Ericka Davis…when they conspired (we have evidence of this) to remove Norreese from the school board? No. Just placed three armed police officers on the podium and escorted him off the board. I had lunch that day with Norreese and told him: “You know, Norreese, I think that they are going to actually force you off the school board tonight.” He was ready with the Statutory Code opened to the section that states clearly that you can have many residents but only one domicile, and that simply having a residence where you were attending a college or a university did NOT cause you to give up your legal residence (domicile). How many elected officials have several residents? I have known many elected officials who have had several residences. No, the thuggish school board Chairperson, Ericka Davis, conspired with Eldrin Bell to have Norreese Haynes illegally removed from office (via some cockamamie residence investigation that she unilaterally called upon Bell to conduct — and his police officers didn’t even go to the correct residence where Norreese was living in Conley), and the State Code actually says “nothing” shall ever prevent any elected official whom others are trying to remove from office from receiving “judicial determination.” But, of course, this “black letter law” had never met Judge Deborah Benefield of Clayton County. Judge Benefield refused to hear the case. She, in my opinion, is one very biased judge who pays a lot of attention to the prevailing political winds, and I presume that the General Assembly did not anticipate such an activist and political judge. That’s how I feel about the matter. What say ye?

As an aside: One former Clayton County State Representative whispered to me: “John, I heard some people talking. Norreese was just stepping on two many toes and talking too much. He had to be shut up.” Richard Belcher had interviewed Norreese two nights on WSB-TV 2 about the notorious land deal in Riverdale. Norreese was raising all kind of heck about the total waste of taxpayers’ monies on this boondoggle — overpaid a few million…sort of like the situation in Gwinnett County. In fact, Norreese turned down an interview from Bill O’Reilly on national television as well as three or four local TV stations on the same day. But, he kept saying that he wasn’t through looking into the land deal (signed not by the superintendent but by Ericka Davis). He was also raising heck about the switcheroo with the attorney’s contract which the school board never approved but was apparently changed alone by the same Ericka Davis. You see why Ericka must have wanted Norreese off the school board? Her clumsy attempts to co-opt Norreese did not work. By the way, it was Eldrin Bell’s big political supporter, John D. Stephens of Gwinnett County, who was selling that sorry piece of land to the Clayton County School System.

One more aside: Shortly after Norreese Haynes was illegally removed from the school board, Ericka Davis and the other seven remaining school board members either resigned under duress or were shamefully removed from the school board by the Governor. It looks to me that Ericka’s determination to get rid of Norreese backfired, heh? Ha!

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:20 pm

Maureen, my recent response to Dougmo2 about Ericka Davis’s and Eldrin Bell’s moves to remove Norreese Haynes from the school board did not post. I am still waiting for one of my posts a couple of days ago on Mark Elgart and SACS to post. What’s wrong with the Filter Monster?

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:22 pm

Nope, Norreese Haynes was removed from the school board because he was stepping on too many toes! The Georgia Secretary of State issued two reports after extensive investigations (very extensive with many interviews) stating that there was no evidence that Norreese Haynes was living outside his school board district. But, did this matter to Eldrin Bell and Ericka Davis…when they conspired (we have evidence of this) to remove Norreese from the school board? No. Just placed three armed police officers on the podium and escorted him off the board. I had lunch that day with Norreese and told him: “You know, Norreese, I think that they are going to actually force you off the school board tonight.” He was ready with the Statutory Code opened to the section that states clearly that you can have many residents but only one domicile, and that simply having a residence where you were attending a college or a university did NOT cause you to give up your legal residence (domicile). How many elected officials have several residents? I have known many elected officials who have had several residences. No, the thuggish school board Chairperson, Ericka Davis, conspired with Eldrin Bell to have Norreese Haynes illegally removed from office (via some ridiculous residence investigation that she unilaterally called upon Bell to conduct — and his police officers didn’t even go to the correct residence where Norreese was living in Conley), and the State Code actually says “nothing” shall ever prevent any elected official whom others are trying to remove from office from receiving “judicial determination.” But, of course, this “black letter law” had never met Judge Deborah Benefield of Clayton County. Judge Benefield refused to hear the case. She, in my opinion, is one very biased judge who pays a lot of attention to the prevailing political winds, and I presume that the General Assembly did not anticipate such an activist and political judge. That’s how I feel about the matter. What say ye?

As an aside: One former Clayton County State Representative whispered to me: “John, I heard some people talking. Norreese was just stepping on two many toes and talking too much. He had to be shut up.” Richard Belcher had interviewed Norreese two nights on WSB-TV 2 about the notorious land deal in Riverdale. Norreese was raising all kind of heck about the total waste of taxpayers’ monies on this boondoggle — overpaid a few million…sort of like the situation in Gwinnett County. In fact, Norreese turned down an interview from Bill O’Reilly on national television as well as three or four local TV stations on the same day. But, he kept saying that he wasn’t through looking into the land deal (signed not by the superintendent but by Ericka Davis). He was also raising heck about the switcheroo with the attorney’s contract which the school board never approved but was apparently changed alone by the same Ericka Davis. You see why Ericka must have wanted Norreese off the school board? Her clumsy attempts to co-opt Norreese did not work. By the way, it was Eldrin Bell’s big political supporter, John D. Stephens of Gwinnett County, who was selling that sorry piece of land to the Clayton County School System.

One more aside: Shortly after Norreese Haynes was illegally removed from the school board, Ericka Davis and the other seven remaining school board members either resigned under duress or were shamefully removed from the school board by the Governor. It looks to me that Ericka’s determination to get rid of Norreese backfired, heh? Ha!

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:24 pm

Maureen, I figured out what innocent word that was causing the filter to stop it. Filters aren’t perfect, heh? Thanks!

dumbfounded

April 10th, 2011
4:26 pm

SACS would have never gotten involved had the public voted for good, smart, professional board members. Come on, people, YOU are the guilty ones. You voted in two people who have never even had a job before, and one is running our entire school system. And that’s Mark Elgart’s fault? PLEASE!

Vote smart next time and we won’t have SACS to worry about. Nor will we have to take money away from our kids to pay for board mediators, board policy experts, ethics committees, nor outside attorneys.

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:34 pm

@ dumbfounded: Why don’t you cast your vote and not worry how others cast their votes? Maybe if Beverly Hall gives your spouse’s company or firm a contract, then he or she can get the Mayor to invite you to lunch at the Piedmont Driving Club. I’ll keep on eating at The Busy Bee. Ha!

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:42 pm

How did Mark Elgart’s leadership at SACS manage to get SACS in such debt…with $22,000,000.00 per year coming in the door? Damn! What I could do at MACE with $22,000,000.00 per year coming in! Maybe that’s what everyone’s afraid of! Ha! We started MACE without two wooden nickels to rub together, don’t use payroll deduction (because we promise our members confidential membership, and we don’t want the school systems to have any leverage over us), have never accept a penny of grant or government money, pay taxes to the local, state, and federal governments, and kick ass and take names! I knew that if we built MACE, the teachers would come! Only in America!

Macon

April 10th, 2011
4:46 pm

Tomorrow the state representatives will be voting to on HB 79…which is an amendment to HB 89 that will allow the Gov, et al. to replace the Atlanta School Board and to change the composition of the Dekalb School Board…which are the desires of Mark Elghart/SACS/AdvancED/Chamber. Representatives Ed Lindsey and Kathy Ashe are proposing this bill. Sunday’s AJC article on SACS certainly under-scores the problem when outside interests mix with local school board issues. Please allow the voters, school board members and employees of Atlanta Public Schools resolve its internal issues. I believe that the involvement of outside interest have resulted in the problems we now face.
Trotter…OMG you were right…I am now a believer
Maureen …thanks for posting this blog…but I am still concerned about your perspective and censorship

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
4:50 pm

Please forgive the typo: “…have never accepted [not accept] a penny of grant or government money…” Come to think of it…that’s all the money that SACS gets — government money! Sounds to me like it is political blackmail. That’s why I am glad that I started my new organization, the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS). We may not charge a thing for our SACS Accreditation. But, from looking at the AJC’s expose, it sure looks like a great business opportunity! I don’t know…we might have to charge some fees…especially for the visits. Well, maybe a pretty hefty fee to initially become SACS Accredited. Let me think about is, OK? Yes…the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools (SACS).

catlady

April 10th, 2011
4:54 pm

Liz, I am not sure SACS CARES if you are doing what you tell them you are. When we were up for re-eval, we had done only 2 1/2 items of the 9 on our list from the first accreditation review. They didn’t even ask to see what we had done! I figured since there was no buy-in at the system level (on the things we had said we would do to improve) that there was no way we would be re-accredited, but I can only guess that those fees each school pays must have been more important than following our improvement plan.

Filter Monster is On!

April 10th, 2011
4:59 pm

I think the Sunday AJC article further under-scores those issues:
Elghart/Chamber’s involvement in drafting and pushing this HB 89
Nearly, all the future Blue Ribbon Council, pictured applauding Governor Perdue signing bill…including Gary Price future Chair of BRC–in 2009
Elghart actions are for profit at the expense of our students…pay AdvancEd to mediate and put Butler-Burkes back as chair and your SACS and Georgia Department of Ed problems will go away…this alone should get the man fired.
6 of 8 of systems under probation are in GA…over 6,000 systems contract with AdvancED
If this vendor (SACS/AdvancED) is not working for our state…let’s buy something different…considering their financial records it would appear they are in no position to advise organizations on best practices.
There needs to be an immediate investigation into the AJC report to see to what extent Elgahrt actions are ethical and legal. At best HB 79 needs to be tabled until we have the answers to these and many other questions.

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
5:14 pm

Catlady, you and I both know that accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a joke. I served on several its Five Year Evaluation Committees years ago. Everything is ten thousand miles wide (in coverage) but not even an millimeter deep in depth. It is a joke, truly a joke. But, this organization (not my Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools) is about money, pure and simple. It is a self-perpetuating organization that needs to be fed. Heck, they have to have a hefty amount to come in the doors to cover Mark Elgart’s salary! Now they don’t seem to want to offend the money folk. In fact, they appear to be a pawn of the folk with money. Hey, if we can’t beat the people at the polls, let’s just call Mark Elgart and Kasim Reed (or is that Reid?). Ain’t that why we put them in their positions? Ha!

Lenny

April 10th, 2011
5:40 pm

I agree completely with the consensus that SACS is now a joke. I had a lot of respect for them at one time when they actually went out and checked to see if schools were indeed doing what they reported they were doing. There is a woeful lack of checks and balances and it’s too easy for schools to submit reports full of embellishments and false statements. If SACS were doing what they were supposed to be doing a lot more schools would be sanctioned because they fall short of standards, especially in media centers which have not received “adequate” (SACS used to love that word, maybe they still do) funding during the Purdue years from the state for resources and staffing. If they aren’t going to visit the schools and make sure they are accountable it’s just a big waste of time.

Attentive Parent

April 10th, 2011
5:42 pm

An accrediting agency for schools should not also be a vendor of additional goods and services. It creates the appearance of a conflict that if a school board does not buy those services, its accreditation is at risk.

In addition AdvancEd Board members also sell expensive services to school districts.

Looks more like a shakedown operation without any supervision.

Let’s all remember that it is our tax money being paid to AdvanceEd.

Monopolies awarded by government to a preferred private vendor. Crony capitalism in its most pure form.

seen it all

April 10th, 2011
5:46 pm

Odd,

No one (including the AJC) had a problem when SACS was going after Clayton County, Dekalb County, and Atlanta Public Schools for supposedly problems with their respective schools boards. Why the articles, discussion, and questions about AdvancED and SACS now?

Could it be that it is because SACS is targeting Cobb County Schools now?

What’s the difference? Could it be that down in Clayton County, Dekalb, and Atlanta the donuts are chocolate iced and up in Cobb County the donuts are vanilla creme? A donut is a donut. If you don’t like donuts don’t go to bakery. But don’t say it OK to criticize chocolate donuts for being sweet when the the vanilla ones are just as sweet (or even sweeter).

Atlanta Education, Politics and Business

April 10th, 2011
5:46 pm

@ dumbfounded. You are right. Those who voted for the Dr. Hall Rubber Stamping Gang should have themselves asked a few questions. After all, a truly FUNCTIONING

Atlanta Education, Politics and Business

April 10th, 2011
5:55 pm

Sorry, I hit the wrong button, so I’ll pick up with the last sentence:

After all,a truly FUNCTIONING board of education understands that their responsibility is more than the rubber stamp. They must ask critical questions of the superintendent and her staff. They are not the system’s apologists when things don’t work. It is better to admit something didn’t work so that you can fix it. If you hide it, nothing can be corrected or accomplished except running from the truth.

I’d have more respect for SACS’ efforts into board politics if they had inserted themselves into the process between the months of November 2009 and June 2010. That was when the board was not doing its job and was dysfunctional.

Next election cycle, if our rights are voters have not been stolen, I hope we’ll all pick those candidates who do NOT have the support of EduPac and the Chamber of Commerce.

After all, the Atlanta Board of Education is about education. The Chamber of Commerce can handle business matters out of the Mayor’s office.

Gary McC

April 10th, 2011
6:03 pm

SACS is an outlaw organization that need to be controlled in the manner that North Carolina is currently proposing. Education is a State issue and should be controlled by State governing bodies not the SACS gestapo.

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
6:11 pm

The Mark Egart-led SACS (not to be confused by the Southern Accrediting Commission for Schools) is functioning as if it is indeed a government-protected monopoly fed with taxpayers’ monies. The state legislators ought to be ashamed that they gave Mark Elgart & Gang such unfettered power. If they vote to continue to dilute the democratic process, let’s just vote them out of office! Ask each candidate: What is your position on Mark Elgart?

Dr. John Trotter

April 10th, 2011
6:18 pm

I am sure that Mark Elgart has wished many a time that he had never heard of Clayton County and John Trotter…or was suckered into Clayton by Ericka Davis’s siren call. Mark, doesn’t the saying go like this…Fools rush in where angels fear to tread?

APS Parent # 2

April 10th, 2011
6:21 pm

@seen it all. My position on SACS hasn’t changed at all except to get more outraged as the APS process unfolds.

Amazing how SACS has issues with ALL of the large metro-Atlanta public schools. Too much to be a coincidence?

Or have the Stepford wives north of I-20 cooked up a plot in Junior League meetings where there’ll be a last minute amendment from the floor that gives the Governor power to remove all 9 ABE members and also puts a voucher in the hands of these weathly and very entitled families?!

Those with the most education and resources have the political power and connections to best work the system to their advantage all the while minimizing real world problems on the southside of town. That is nothing new either.

Attentive Parent

April 10th, 2011
6:25 pm

APS-

I suspect that SACS wants veto power over all those new supers.

Wouldn’t want someone who did not see themselves as a social change agent.

They might try to emphasize academics or other outdated concepts.

Atlanta Education, Politics and Business

April 10th, 2011
6:26 pm

SACS is a non-profit. Outside of a few tax regulations, SACS and its board get to set their own standards and course of action. SACS and Mr. Elgert really are answerable to none.

If a school runs into trouble with SACS, then more red flags are raised if you don’t keep them as your accrediting agency than if you switch to one of their competitors. Speaking of which, do they have any competitors or did the AJC article mention that they’d gobbled up their competition?