The efforts of Cherokee legislators to realign the school board may be derailed by the accreditation agency that gives schools, including Cherokee, an important seal of approval.
Loss of accreditation could impede the ability of students from Cherokee to qualify for college scholarships, something that would not sit well with parents in this education-minded county.
House Bill 978 would realign the Cherokee county school board and effectively remove the elected school board chair and vice chair. Now, the school board has seven members elected county-wide who elect their chair and vice chair.
(You can read a condemnation of the legislators by Cherokee school chief here.)
I view this letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a rebuke of the lawmakers and a caution to leave well enough alone. We will have to see if the Cherokee delegation sees it the same way.
The letter was sent to Cherokee school board chair Mike Chapman.
February 27, 2012
This communication is in response to your inquiry regarding the proposed State of Georgia legislation that would restructure the voting districts and responsibilities for the Cherokee County Board of Education. There are several concerns regarding the proposed legislation. First, the election of the Board chair by registered voters in Cherokee County is highly irregular.
Normally the Board chair is elected by members of the Board. This is a normal and effective practice for a couple of reasons. The election of the chair is normally based on the individual’s experience as a board member, knowledge of the school system, ability to facilitate the work of the Board, and serve as a spokesperson for the Board, when required. Boards of Education take great care in making this decision. Such members are in the best position to select their leadership. The Board chair is the primary liaison between the Superintendent and the Board and plays a critical role in setting the context and tone for the school system.
Finally, the Board chair position is typically a one year appointment. If the community at large were to elect the Board chair it would struggle making an informed decision based on the above stated criteria. Also, such a decision would be for four years. If the decision is incorrect the school system and Board would have no recourse.
In such a case, the system could be irreparably harmed during this four year period. The school system’s ability to function could be significantly impacted including its capacity to meet accreditation requirements. I am uncertain as to the motivation behind the consideration of the proposed legislation.
However, the State of Georgia should not enact legislation that bypasses or usurps the local control of Boards of Education. There is no substitute for the impact that an effective Board of Education can have on the success of a school system.
Cherokee County Schools have enjoyed over a decade of success because of the strong and stable leadership of its governance leadership team which includes the Board of Education and Superintendent. Any legislation that would disrupt this successful track record would be unfortunate. If I can be of any further assistance please let me know.
Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D., President/CEO
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog