The AJC is reporting that the DeKalb school board is again being asked by an accrediting agency to respond to complaints of mismanagement.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said it’s received dozens of complaints from a broad spectrum of people in DeKalb. Parents, public officials and school staffers have alleged everything from financial mismanagement to undue influence in hiring — all while the school system faces a financial crisis.
“The allegation is they’re getting involved in areas that aren’t their responsibility, and then in the areas that are their responsibility, they’re not being effective,” said Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.
In a letter received by school officials Wednesday, SACS said there is “significant concern” about whether DeKalb is meeting “at least” two of five accreditation standards. SACS gave DeKalb 30 days to respond, and will then investigate and issue a report.
“I don’t see where we violated any policy,” school board chairman Eugene Walker said. He said he wants to consult the 9-member school board before issuing any detailed response. He also said he needed more details than provided in the 3-page letter.
“They need to show some evidence of these things,” Walker said.
The allegations are from about 50 people over the past year, Elgart said. SACS also has its own concerns. For instance, Elgart said, state audits over the past five years show the board spent 10 times more than it budgeted for day-to-day legal expenses — costs that were easily anticipated. “One of the problems is the board has two law firms on retainer because they couldn’t agree on one,” Elgart said. “It is highly irregular for a school system to have two law firms doing the work of one.”
Elgart said it’s unusual for SACS to send a letter like this. It does so each year with perhaps 1 percent of the school systems in the 38 states where it operates, he said.
A frustrated parent sent me this note upon reading about this development:
So, SACs sends a letter with the latest concerns and the system gets 30 days to answer the letter. If the answers aren’t satisfactory, a special review team will be sent to visit the system.
For the past several years, SACs/Advanced Ed has had concerns about the DeKalb County School System. They have sent teams to interview educators, bureaucrats, parents and others. As recently as last spring, SACs/Advanced Ed had teams here. Our Board of Education has been trained repeatedly by Mark Elgart, president of Advanced Ed, and others from his organization.
Nothing changes. Not only has our board not improved, but this administration seems reluctant to answer questions from the general public or board members. Our classrooms are bursting at the seams, our teachers have some of the lowest salaries in metro Atlanta, some high schools will be limited to less than a half a roll of toilet paper per student a month, textbooks were not repaired over the summer and no new ones were ordered, etc, etc.
This is a system on the verge of collapse as far as I can tell.
Additionally, other systems have been placed on probation or seen their accreditation pulled for reasons far more minor than the situation in DeKalb. Across the region, colleges and universities with financial issues have been placed on probation until their economics improve.
Given that DeKalb was already on SACS’ radar screen, why in the world does the clock start over? DeKalb County Schools are responsible for educating over 95,000 students. At what point will Elgart take the issues facing this system seriously?
Why so many “second” chances?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog