Clayton County school board chair: Today marks culmination of long road to making schools better

Dr. Pam Adamson, chair of the Clayton County Board of Education, expects SACS to deliver a key report to the district this afternoon. (Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com)

Dr. Pam Adamson, chair of the Clayton County Board of Education, expects SACS to deliver a key report to the district this afternoon. (Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com)

Dr. Pam Adamson, chair of the Clayton County Board of Education, wrote this piece in anticipation of this week’s visit by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The SACS accreditation team has been in Clayton since Monday.

By Pam Adamson

Clayton County Schools has had a tumultuous history with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its parent organization, AdvancED, for many years starting in the early 2000s. After years of warnings and failed opportunities to comply with its standards, SACS withdrew accreditation from Clayton County schools in August of 2008.

The district had become a swinging door of instability with regular staff turnover, including leadership at the highest levels. The Board of Education was in a state of turmoil at that time, with some board members having resigned, some having lost re-elections bids, and others dismissed by then Gov. Sonny Perdue.

In January of 2009, an entirely new board vowed to regain accreditation. The work began immediately, and accreditation was restored in May of 2009, but on a probationary status. The district and board faced two years of probation and four special reviews at six month intervals during that time.

Again, the district and board worked to remove the probationary status and gain full accreditation. After the district satisfied all nine mandates and four recommendations and successfully hosted the four special reviews, SACS restored full accreditation in June of 2011.

I wish I could report that accomplishing the restoration of accreditation was an easy task, but that is not true. The board and district were faced with distractions, distrust, and daunting challenges, both internally and externally. But through the process, our board and district office became stronger and focused on the education of children. The Clayton community began to believe again that we had quality schools and that we could accomplish anything that we attempted together. The healing process had begun.

All Clayton County Public Schools individually have been fully accredited for many years. During the two-year probationary period, every Clayton County school was required to conduct a self-assessment and host an external review to confirm that accreditation. All of our schools were successful in their attempts to maintain accreditation for a five-year period. They are all scheduled to go through the routine SACS accreditation renewal process in 2015 or 2016.

In 2011, the school system and board made a commitment to achieve district accreditation from SACS. This relatively new opportunity allows districts to apply for accreditation for all of its schools rather than each school going through the process individually. District accreditation requires a united effort from all schools and district departments.

It measures the efficacy of educational opportunities for all of our children and operational effectiveness throughout the district. It determines whether we, as a district, have common goals and a consistent mission supported by a strategic improvement plan compiled by representatives from all stakeholder groups. It confirms that the district as a whole is in compliance with the five SACS Standards.

The effort to gain district accreditation is not a reaction to a SACS mandate or challenge, but is rather a voluntary attempt on the part of the district to make a statement that together we are working toward excellence.

The external review for district accreditation was scheduled for Monday through today. In September of 2012, the district received a letter of concern from Mark Elgart, President and Chief Executive Officer of AdvancEd, which cited specific factors that he wanted us to address prior to hosting our external review team in April. The district responded to Dr. Elgart’s concerns in January of 2013 and received his positive and supportive response soon thereafter.

Our efforts to gain district accreditation have reached a climax today. For the past three days, the district has hosted the external review team that will make a recommendation regarding whether we gain district accreditation. This team has reviewed artifacts that confirm who we are, interviewed a variety of stakeholders, visited schools, observed classrooms, and gotten to know Clayton County Schools.

The team’s exit report will be given to stakeholders this afternoon. It will cite identified areas of strength as well as actions that are required for us to work toward excellence. The report will also make an accreditation recommendation.

Let’s stand together, Clayton County, as our school system strives to attain this prestigious accomplishment. We have come a long way and are within reach of one of our ultimate goals – district accreditation.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

32 comments Add your comment

AnnieAD

April 17th, 2013
5:58 am

Good luck, Clayton County. For the next Superintendent, please consider Dr. Wanda Creel who is currently in Barrrow County. She is a native of Clayton County and cares about the people.

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
6:49 am

Who ever came up with the bright idea of making these “school board” rooms like a court room where the “school board” people sit on an elevated box literally looking down at the other people in the room?

George

April 17th, 2013
7:43 am

Why should we believe anything Ms. Adamson says as she was the major cheerleader for Heatly??

Centrist

April 17th, 2013
8:09 am

I sincerely hope that Clayton County has sufficiently fixed enough of their past education related failures, and is on a path of further improvement.

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
8:14 am

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
8:30 am

Reading the link about education in Finland makes me feel sane and whole. My experience with US K12 teaching makes me feel insane and fragmented. Maybe if Clayton County implemented one thing from the list of ten from Finland, they would be ahead. The simplest is recess and outdoor time. The next is looking at the environment directly around them, like the Finnish science teacher who studies the forest next to the school. Good luck to Clayton County, although is seems an uphill battle when outside forces are scripting your every move. I’ve sure had enough of it. I can not work in that type environment and I can not treat young people in that manner, keeping them indoors on a testing regime.

Don't Tread

April 17th, 2013
9:18 am

It’s all fine and dandy until the next cheating scandal blows up in their faces.

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
9:44 am

3:34 break for the arts? 18 year old music producer Madeon from Nantes has 432k followers on Soundcloud. http://soundcloud.com/madeon/madeon-icarus I don’t think he was over-tested. May have spent some time outdoors while at school. May have received gift of software while at school (they were doing this a decade ago). PS Arne Duncan, Go jump in a lake and take your exploitation investment creeps with you! ! ! ! !

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
10:03 am

This is interesting. Looks like an act of standards-rebellion, subversion. Go to the last page of the .pdf file. Someone put an image in upside down and L/R reversed. http://www.northshore.k12.ny.us/BoardofEducation/PresentationstoBOE/Arts%20Action%20Plan.pdf

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
10:05 am

This is an incredible find, pure gold, imbedded in a “standards” document. Here is the image turned around: http://postimg.org/image/fe9ws9pkj/

Pride and Joy

April 17th, 2013
10:26 am

Nice words from Pam Adamson and we can hope for the best best; yet, we will wait to see what actions Clayton takes and wait for the results before we say “Mission Accomplished.”

Mountain Man

April 17th, 2013
11:20 am

“Maybe if Clayton County implemented one thing from the list of ten from Finland, they would be ahead.”

Like the part about classifying students at age 16 as either on college track or on vocational track (like we used to do).

Pride and Joy

April 17th, 2013
11:53 am

Outstandng point “Who ever came up with the bright idea of making these “school board” rooms like a court room where the “school board” people sit on an elevated box literally looking down at the other people in the room?”
I agree.
Elevated platforms are for judges only.
Putting BOEs on a literal pedestal is insulting to citizens.

OriginalProf

April 17th, 2013
12:32 pm

It’s a lot easier for a large audience to see the officiating body if that body is sitting at a table somewhat higher than the audience.

mountain man

April 17th, 2013
12:49 pm

Thank you Original Prof, for explaining what should be obvious to any sentient being.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
1:37 pm

@Mountain man & Original Prof Agreed on the elevation, but what do you think about pharmacists? That, I can’t comprehend. Just give me my pills. There has to be some history.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
1:41 pm

Ahh, Finland. If we only lived there. As Monty Python sang “Finland, Finland, Finland, The country where I quite want to be,Your mountains so lofty,Your treetops so tall, Finland, Finland, Finland, Finland has it all.”

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
1:41 pm

It’s true though, these BOE “sets” look like courtrooms. It’s like “authority theater.” PS If you want the audience to see, you elevate the audience.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
2:06 pm

@Private Citizen “PS If you want the audience to see, you elevate the audience.” I’ll have to say “touche” on that. Been working in the theatre for a few years if my Greek history serves me.

OK, back on pharmacists, you seem like someone who would know the story behind that.

Beverly Fraud

April 17th, 2013
2:24 pm

A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

ClayCo school district was, is, and will continue to be one of the charter members of The Four Horsemen of the Incompetence.

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
2:27 pm

OK, back on pharmacists

1. Am guessing this an “Americanism?” Not in Switzerland. http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/video/index.cfm?id=1521
2. Guessing this may be a part of corporate franchise design concept.
3. The only reason to elevate a floor is for cooling system for heat generating computer servers.
4. Pharmacists are short?
5. Imagine being 6.5′ tall and stranding on the elevated floor.
6. Basically, US pharmaco is extremely lucrative and I am guessing this is what can be called “authority architecture” or “authority interior design” just like the BOE “courtroom” design.
7. I think we’re on to something and there is a good dissertation in it. If form follows function, what is the function of a pharmacy? -To being in the money. What is the function of a BOE? To administer authority.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
2:50 pm

@PC Perhaps, but I remember this going back decades, with a small hometown place with a soda fountain. And still see it now. But I do remember a place named “Midget Grocery” in my hometown with elevated platform behind the counter, and the husband & wife owners were. . . well rather short in stature. Mountain Man, remember that? This would have been on South Dixie Hwy. not far from the Caldwell Carpet Company, that was spelled with “Ks” instead of “Cs.” No lie.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
2:55 pm

Back on topic, if SACS restores Clayton’s accreditation (aside from any debate on the merits of SACS’s role in the process) they can officially look to DeKalb & officially declare “we suck less.”

Not much more.

Private Citizen

April 17th, 2013
3:04 pm

I think it is “on topic” though and every time I see one of those elevated board rooms with the dark wood and maroon chairs, it looks like “court formula.” It creeps me out, combined with the general stasis and authority thing going on with “education.” I think county commissioners have a similar “hearing room.” Sometimes they put the elevated part if an arc. If I recall correctly, in the state DOE videos, they do not have any of that elevated platform/counter. I think it is solid material for comparative research and I’m glad that you brought it up.

Mountain Man

April 17th, 2013
3:53 pm

Chamblee Dad – don’t remember the Midget Grocery. Do you remember Manly Jail Works (became Manly Steel)? My dad worked there until his retirement. After he retired, he still got holiday baskets of food. Even after he died, the Manly reps would bring my mother holiday baskets. That was a great company to work for.

Brasstown

April 17th, 2013
3:57 pm

Also, have you noticed some Pharm are going to a lab coat instead of the smock? Wonder what the pros and cons are to that idea?
I was also wondering if a topic has completely played out, is it ok to go off script in that ssenario?

Mountain Man

April 17th, 2013
4:20 pm

“10 things that set Finland apart from the rest of the world in education”

Hey, Maureen, you may have already done this, but why don’t you do a point by point comparison of Georgia vs. Finland. Such things as:

# of days per year teaching.
# of hours per day
average # of students per classroom
Average poverty percentage
average percentage of minorities
average pay of starting teachers
average pay of 20-year teachers
required education level of teachers
# of discipline problems experienced
cost per student and breakdown
SPED costs (can’t get that even for Georgia)

Thanks

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
4:35 pm

@Mountain Man the Manly son was a groomsman in my youngest brother’s wedding! Won’t name him but he’d be about 40 now. Great family,almost annoying to be around, so nice, made you feel bad! Manly – great Dalton family name.

When I was in Charleston a year ago, took a tour of the old jail, they pointed the jailworks by Manly by name, including a cart used to carry bodies of dead to the bay. It was a jail “ghost tour.”

Small world.

Chamblee Dad

April 17th, 2013
4:41 pm

@Brasstown Going off-topic – perhaps it speaks to the mindset of frequent posters that a discussion of a metro school system as notorious as Clayton – sadly, it’s almost not news anymore. Trust me, as a DeKalb parent I’m paying attention, but still, it sometimes just bleeds together.

But I did just learn more about Mountain Man, to me it helps to have even a somewhat accurate idea of someone you are otherwise anonymously exchanging thoughts.

Beverly Fraud

April 17th, 2013
5:16 pm

The best news, according to Mark Elgart, if they get accreditation they’ll be guaranteed of getting a quality education. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen Mark Elgart; catch his act at your local BOE meeting. And please, don’t forget to take care of your waitress.

Old timer

April 17th, 2013
5:47 pm

Look at CRCT scores….look at graduation rates, attendance rates…teacher language….How can they continue to be accredited? They are failing at there mission.

Pride and Joy

April 17th, 2013
6:02 pm

Old Timer asks a good question. With all that is still wrong with Clayton Schools, how can they literally be accredited?
I think it is because SACS and other accrediting agencies don’t go far enough. They don’t examine enough of what is really important such as quality of teaching and test scores.
We need a real accrediting agency, one which is thorough, accountable and honest.