DeKalb Schools on Probation
SACS finds plenty for taxpayers and parents to be concerned about after investigation.
SACS, which said it could eventually strip DeKalb County School District of its accreditation, made the move following a lengthy investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Among SACS' key findings:
- Money that was not accounted for or missing
- Board nepotism and intervention on which schools athletes attended
- Failure to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to DeKalb County taxpayers by keeping tabs on the district's money
Some students don't have textbooks and most aren't using the Internet or have computers, the AJC reported. That's in spite of the fact that the district — which includes McNair High and Meadowview Elementary schools in Gresham Park — collects nearly $1 billion a year from DeKalb taxpayers.
School board Chairman Eugene P. Walker told the newspaper that while he takes the SACS action seriously, he doesn't fear that Gov. Nathan Deal will remove the board, which the state now has the authority to do.
He told the newspaper the district will work hard to be removed from probation.
The district will have until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with the Special Review Team’s Required Actions and subsequently must complete those by Dec. 31, 2013. The requirments are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
"There is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” Dr. Mark Elgart of SACS said in a statement Monday. "This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system."
Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson has co-operated with SACS investigators and says more than 300 central office jobs have been eliminated. "We not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought," said Atkinson.
The DeKalb probation continues a troubling pattern that has dogged metro Atlanta school systems and board oversight.
In recent years, Clayton County Public Schools and the Atlanta Public Schools have both run afoul of SACS reviews.