News: DeKalb School District improves its accreditation status. Moves closer to full restoration.

The DeKalb County School District moves closer to full accreditation after an upgrade today from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

I have raised concerns in the past about the criteria with which SACS judges the soundness of a school system, putting a lot of emphasis on congenial and cooperative school boards and less on how well schools perform, especially when compared to peer schools in other districts.

The improved accreditation status from SACS comes at a time when some parents have lost confidence in DeKalb. In Druid Hills, some are campaigning to leave DeKalb Schools and join Atlanta, a system that has had its own share of troubles.

The SACS report focuses on areas yet to be reformed, and most fall under the purview of the school board rather than the administration. The agency wants the board to change policy about members meeting with and requesting information from senior staff without going through the superintendent. (That is code the board is still meddling and circumventing the superintendent.)

SACS also raps the board for its failure to move on the critical issue of finding a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

Here is the official statement from DeKalb:

It's a happier day in DeKalb Schools as the district moves closer to full accreditation. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

It’s a happier day for DeKalb Schools with the district moving closer to full accreditation. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The DeKalb County School District’s accreditation status has been upgraded from “Accredited Warned” to “Accredited on Advisement,” one notch from unconditional accreditation.

“The Board of Education, principals, teachers, and staff working with parents and community leaders have made great strides in meeting the needs of our students,” said Michael Thurmond, superintendent of the DeKalb County School District. “SACS recognizes the progress we are making toward stabilizing the District in a manner that allows us to refocus our efforts on academic achievement.”

The decision to elevate the District’s accreditation status was based on a three-day visit in December 2014. The SACS report recognized the “concerted effort and focused work of the Board, Superintendent Thurmond, system staff and personnel at all levels to stabilize the system and create a culture of trust and transparency.”

SACS also acknowledged the District’s considerable fiscal progress, noting a budget surplus of $31 million for Fiscal Year 2014 and for operating in a “financially responsible and transparent manner.”

In addition, the District “has developed and systematically implemented a comprehensive technology plan,” according to the report. The launch of the Infinite Campus student information system was described as a success.

The report concluded with an observation that the district is at a “crossroads” and faces two “major transitions” — the search for a new superintendent and transition to a seven member board. The report challenges the board to “leverage the progress” that has been made in the past two years to resolve these challenges.

SACS directed the district to address 14 required actions in order to approve its accreditation status. Eleven action items have been completed. The most significant remaining action item requires the Board of Education to revise Policy BAB to “eliminate all references to Board members meeting with, and requesting information from Senior Staff” without prior notification and approval by the Superintendent.

The report documents that the Board is undergoing a “culture shift”; however, there is no written policy that specifically prohibits board members from “circumventing the Superintendent” in the daily operations of the district.

“The board is committed to creating an environment that ensures trust and transparency between the district and its stakeholders,” said Melvin Johnson, chairman of the DeKalb Board of Education. “We will resolve these remaining issues in order to restore full and unconditional accreditation to our district.”

Reader Comments 0

13 comments
Frstrtd_DeKalb_Parent
Frstrtd_DeKalb_Parent

How about the board also work on not attacking other members at board meetings and the chair acting appropriately if that happens, not just saying "Thank You" after a minute long rant by one board against another?  That's what happened at the February board meeting.


The last thing the district needs is hostility within the board when they must work together to select a new qualified superintendent.  This decision will make or break the district so they must get it right.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Frstrtd_DeKalb_Parent  - Were they Not hand Picked by the TYRANT Governor who Voided Hundreds of Thousands of Votes to Put his own People in place to make things Better? One would think after such a claim the DCCS school Board would be above such squabbling pettiness. In Fact, by Now Full Accreditation should have been restored by NOW! We have the GREAT Stan Jester aboard so things should be perfect now. Sumpin tells me, it ain't ALL Roses and Ice Cream still. uh..huh.

dekalbteacher
dekalbteacher

FredinDekalb,


You call it "nitpicking," while others call it necessary oversight. On February 6, we learned that Dekalb has to pay back Title 1 funds because it can't prove that it used the funds for the intended purpose. At Monday's board meeting, the superintendent will request a waiver because he and the people he has put or allowed to stay in charge still can't figure out how to spend at least 65% of the district's operating funds on students. 


Can you please explain why the super is citing "financial hardships" if property values are rebounding, and things are obviously as good as the excerpts from the SACS report suggest?


You call it "meddling," but others would call it good decision-making.


How does one have confidence when the same people running human resources,  the legal department,  and curriculum and instruction are the same ones in charge under Atkinson and/or Lewis?  Please explain how any organization with Dekalb's problems and/or budget was able to turn things around when leaving so many people in the same upper-level positions?

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

I am not surprised that this good news for DeKalb Schools is met with the same *nitpicking* from the same characters.  The financial problems were clearly attributed to the Great Recession.  All school districts had to tighten their budgetary belts because of it.  The rebounding property values impacted the bottom line more than any decisions made.


If school board members are still meddling and circumventing the superintendent, it is only to appease certain citizens looking for smoking guns.  Is Stan Jester getting paid yet or has he submitted to an FBI background check?

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FredinDeKalb  - So not reaching stated and promised Goals is NITPICKING? If there were MORE NITPICKING of Mikey's Leadership and lackluster accomplishments SACS would be saying DCCS  is NOW FULLY Accredited instead of the "Almost There" rating reported here. Mikey has had more than enough Time to reach and complete the summary stated goals as provided. However , Mikey's attention seems to have been diverted to one particular school and its operation VS the welfare of the ENTIRE School System and ALL of its STUDENTS.

3RsMom
3RsMom

@Bernie31: Go Bernie, go!

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

The SACS rating is based upon their last in-person inspection, which they conducted on Dec. 8 and 9, 2014.  SACS was supposed to have announced their decision by the end of January, but instead, SACS was a month late.


There's a story there, Maureen.

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

While SACS may say that Dekalb County School System (DCSS) is “Accredited on Advisement", the tragic truth is that a child in South Dekalb spends her *ENTIRE* school career (K-12) in failing schools.


I say that because only two Dekalb County School System (DCSS) Region 5 schools have College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores above 60.... and those two schools are just barely about 60: Cedar Grove HS has a 61.6 while Columbia MS has a 62.0.


Here’s the CCRPIs for all DCSS Region 5 [South Dekalb] schools:


Cedar Grove HS 61.6

Cedar Grove MS 54.3

Cedar Grove ES 57.5

Oak View ES 51.0


Columbia HS 55.8

Columbia MS 62

Columbia ES 49.1

Snapfinger ES 55.7

Toney ES 47.5


McNair HS 43.9

McNair MS 45.5

Clifton ES 46.2

Flat Shoals ES 49.5

Kelley Lake ES 55.4

Meadowview ES 52.9

McNair ES Dis. Ac. 42.2


Towers HS 55.8

Bethune MS 53.5

Canby Lane ES 47.4

Knollwood ES 53.8

Midway ES 47.4

Rowland ES 52.8


living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Glad they're making progress, although the local school board governance model is still part of the systemic problems with public education. I am in the process of reading a new book written about 21st century governance, titled, "A Democratic Constitution for Public Education."


It troubles me that the board is still "meddling" and going around the Superintendent.   I couldn't work with a board like that. 

Kaytee
Kaytee

I have no comment yet about Michael Thurmond.  However, there's a lot of cover up and "sweeping under the rug" of poor decision making by the Principal and other  assigned Administration at Chapel Hill Middle School.  I have called to complain to Administration at the DeKalb County Board of Education numerous times(to include Mr. Thurmond's office) and still have yet to receive a resolution.  I will keep pressing until the wrong is made right!

Bernie31
Bernie31

Ole Mikey ,still did not provide the written Detailed action Plan as promised everywhere Mikey spoke before becoming School SUPER.. Mikey did show DCCS a summary many months later than the much promised delivery date.  Many of those listed were Ideas, but nothing else. If any of those summary issues (IDEAS) were Fully addressed. DCCS would be much farther along in Academic Goals and Accreditation Goals as Well. What happened Mikey? You were Paid the Salary with Benefits. A Salary, YOU requested and demanded in Writing via contract. Mikey, You stated You were the MAN to DO all of these things.

Mikey,Your weren't blowing smoke up our Skirts were you?  Or were YOU?