SACS ADVANCED PART TWO

Let’s look further at the SACS AdvancED Special Visit Report. Specifically, I’d like to tackle the issue of the Coralwood shuttle.  I’ve reviewed my emails on this subject and it’s clear to me that SACS must have missed something.  Let me set the stage:  After previously giving parents a route number and time to meet their bus, the district sent an email to parents at 6pm the night before school began, alerting them to the cancellation of their bus service from this location.  The parents began inquiring about why this was done. They were eventually told they could pay for a shuttle service from their location and were given a host of different prices.  Or, they could meet their route at the Henderson MS pick-up point.  They requested that the administration reconsider originating the bus from the Coralwood location. They never received a response from the chain of command.

I specifically asked for the Superintendent to look into the matter.  I was clear this was an administrative decision and, while she didn’t need to agree with my thoughts, she should give the parents an answer.  Here’s the email where I asked her to do just that:

From:
Regular UserDON McCHESNEY
Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:15 PM -0400
Subject: Coralwood shuttle
To:
Regular UserCheryl L.H. Atkinson
Cc:
 

Dr. Atkinson,
 
I would ask that you please give the Coralwood shuttle people some kind of  answer. You already know that I think our actions have not dealt with them  fairly. My request is simple. Please give them an answer in a timely  fashion. This has gone on far beyond a reasonable timeline. Please contact  [name redacted]  with your decision.
 
Thank you,
Don
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At an earlier meeting where discussion of this shuttle came up, the Superintendent had to tell staff to “just tell the truth”.  After that interaction, I thanked the Superintendent for directing her staff to give the board honest information.  Here is that email:

From:
Regular UserDON McCHESNEY
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 12:04 PM -0400
Subject: Coralwood shuttle
To:
Regular UserCheryl L.H. Atkinson
Cc:
Regular UserNANCY JESTER Regular UserPAM SPEAKS Regular UserH PAUL_WOMACK

Dr. Atkinson,

I would like to thank you for your response during last night’s debate on the shuttle. Your call for a direct answer was a breath of fresh air. The “skirt around the issue” answers I have received over the last 4 years have become tiresome. You saw it happening again last night. I will tell you this. One of the interested parties emailed me this morning and said “….he was not telling the truth regarding notification”. I have seen this before from this person. I want to know that when staff gives me information that I can count on it. Some staff cannot separate policy, job , and politics. They must stay out of the political part.

I appreciate your response last night during the dialogue. I hope this does not come down to a complaint about money. We could have saved $1.8 million in transportation had we done something about Magnet transportation. Now we are going to quibble about pocket change over 30 students.

Thank you,
Don
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Keep in mind the majority of people who would be served by this bus were in District 4 and not District 1 (Jester) or District 2 (McChesney). It appears we were fighting for equality across the system and not our districts.

Unexpectedly, the Superintendent placed the matter of this shuttle on the Board’s agenda for a vote.  Why would she do that?  Why wouldn’t she just make the call, up or down, on the idea of originating the shuttle from HMS or Coralwood?  During the board meeting, staff members presented the issue as it were an additional bus with all the cost associated with that.  In fact, it was simply asking for the route origination to start from another location.  I had to ask probing questions to bring this to light.  Did I seem distrustful? You bet I did and with good reason. It was near impossible to get direct answers.

STATE BOARD HEARING JANUARY 17, 2013

Now let’s look at the upcoming suspension hearing by the State Board of Education.

The relevant facts are that the twenty page SACS report is filled with non specific charges. Only the board chair was singled out. It is akin to punishing the whole class for the indiscretions of a few. Members of the BOE are “ordered to be there and…. “file a witness list”… “The parties are further directed to exchange copies of documents…”

OK. How do you file documents of defense when you do not know what you have been specifically charged with?  Some of the things in the SACS report I have no specific knowledge of.

I understand this BOE has been a pain to deal with. I have experienced this first hand. Unfortunately, it is hard to answer inferences on generalities with which you are not familiar. It sounds like a Soviet court. We say you are guilty of something, but I won’t tell you what it is. Now prove your innocence.

What will be the ultimate outcome? First, This legislation will not stand up to a court test. How can one group of elected officials have power not prescribed in the state constitution over another group of elected officials?  It appears to me there are two ways you can remove board members:  1. Vote for someone else or;  2. Recall them. Lawyers all over the state are salivating to take on any board of education’s case on this issue. It will be costly to the taxpayer. I also believe the state board must give the local board a chance to rectify the charges of substance. I am no lawyer, but I believe this is poorly written legislation. It was run, by the way, through our legislature to purely punish DeKalb County. It was just like reducing the size of the board. I kept telling our delegation that competence of the board had nothing to do with the number on the board.  It is not how many, but WHO.

In summing up, It is important to know that I interpret SACS as saying “support the educrats at all times. They know best, they are professionals, you should follow their lead. Don’t ask too many questions,especially penetrating and difficult ones. If you are being mislead, do not probe any further because your decorum will not be acceptable. We do not want you to represent a constituency even though they put you in office.” Representing a constituency does not mean that you do what they command, but evaluate their concerns and probe valid issues. It is OK for board members to have opinions about issues and offer staff their advice. That is why there is a board.
Thanks,
Don

4 thoughts on “SACS ADVANCED PART TWO

  1. One question I have not gotten answered; Is the county obligated to use AdvancED/SACS to be the accreditation agency for our schools? I feel that there is something more than we can see between that company and the county. I feel that no one person/company should hold that much sway in education in this area.
    Thank you for your service.

  2. SACS at the level of higher ed as well as its other subs gets to decide who can participate in the federal student loan program.

    They have the sentence of death to gain their vision at both the K-12 and higher ed levels.

    The accreditation agencies like New England, WASC, North Central, and SACS plus their fellow accreditors internationally are the primary reasons ed has become so little knowledge. For so much money. Virtually all going to the politically connected.

  3. Stephen,

    The county is not obligated to use SACS. Unfortunately they have almost a monopoly on the accreditation business. There is another organization out of the University of Georgia that could step in. They are the agency for Chatham county in Savannah. I asked one of their board members how they felt about them. It seems that they are quite pleased.

    In DeKalb we accredit all our schools through SACS. If I remember correctly we pay them $68,000 a year in dues. We also have to pay for every visit they make to our system. Hotel, meals, etc. There certainly is no good reason to have any of our schools accredited other than our high schools. If it were up to me I would look to the University of Georgia or just have SACS accredit our high schools.

    SACS is slowly being eroded. North Carolina either has jettisoned them or is considering going to a state accrediting. Check out Wake county and see how much they like SACS. Texas also has their state department of education accredit their schools and they get pretty good results.

    Don

  4. I think you have it right. They are very politically connected. They exist to be the agent of all professional educrats. They protect all superintendents and the staff of school systems. This has become bothersome to some boards of education. If the board asks probing questions or doubts the veracity of some of the answers then the board may be chastised. That attitude sure makes it hard to provide oversight.

    Don