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DeKalb school district is off probation, now facing six requirements

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Officials of the DeKalb School District are rolling up their sleeves again. This time, they are headed back to the trenches to address six requirements—three of them new—that must be met in order for the district to regain full accreditation.

The new actions follow the good news that Georgia’s third-largest school district is off probation. Officials made the announcement on Jan. 21, saying they planned to get to work immediately on the items that the AdvancED Accreditation Commission stipulated in a 27-page report. 

speakers

L-R: Gov. Nathan Deal and Mark Elgart, President and CEO of AdvancED  

Gov. Nathan Deal attended the announcement, which was made at the school system’s headquarters in Stone Mountain. Deal praised DeKalb for its progress and said he was encouraged by the results.

“I must say that I am surprised how fast this step was taken,“ said Deal, who last year formed a reconstituted school board with six appointees after AdvancED, the parent company of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), released a blistering report citing financial mismanagement, nepotism and political infighting among board members. 

The district corrected 8 of 11 actions that were required by the Commission. Now, schools officials must address the remaining three actions, along with three new ones. Implementing and sustaining the corrections to the Commission’s satisfaction could take the district at least a year, officials acknowledged.

Despite the work ahead, though, DeKalb School Superintendent Michael Thurmond said he is elated the district advanced from “Accredited Probation” to “Accredited Warned.”

“The stain of probation has been eradicated from the DeKalb School District,” Thurmond said. “The decision to upgrade the District’s accreditation status provides a sense of pride and relief to our internal and external stakeholders.”

The  “warned” status means the Commission will continue to monitor the district for improvements and goals that have been outlined. District officials will face another monitoring review by the Commission in May.

Meanwhile, district officials reiterated that high school graduates can continue to seek collegiate financial aid, grants or scholarships without worry. The school district never actually lost its accreditation, although it came close.  

The Commission based its decision to take the district off probation on a comprehensive review conducted in December 2013.

“I commend them for putting us on track for high expectations,” said Dr. Melvin Johnson, who chairs the DeKalb Board of Education. “They have identified the things we need to help our students reach their academic goals. That’s what this whole process has been about.”

Johnson said the district would begin immediately working on a comprehensive plan to address the required actions.

“I feel certain that it will not take us long to develop the comprehensive plan. The key is sustaining that plan. We will probably have another new board when the elections are held this year and we must make sure that we can sustain what we put in place,” Johnson said.

State legislators will weigh on those elections, determining in a few weeks if whether boundaries should be redrawn. DeKalb could end up with seven school board seats or retain nine, depending on the lawmakers’ decisions.      

Meanwhile, DeKalb County’s Interim CEO Lee May called the announcement “good news.”

“I applaud the DeKalb County Board of Education and Superintendent Michael Thurmond for their progress,” May said. “Today’s announcement by SACS acknowledges all of the improvements that have been made and that more good is to come. We can all take pride in this accomplishment, as what is good news for the school district is also good news for the whole of DeKalb County.”

DeKalb NAACP President John Evans concurred.

“Based on all we’ve been through, at least now, we’re on the right track and probation is not in the picture,” said Evans. ‘It’s up to us to keep the flavor going.” 

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