Officials from AdvanED, the DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) accrediting agency, said even though the school system has made several positive changes, it still has more work to do.
A panel from AdvancED, the parent corporation of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), presented its findings to DCSD officials as part of the district’s five-year accreditation review.
“The team that visited DeKalb makes a recommendation based on their review. The report then goes through a review process and has to be approved by the accreditation commission,” said Jennifer Oliver, a spokeswoman for AdvancED.
Last year, DCSD’s accreditation status was placed on advisement after an AvancED report recommended the district work on eight key points, including hiring a new superintendent, implementing a new strategic plan and redistricting.
Oliver said the accreditation commission would be making its final decision in June as to whether DCSD would remain on advisement. She said the panel found several areas where DCSD needed “required action.”
“Establish and enforce a policy that board members honor the chain of command when communicating with stakeholders,” was one of the required actions, the report stated. Last year, the district’s search for a superintendent was compromised when alleged leaks to the media by board members caused finalist Lillie Cox to withdraw her application.
Other areas of required action include conducting an internal audit on the technology available in schools across the district, developing a new assessment program to monitor student progress and communicate among stakeholders the differences among programs and financial resources available to schools.
The review team based its assessment on a number of factors, including schools visits, interviews with parents and teachers, and the collecting and organizing of assessment data. According to the findings, the team visited “a sample” of 26 schools and interviewed all nine DeKalb County Board of Education members, as well as 443 teachers and 139 administrators. Additionally, the team interviewed several hundred parents and students.
“We do have areas where they want us to improve but it’s gratifying that SACS and AdvancED understand where we’re going, the direction we’re going in and they endorse that,” DeKalb Schools spokesman Walter Woods said.
DCSD was commended by the review team for hiring a new superintendent who has implemented a new strategic plan, increased district communication with stakeholders has an “exceptionally passionate and caring” school-level leadership team.
“It’s an endorsement and an affirmation of the changes we’re making,” Woods said. “Obviously we want to keep working with them to get to full accreditation…but our status is not in danger. So, we thought it was very positive and the superintendent made similar comments.”