WARRENTON, Ga. -- In the fall of 2008, Warren school children were doing well and had a bright future. Test scores had improved significantly, volunteers from the community contributed time and talents in the classroom.
Yet last Tuesday (Jan. 5), the system of about 730 students lost their accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.
A SACS team visited the system in June, 2009, and a different team returned in November for a follow-up. During both visits, the special review team conducted interviews with members of the Board of Education, superintendent, district staff and community representatives, as well as reviewed supporting documentation.
"The team that visited them in November felt that they had not made significant progress, and in some cases, they made no progress," said Jennifer Oliver, SACS vice president of communications. "So the team felt the school system should not retain their accreditation."
Superintendent Carole Jean Carey and Board of Education Chair Clara Roberts were sent a report of the findings of the special review team. The 14-page report outlines the "standards of governance and leadership" that were investigated in June, along with the list of nine recommendations for improvement that were given to the board at that time.
The report describes sources used by the review team, as well as an analysis
"It should be noted that Warren County received SACS CASI District Accreditation in 20007. At that time, there were many outstanding achievements within the school district. ... The actions of the current Board have eroded public confidence and negated much of the positive work of the past, and the quality of education for students in Warren County Schools has been affected," the report reveals.
The investigation revealed members of the Board of Education failed to comply with their own policies, and went as far as to change their ethics policy so they wouldn't have to sign it.
The board made limited improvement on the recommendation to adopt Roberts Rules of Order for their meetings, with voting records revealing "an inordinate number of 3-2 votes" and "an inappropriate use of the right to abstain from voting."
The review team also found that the board made progress in professionalism in their public meetings, but failed to carry that over to executive sessions. The report reveals executive session discussions included comments that are illegal to consider when employing applicants, including age, race, etc.
Ms. Oliver said the date of the dropped accreditation is delayed until July 30, 2010, so it won't affect seniors set to graduate this year. She said accreditation is emphasized in the State of Georgia because it is a requirement of the Hope scholarship.
"The community is not happy, the kids won't have the Hope Scholarship and they won't be able to get into some colleges," Mrs. Carey said. "And we can't have dual enrollment classes... The board members are the ones that have to do the action. There's nothing more anyone else can do."
Last year, the Associated Press reported that Clayton County School System became the first district in Georgia and only the third in the nation to lose its accreditation in the past 20 years following a SACS investigation that revealed a "dysfunctional" school board. The accreditation has since been regained.