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School board meets to pore over report

Warren County Board of Education wants to send a letter to a school accreditation agency, asking it for another review.

This month, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement notified the school system it would lose its accreditation July 30 because of "a dysfunctional school board.".

About 250 people attended the board's monthly meeting Jan. 19. It was the board's first time to meet since receiving the report from association.

"Needless to say, we haven't had this many people at our meeting in a long time," county school Superintendent Carole Jean Carey said. "Thank you for coming. We are all here because we care about the students. So, we're all here on common ground because we realize the seriousness of the situation."

The report, which was sent to Mrs. Carey and school board Chairwoman Clara Roberts on Jan. 5, outlined "standards of governance and leadership" that were investigated by review teams that visited the school system in June and November. The investigation included interviews with the school board, superintendent, district staffers and community representatives, in addition to reviews of supporting documentation and videos of board meetings. Among other things, the special review team found the board did not use Roberts Rules of Order for meetings, abused the right to abstain from voting, and made employment decisions based on illegal conditions such as race, age and residency.

The 14-page report listed nine requirements for improvement given to the board in June, when the board was put on probation. The follow-up visit in November revealed "little or no progress" had been made on the requirements.

Before Tuesday's meeting, 15 people, including parents, community members, faculty, a city councilman and two students gave brief speeches on the upcoming accreditation loss during a public input session.

Warren County High School junior Virginia King called the board members' attention to the school system's mission, vision and belief statements.

"Why must education of students be based on race or age?" she asked. "When I see an educator, I do not see the color of their skin or if they are old or young. I see someone besides my parents that I can learn from and look up to. ... We want the same opportunities you all had. ... It is clear that you did not have the students of WCHS in mind when you've been making your decisions."

Booster club member Joey Kaney compared the race issue with the business community.

"Warren County and Warrenton is not big enough to separate black and white," he said. "White businesses cannot survive without black customers. Black businesses cannot survive without white customers. We are too small."

Mr. Kaney talked about earthquake victims in Haiti buried under rubble.

"Do you think they care if it's a black person or a white person who comes to save them?" he said. "No, they just want to be saved. These kids don't care who teaches them, they just want to learn and succeed."

Although several arguments took place during members' discussions of minor details, the members voted to send the letter to the association saying they want to work on the nine requirements and requesting another review after they do so.

Another meeting was held Monday, Jan. 25 for board members and the community to go over each line of the report and create an action plan. About 70 people attended that meeting and voiced their opinions. Board Vice Chairman Charles Culver suggested that the board contact the Georgia Accreditation Association and obtain accreditation through that agency rather than the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. Ms. Carey said the same guidelines apply for both agencies.

Web posted on Thursday, January 28, 2010

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