The Warren County School System received an extension on their accreditation, according to a report released Friday, July 30. That date was when the system's accreditation was scheduled to be dropped by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).
"Based on review of the Special Review Team's report and the recent decision by the state administrative law judge and the anticipated change in the composition of the Board, the (Accreditation Commission) has extended the date to drop the accreditation of Warren County Schools until December 31, 2010, during which time the school system shall remain on probation status," the report revealed.
In June 2009, an investigation by a SACS Special Review team concluded the Warren County Board of Education (WCBOE) was "in a state of perpetual paralysis," and thus was put on probation for the school year 2009-2010. At that time, the Warren County Board of Education was given five months to address nine required actions designed by the team to provide direction for the WCBOE in moving the district toward alignment with the SACS standards and policies.
On the team's return visit in November 2009, "evidence clearly indicated that the WCBOE failed to address the required actions. ... the team recommended that the accreditation of Warren County Schools be dropped with an effective date of July 30, 2010."
Subsequently, the Warren County School System sent a request to SACS that another Special Review Team conduct a follow-up visit to the district to determine if the board had fully addressed the required actions previously recommended by the team.
Where they succeeded
A Special Review Team visited Warren County June 7-9 to investigate the BOE's progress. Of the nine recommendations, evidence showed the board "fully met" three and "failed to fully meet" six.
The recommendations fully met include: (1) The Warren County Board of Education should adopt "Roberts Rules of Order" to guide the board meetings. (2) Board agendas will be prepared and distributed in keeping with board policies. (3) The board must be able to validate that any member of the board who violates the policies of the board has been censured by the board.
Where they failed
The recommendations that the board failed to meet include:
(1) Warren County Schools must be able to validate that all actions and behaviors of the board members are fully aligned with the policies that they have formally adopted as a board and all applicable accreditation standards.
"Though (some) steps are positive in nature, there is insufficient evidence and confidence among stakeholders that this is a lasting change," the report revealed.
(2) The decorum of all board meetings will reflect the professionalism required of all those who are defining the quality of education for the community.
"The Special Review Team's overall conclusion was that the changes were superficial and short-lived," the report revealed.
(3) The board must engage in professional development focused on the roles and responsibilities of the board and fully internalize those elements of the training that ensure their actions and behaviors are aligned with board policies and standards for accreditation.
(4) The board and superintendent must engage in mediation sessions conducted by an agency that specializes in training and support for boards of education.
"Interviews provided clear evidence that corroborated the team's assessment that the board was still divided and unwilling to compromise to provide quality education for the community," the report revealed. "There also was evidence that the board members lacked mutual respect for fellow board members and the superintendent, resulting in the failure to work together as an effective leadership team."
(5) The employment policies of the board shall be followed in the selection and employment of staff and any discussion related to such employment is fully aligned with all relevant board policies.
(6) The board must continue to review and refine it's policies to promote the processes that are needed to achieve the board's mission in the education of Warren County students. The board members shall provide evidence that they have refocused all their energies on improving the teaching and learning processes for all students.
"If the governor of Georgia does not take action to remove the board members, (SACS) reserves the right to have the Accreditation Commission revisit the extension granted herein," the report revealed.
In addition to completing the required actions that were not previously met, Warren County Schools must:
*conduct the annual review of the superintendent no later than Sept. 15, 2010.
*Write and implement a long-term plan to communicate with and engage stakeholders in the work of the district for educating the students of Warren County.
* Demonstrate sustained progress through systematic and systemic improvement and effective governance, with supporting evidence.
Warren County must host another Special Review Team visit no later than December 31 to avoid loss of accreditation.
"The recent decision by the state Administrative Law Judge and the anticipated change in the composition of the board offers Warren County Schools the opportunity for a fresh start," the report revealed in closing comments.
"It is imperative that the board and district leadership act quickly to bring the community and school system together at this time. ... The Special Review Team would be remiss if it did not commend the principals, teachers, central office staff and administrators for their dedicated efforts on behalf of the young people served during this difficult time."