The leader of the agency which accredits public schools in Georgia is meeting with the State Attorney General Wednesday afternoon. The men will address concerns over the transparency of decisions to pull accreditation or put a school system on probation.
State Attorney General Sam Olens says he hopes that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will voluntarily open up its decision-making process. He says accreditation decisions have a huge impact on students hoping to get scholarships and Pell grants.“And I think that that responsibility requires a much greater level of detail to the public than currently exists.” he says.
SACS CEO Mark Elgart says they aren’t trying to hide anything. But he admits some changes are needed.
“We need to make our written reports clearer about what are the data sets we’re using. It’s never been hidden. There’s been no deliberate attempt to hide this. We just haven’t been as aggressive and assertive in making sure you know exactly what we’re using.”
Lee May, interim CEO of DeKalb County, says when SACS put his district’s schools on probation last year, the documentation lacked some substance. May says these decisions have a major impact on the community.
He says “It does have an effect on everything that we do, from economic development to stabilizing our housing stock portfolio.”
One concern in DeKalb was the lack of documentation regarding on-site interviews with people in the community.
Elgart says those conversations were just a piece of the investigative process. “We watched board videos, read board minutes, read documentation, looked at emails. We had one on one engagements with board members, had overall engagements with the entire board. Those were the weights. It wasn’t these little interviews during an on-site review.”
Both Olens and Elgart say this isn’t something that can be fixed in one meeting, but both are optimistic the process can be improved without asking legislators to pass new regulations.