School Probation Could Have Serious Consequences - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/14/04

School Probation Could Have Serious Consequences

Savannah-Chatham Board of Education. Savannah-Chatham Board of Education.

Are Savannah-Chatham schools in serious trouble? A special review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revealed several problems with the leadership at the board of education. It could lead to major problems for the students.

Yesterday afternoon, SACS released its findings in an investigation into the school board. They're recommending the school district be put on probation, which, if violated could cause all Savannah-Chatham schools to lose accreditation.

The report details several breeches of ethics by at least three school board members, but doesn't say who's involved. Some school board members think the investigation has made too much of minor infractions.

"I think the investigation procedure is confusing and biased," said board member SuSu Cox. "I think the findings were on petty issues but that's apparently what SACS does now."

Among the findings, board members apparently requested special consideration for friends, butted into hiring and firing and pushed for certain groups to win contract bids. The board of education will find out in a couple weeks if the schools are on probation, but Cox says she's not too worried.

"They've shared none of the evidence with us," Cox told us. "They've referred to facts and evidence but I haven't seen any of that. Am I worried about it? Not really. I just think we have to continue functioning and make sure our schools maintain the status we hope they maintain."

Should the schools go on probation the board and not make the improvements called for, every school in the district could lose its accreditation. That would mean graduates would not be eligible for the HOPE scholarship. One college counselor we talked to from a Savannah-area school says every student would have to change his or her strategy for college plans, since most schools don't accept student from schools that aren't accredited.

We also talked with Savannah State's president, Dr. Carleton Brown. He said they don't currently accept students from schools without accreditation and couldn't consider it without permission from the board of regents. Even then, they'd have to put those potential students through a rigorous testing review, basically creating a brand new application process for those students. 

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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