WTOC Investigates: SCCPSS under similar review that led to 2004-05 probation

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - On the eve of the first day of school for Savannah-Chatham County Public School students, the excitement of a new year may be overshadowed.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is continuing its review of the school board after complaints suggesting it was in violation of accreditation policies.

This isn't the first time the district has been under the accreditation microscope. WTOC uncovered documents that revealed it was placed on probation in 2004 for similar possible violations.

The district could potentially be headed down that road again if officials determine the board is in fact violating accreditation policies. In March of this year, the board was notified that complaints had been filed questioning board governance and its ability to operate effectively.

Wednesday, WTOC uncovered this was the same policy allegedly violated in 2004 leading to probation.

"What it is, it's a review. We have complaints that have been received to this agency. It's enough that they felt like they need to come in and look at what's going on," said Kurt Hetager, the spokesperson for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

The SCCPSS board was formally notified in March by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The accrediting agency stating they received complaints and allegations that pertain to the "governing board functioning effectively".

Even though the board today looks nothing like it once did in 2004, the complaints are very much the same. In fact, according to a SACS document from 2005, the board was put on probation because "the actions of the Savannah Chatham County Board of Education were in violation of the governance standard for accreditation."

It was a very dangerous place to be because if the board didn't improve, the district could have lost its accreditation, which would have stripped students of potential scholarships and college opportunities.

For 14 months, the board worked to prove itself. In November of 2005, the board was cleared of their provisional status after they participated in training sessions, updated policies and procedures and even hired a consultant to strengthen relationships.

[Below is the SACS document from 2004-05 outlining the initial complaint, steps used by the board and the final review taking the school system off probation.]

Twelve years later, SACS officials are once again reviewing complaints and will determine if the district should once again be forced to go down the same path.

"There will be a review process and that could take a few days. The board and staff will likely be interviewed through that process," Hetager said.

So, while it may be a new school year, the board is holding their breath that history doesn't repeat itself.

"We are very hopeful. We are going to be 100 percent cooperative. If there's any corrective action - no matter how small it is - we'll certainly take action to ensure that's done," Hetager said.

It's still unclear how long this process will take and when exactly we will know whether or not the district will be put on probation. Of course, we will continue to keep you updated.

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.