SCCPSS Board awaits results of SACS review

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - For the first time since accreditation investigators came to Savannah to conduct on-site interviews, we're hearing from the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

AdvanceED, which is part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, also known as SACS, has 60 days to make a decision, which means we may not know the outcome until mid-January.

"It could be anytime between now and then, but generally, I think it will be 60 days before we see anything," said Jolene Byrne, SCCPSS, Board President.

It's been nine months since the SCCPSS board was first notified by AdvanceED - which is part of the accreditation agency SACS - that they received complaints alleging the school board was in violation of governance policies. The complaint suggests the board may not be operating responsibly and effectively, and questions whether school leadership has the autonomy to meet goals and to manage day to day operations effectively.

"There's no doubt that we've had issues with communication and with trust and with really staying focused on our mission and not getting sidetracked," Byrne said.

For many months, investigators conducted their investigation from afar, corresponding with district officials and conducting their own independent research. The final part of the review brought them to Savannah for four days to conduct closed-door interviews with the superintendent, staff, community stakeholders, and every school board member.

"They told us, 'this is your appointment time, you have exactly one hour.' We went to that hour and I said I wanted to speak more, and they said no," Byrne said.

Investigators are now tasked with making the decision about whether to change the district's status to 'under review' which is like probation.

"The very worst case scenario is that the review would come back that says we need to make very significant changes or that certain people need to be removed from the board," Byrne said.

If that were to happen and the district's accreditation was reduced to a probationary status, the worst case scenario would be if the district failed to make necessary improvements. The district could then potentially lose its accreditation.

We should know the outcome of that investigation in January. It's important to know that even if the district's accreditation is reduced to an 'under review' status, the school system will still be fully-accredited during that probationary period.

Investigators will decide at the end of that probationary period whether the district will be revoked.

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