SCCPSS in violation of accreditation standards; board given 6 improvement priorities

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The accreditation agency, AdvancED, has found the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System in violation of two accreditation standards and policies.

After an investigation conducted by the agency into complaints from Spring 2017, the school system was determined to be in violation of the following standards:

  • Standard 1.4: The governing authority establishes and ensures adherence to policies that are designed to support institutional effectiveness.
  • Standard 1.5: The governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within defined roles and responsibilities.

The board now has eight months to make improvements. Right now, the district remains fully accredited, but that's contingent on whether the board improves in all areas. According to the 20-page report, the board has been given a list of six priorities. The school board was notified this week that they have until October to improve the six areas. They are as follows:

  • They must adhere to all policies regarding roles and responsibilities - citing evidence that 'board members have acted outside their roles,' 'board meetings described as uncontrolled chaos.'
  • They must make improvements when it comes to the self-assessment process during board member retreats
  • Implement a social media policy, citing examples where board members were out of line for posting certain information on social media, including 'the board president for posting on her Facebook page regarding Hurricane Irma evacuation.'
  • Develop a communication protocol. 'The special review team concluded that over the past two to three years, there have been examples of problematic board communications. Further stating that evidence suggests '2-3 board members inappropriately but consistently tell the superintendent in executive session who to hire...who to transfer or promote and who not to.'
  • Develop a comprehensive board professional development plan.
  • Participate in board training that builds trust and respect - stating evidence that suggests 'some board members involve themselves with personnel matters that should be left up to the superintendent.'

The report ends by reminding the school board that these six improvements are not optional. The district will be reviewed again before the end of October and they board must prove that they've made progress in all areas to ensure that the district's accreditation status remains unaffected.

The school system said in a statement that it "will diligently work to maintain a course that does not impact accreditation status and will fully cooperate with AdvancED to demonstrate adherence to standards for quality schools."

The results came after investigations from the accreditation agency conducted closed-door interviews in November 2017.

During those interviews, investigators looked into governance issues, specifically complaints about the school board president. Board President Jolene Byrne announced Feb. 2 she would not seek a second term at the helm of the school system.

She said politics and a poor relationship with school administrators played a part in her decision.

"While my time in office has been made challenging by a former Superintendent who frequently admitted he found it difficult to work with a 'woman young enough to be his daughter,' by a local newspaper so determined to write salacious gossip that facts became irrelevant, and by certain Board members more interested in Facebook posts than in the fact that hundreds of fourth graders in our district cannot read, I have been able to accomplish at least some of what we set out to do."

Former Superintendent Thomas Lockamy, whom Byrne refers to in her post, played a part in the accreditation investigation. He described Byrne as lacking leadership and ability, overstepping governance and failing to communicate in a formal letter in April 2017.

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