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Atlanta Public Schools on Probation; Southwest Atlanta Parents"Concerned," "Staying Faithful"

Accrediting body gives APS nine months to address concerns; Cascade parents are cautiously optimistic about system's future

Vickie Chennault, mother of a Mays High School senior, listened attentively Tuesday as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) announced plans to place the Atlanta Public Schools on probation.

Though school board officials assured parents and community leaders that the probation status “has nothing to do with the strength and quality of the district's program,” Chennault said she was not totally convinced.

“I am leaving here even more concerned,” said Chennault. “It should have never [gotten] to this level. They know how crucial this is to our children, our schools, and our communities.”.

One of the main concerns associated with loss of accreditation, say parents like Chennault, is the potential decrease in property values. And, they say, high school students would be especially affected because they may have a tougher time getting into good colleges if they graduate from an unaccredited school.

SACS said Tuesday that the Atlanta school system must take six actions by Sept. 30, to avoid losing accreditation:

  • Develop and implement a long-term plan to communicate with and engage stakeholders in the work of the district and to regain the trust of parents and students.
  • Secure and actively use the services of a trained, impartial mediator who will work with board members to resolve communication, operational and personal issues that are impeding the effectiveness of the governing body.
  • Ensure that the actions and behavior of all board members are aligned with board policies, especially those related to ethics and chain of command.
  • Review and refine policies to achieve the mission to educate students.
  • Develop and implement a process for selecting a new superintendent that is transparent and engages public participation. The final choice of superintendent should be determined by more than a simple majority of the board.
  • Work with the state of Georgia to address inconsistencies between the state charter for the school board and system policies.

 When Clayton County schools lost accreditation a few years ago, many parents scrambled to get their children into private schools or public schools in neighboring counties.

 Shawna Hayes-Tavares, President of the Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools (SNAPPS), a support and advocacy group that serves the Cascade Heights area, also expressed her concern about the board's ability to resolve it's issues in the wake of past problems, including the ongoing CRCT cheating scandal.

“I'm trying to stay faithful. I [have] moderate faith, which is not very good. But, I'm gonna wait and see,” Hayes-Tavares said.

In addition to heading SNAPPS, Hayes-Tavares is also the parent of APS students at Mays High, Inman Middle, and Peyton Forest Elementary Schools.  From her perspective, the Board's main obstacle in the following the six step plan will be "measurable goals."  Specifically, how will the Board quantify their progression in order to convince SACS that it should remain accredited. 

The Board did not mention specific actions it would take to remain accredited by the September deadline.  Nevertheless, APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall said, “I am confident this board will united and resolve any issues it has."

Whatever the course, Hayes-Tavares believes that "If the community puts the fire to the Board to come up with real solutions [and] real changes, they they will do it."

Shaku January 19, 2011 at 04:01 AM
I am confused I thought the focus of board members is to develop and implement procedures to promote a healthy learning environment for the children? What is the board using my tax dollars for? School books (sarcasm)? I think it is time to remove the board members causing the problems and replace them with individuals that care about learning. I agree it never should have come to this.
Yolande M. Minor January 19, 2011 at 10:07 PM
I am confused as well. How did a paradigm shift go from APS cheating scandal to SACS directing APS School Board and the Superintendent. SACS actions are premature to the response of the investigation of cheating. I do think that the Board and the Superintendent do have some responsibility and obligation to guarantee that our children are receiving a "fair and appropriate" education. Also, consequences should given to those who are failing our children by not teaching them, but cheating for them. SACS is slapping the hand of the governing agency of APS schools, however, it is not dealing with the true issue. The cheating within the APS schools.
Raynard Johnson January 21, 2011 at 12:20 AM
"What's Happenin' in SWAT (SW ATL)..." Did you know... Should the "Independent" Atlanta Public School System (Board of Education) be under the City of Atlanta (Atlanta City Council) Charter? With 52% of property taxes apportioned to APS, don't be surprised if the actions of SACS (APS being placed on probation) begins the process for a referendum to be on the ballot, within the next 2 election cycles, for the "Independent" APS System (Board of Education) to fall under the City of Atlanta (Atlanta City Council) Charter domain. Here is the kicker, the BOE members were warned by Mayor Reed, GA Attorney General Thurbert Baker and the Board's Attorney (Veleter Mazyck) that the board had no authority to change leadership midterm. The "bigger picture" is, while the BOE was "performing" with respect to who among them will be in charge, they are threatening regional economic growth from businesses wary of bringing business in the region, because of the uncertainty of a viable workforce. That is something the Gov., the Mayor, Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce and parents are not going to put up with!
AtlantaSistah January 21, 2011 at 02:00 AM
The fact they are not dealing with this so called issue should be a red flag to all. It tells me that the cheating scandal is a bunch of malarky. If one actually read the SACS report, the so called investigation is barely mentioned. This is a witch hunt to say the very least. The SACS report says nothing about the quality of education. It basically goes after the board memebers and their infighting. RIDICULOUS! What governing group does not have infighting? And why are they being called out on it? This is foolishness!
Charles Lawrence January 23, 2011 at 03:43 AM
I think this situation may be a blessing in disguise. First parents in the North as well as the Southside have an issue that everyone can rally around. In the past what affected the parents in one district did not affect the parents in another district. With this particular issue everyone is concerned to say the least. Next SACS may have been needed to get the attention of the Board because no one else could. When have board members been attentive and when have they been open to communicate seriously with the parents ? Well, this may be the time. Also voters may awaken and may need to know on an very intimate basis who is representing who. After all we are talking about kids and millions and millions of taxpayer money. Finally lets not forget that our school system produces students that are capable of attending some of the finest colleges and go on to become productive citizens however there are many kids who are not being educated . One may asked " who is at fault ? Many may say " Its the APS ". ...... In anwsering the question I think about my former coach once in our Football game at Lakewood stadium years ago. A player had made a bad play on the field and told the coach " MY Fault " . THE COACH REPLIED - "NO, MY FAULT" and took him out the game. MAYBE THAT'S WHAT WE SHOULD SAY TODAY---- OUR FAULT AND GET OFF THE BOARD !!!!
Mrs. Badi January 25, 2011 at 06:32 AM
I am glad that APS is in the lime light. They have been cheating our children for many years. I remember being in school and I can still remember my thoughts " I am not learning as much as I should be." It was not until I went to summer school in the 10th grade that I understood that (some) of my teachers were not putting the their all into teaching. It is unfortunate that our children have the stress of worrying whether or not their school will lose its accreditations. What has been done in the dark for so long has finally come to the light. I know all teachers are not to blame. The cheating scandal and the fear of losing accreditation comes from the years of not taking care of all children the correct way. We need to raise our standards when it comes to chosing who is teaching our kids.

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