Clayton Schools’ Troubles Frustrate Community

Eric Stirgus, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 17, 2008

Anger. Sadness. Frustration. These were the emotions of many weary Clayton County parents, students and community leaders Sunday as the county’s school district deals with its most challenging crisis in memory.

On Friday, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said infighting among school board members and violations of board procedures have made the district “fatally flawed” and recommended that Clayton’s accreditation be revoked, effective Sept. 1.

If Clayton loses its accreditation, students will no longer be eligible for HOPE scholarships and will find it tougher to get into some colleges. HOPE, a state-administered financial aid program, requires applicants to have attended accredited schools. This year’s graduating class would not be affected.

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Some remember it was just five years ago that SACS put the Clayton school district on probation after finding some school board members had little understanding of their responsibilities or just violated board policies.

Although Chairwoman Ericka Davis is the only member remaining from that board, many wonder how a new group of school board members could repeat what SACS officials said are some of the same mistakes.

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Clayton County, just south of Atlanta’s city limits, has suffered in recent years from rising crime and the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the metro area. Its school district is in jeopardy of becoming just the third in the nation—and the first in Georgia—to lose its accreditation in the past 20 years.

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Clayton County school board, left to right, top to bottom: A. Michelle Strong, Lois Baines-Hunter, Yolanda Everett, Ericka Davis, Rev. W. Rod Johnson, Eddie White, David Ashe, Norreese Haynes, and Sandra Scott.

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