Clayton Schools Lose Accreditation; Board Members Ousted

Megan Matteucci, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 28, 2008

Clayton County schools are the first in the nation in the past 40 years to lose accreditation, failing to meet eight of nine improvement mandates.

The action by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools came a few hours prior to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s announcement that he was immediately removing four school board members found to have flouted the law. A state administrative judge had recommended their removal.

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By Thursday afternoon, parents flooded school offices to withdraw their children. Two thousand students have already fled the district this school year and the number is expected to grow.

Thompson said he was disappointed that families were not willing to give the district another chance.

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School officials can regain accreditation if they show before Sept. 1, 2009, that have met all the mandates. If successful, accreditation would be restored and would be retroactive to Sept. 1, 2008. If they aren’t successful, the school system would have to start the accreditation process from the beginning, which likely would take about three years.

That means that if Clayton meets the mandates by May, this year’s seniors could graduate with an accredited diploma.

A loss of accreditation means the 50,000 Clayton students could have trouble getting into some colleges and universities, or receiving scholarship money. High school juniors and seniors will be able to maintain Hope scholarship eligibility because of legislation signed earlier this year by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

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On Thursday, Perdue heeded the recommendation by Judge Michael Malihi, of the Office of State Administrative Hearings, and issued an executive order removing board members Michelle Strong, Louise Baines-Hunter, Yolanda Everett and Sandra Scott.

The move means there will be special elections in November seeking someone to serve the remainder of Scott’s and Strong’s terms, both of which end Dec. 31, 2010.

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[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories on Clayton County’s troubles are listed here.]

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