By Dick Yarbrough
Of some 15,000 school systems in the United States only one has lost accreditation in the past four decades. In August 2008, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools denied accreditation to Clayton County.
Now, stand by for Warren County to join that ignominious list. If it doesn’t get its bad act together by July 30, its accreditation will be revoked as well.
Two discredited and unaccredited school systems in the nation. Both in Georgia. Way to go, folks.
Losing accreditation from SACS means that high school graduates will have a tough time getting into college, getting scholarships — like HOPE — and are punished for crimes they didn’t commit.
SACS restored Clayton County’s accreditation on a provisional basis in 2009, but the system remains on probation until May 2011, which assumes school board members won’t forget that clowns belong in a circus, not in our education system.
In the case of Warren County, located near Augusta, its dysfunctional school board has managed to do only one thing well — look worse than Clayton County.
The Warren County School Board faces a hearing from Administrative Law Judge John Gatto in Atlanta on Monday (July 5) after a group of local citizens filed a petition with Gov. Sonny Perdue to remove three members of the board.
Among other things, the petition says that Clara Roberts, Cecil Brown and Charles Culver have made personnel decisions based on the “color, race and/or age of candidates” and accuses the Warren County board of “micromanagement,” evidently trying to influence hiring in the system based on their personal biases instead of leaving it to the school superintendent, as the state charter requires.
One board member is accused of objecting to hiring a Hispanic because she said, “Most of our students probably couldn’t pronounce his name.” Nice.
The board also pointed to a white teacher’s graduation date and discerned that he was “too old to relate to Warren County students.” It had to issue a public apology after disparaging a former naval officer who had been recommended for a job teaching math. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. One gets the feeling board members think the kids are as race and aged-obsessed as they seem to be.
If the judge finds for the plaintiffs, the three members will be booted off the board and new ones will be appointed by existing board members until the next election cycle.
Representing the plaintiffs is the Marietta law firm Turner Bachman and Garrett. Heath Garrett, one of the firm’s principals, told me that the majority of the plaintiffs are black and are less interested in racism than the Warren County School Board seems to be. They simply want their school system to function properly.
The Georgia School Board Association has tried to work things out with the three blind mice but to little or no avail. Incidentally, the GSBA is not happy with a process that they say usurps local control. They think the voters should be the ones to toss the bad eggs out.
I asked Garrett why involve the governor and an administrative judge? Why not let the local citizens handle a local problem?
“Public education is to the State of Georgia what national defense is to the federal government. It is their primary responsibility because they are the primary funders,” he said.
Also, Garrett says the issue goes beyond public education.
“If Georgia hopes to attract industry to an area like Warren County, companies are not going where there is a school system in disarray,” he says.
Can the Warren County School Board and the Clayton County School Board members be so dumb that they don’t know that their personal agendas not only hurt the kids (the most important and most often ignored part of the education process) but damage the state’s ability to attract new companies and expand our tax base?
Losing accreditation is embarrassing. Having it happen to two school systems in Georgia and nowhere else in the nation is incomprehensible. How can we hope to be a major player in the global economy with small-minded boobs running the education store?
You can reach Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.