Sumter County Schools Superintendent Donnie Smith told the Board of Education (BOE) Monday the school district will receive accreditation with quality from the Georgia Accreditation Commission (GAC), an accrediting agency with the state of Georgia. Smith said GAC evaluation of the school system was extensive.
He said GAC was "most impressed" with the district overall and they found the total school environment not reflective of ongoing issues involving board leadership and governance.
"They were encouraged by the educational focus," said Smith.
Accreditation from GAC will result in Sumter Schools receiving dual accreditation, which will include accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). That accreditation has a current status designation of probationary. Representatives from SACS are due back in Sumter County Dec. 12 and 13.
A progress report, based on SACS recommendations and required actions, was the purpose of Monday's called meeting. The required actions were submitted to the BOE upon its designation of accreditation probation. The required actions must be met to earn and maintain accreditation through AdvancedED/SACS.
A 12-page report, compiled by the superintendent, was submitted to the board for review. Five required actions were included.
1. Drafting a plan by the superintendent for unifying the board through adhering to ethics, fostering a collaborative work environment, using the services of a mediator and providing opportunities to answer questions from stakeholders.
2. Complying with applicable laws concerning board membership.
3. Communications efforts to address board plans for the district be put in place by the superintendent.
4. Board actions to be consistent with applicable policies, procedures, laws, regulations and standards.
5. Increase awareness of policies that govern board operations.
Board members had the choice of assessing each action as completed, in progress or have not been addressed.
As a vote was not taken on the report, the consensus of the board was that all of the actions could be deemed in progress; however, there were comments and debate about some items on the report.
Board member Mike Mock commented on the recent lawsuit filed by E. Brian Watkins, an attorney representing six members of the Sumter BOE, saying that he didn't agree that such an action, by which "public funds were being used to file suit against the government," could be considered ethical. Adhering to the board's ethics policy was listed under the first required action. With little discussion by other board members, the first required action was agreed to be in progress.
Board member Meda Krenson took issue with the first required action as well. A portion of the item dealt with addressing stakeholder concerns. Krenson said the board has yet to have a question and answer session with the public. Smith reminded the board they are awaiting the direction of Laura Reilly, the director of communications for the Georgia School Boards Association.
Board member Mike Busman commented that if the board resubmitted its redistricting plan to the Department of Justice along with the information requested before the board voted that the proposal be removed from the pre-clearance process, then, theoretically the lawsuit could be or could have been dropped.