BRADENTON, Fla. — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is poised to enact emergency procedures this week to ensure Atlanta Public Schools doesn’t lose its high school accreditation — a development that would prevent its new graduates from getting into most colleges and qualifying for scholarships.
The council for AdvancED voted last week to place the school system on probation for violating governance standards after an unfavorable review. Another review will be held Sept. 30 to determine if the district should retain or lose its accreditation.
AdvancED is the parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools council on accreditation and school improvement.
That prospect of a formal accreditation loss worries local elected officials and business leaders officials because it could undermine Atlanta’s economy and the ability of the Southeast’s largest metropolitan area to attract and retain businesses. Prospective residents consider the quality of local schools when pondering relocation decisions.
“I will make every effort to ensure that Atlanta’s children are not harmed by the adults who have failed them,” Deal said. “I have begun the process of working with Atlanta’s leaders … to implement corrective action immediately.”
Deal is expected to sign an executive order this week establishing an emergency management operations command, which would be the first of its kind in the state.
The Atlanta Public Schools district has nearly 18,000 K-12 students.
Superintendent Beverly Hall has announced her intention to leave the position when her contract ends in June.
The accreditation crisis follows a recent cheating scandal that has rocked nearly 60 schools and prompted some very public infighting among school board members.
“We must do everything possible to stop an embarrassing situation from snowballing into a destructive situation,” Deal said of the cheating scandal.
It is not clear whether a loss of school accreditation would affect Atlanta’s credit ratings.
Georgia’s largest city issues general obligation debt for the school district. Finance officials for the city and the district could not be reached by press time.
The district had $48.3 million of outstanding long-term debt as of June 30, 2009, according to the latest information available on the district’s website.
A review team found that the Atlanta Public Schools board was in disarray during a two-day visit in December, due to the cheating scandal and in-fighting among school board members, which included a power struggle for board leadership.
The cheating scandal is being investigated at both the state and federal levels.
The team concluded that the cheating scandal and leadership struggle, in combination with the need to search for a new superintendent, were having a negative impact on employee morale. It outlined six actions the board needed to successfully implement for the district to retain its accreditation.
The school board passed a resolution Monday accepting the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools report and pledging to comply with the six required actions.
Last May, former Gov. Sonny Perdue signed SB 84 into law, giving Georgia the ability to step in when a local school system’s accreditation is threatened.
The bill outlines the roles and responsibilities of local school boards, as well as ethics requirements of school board members.
It was aimed at preventing accreditation losses among Georgia school systems and was proposed after Clayton County Public Schools lost its accreditation in 2008.