SACS puts DeKalb County School District on probation - CBS46 News

SACS puts DeKalb County School District on probation

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Dr. Mark Elgart Dr. Mark Elgart

SACS, or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, has put the DeKalb County School District on probation.

Dr. Mark Elgart, the president and chief executive officer of AdvancEd, which is the parent organization of SACS, made the announcement during a news conference on Monday.

"The current condition of this school system could be classified as one of conflict and chaos," Elgart said.

From financial problems and potentially millions in missing money to students without textbooks, it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what investigators with SACS found troubling about DeKalb County schools.

"Here's a system that has nearly $1 billion, but today they are woefully behind in providing kids with technology access that has become commonplace in most of America's schools," Elgart said.

Elgart believes the problems start with the school board.

"It is a system divided along lines of race, socioeconomic levels and geography. Such divisions are continuing to paralyze the ability to address the needs of all students," Elgart said.

That's why he thinks the change must begin with them.

"We want evidence they're starting to change that culture. That there's greater transparency, honesty, connections between board members and administration, rather than right now nine individuals," Elgart said.

During a news conference, DeKalb County Board Chairman Dr. Eugene Walker talked about what type of impact he probation will mean to the district.

"It is disappointing," Walker said. "But, at the same time, I want to reassure the community we serve that we haven't lost our accreditation and do not plan on losing our accreditation.  Walker would not go into the specifics of what needs to be improved upon, but said the board would do everything to make sure students are put first."

"We are going to dissect and digest each one of the concerns and recommendations SACS has given to us," Walker said.

During the news conference, Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson did not answer any questions.  Atkinson won the job of superintendent last year.  Many parents CBS Atlanta News spoke to said they wonder if Atkinson can handle the problems she inherited in the district.

"I was hoping with a new superintendent things would improve, but it doesn't seem like that is happening," said DeKalb resident Pat Leipold.  "It is devastating to kids for their college applications. Students can't get the HOPE if they don't go to an accredited school.   It doesn't look good when they are applying for colleges, there is a lot of things it impacts."

Elgart also said that some board members were doing favors for friends, and he wanted to see the board work collaboratively instead of individually to make changes.

"What I do know is we're not where we want to be in a lot of areas," Walker said.

He said the district plans to keep accreditation and that the board will rise to the challenge.

"We're going to change the culture to be more inclusive and transparent, where we can rest assured and everyone we serve will know we're doing the best for our youngsters," Walker said.

The district will remain on probation until Dec. 31, 2013. They must make the required changes by then in order to keep accreditation. SACS will monitor their progress.

The DeKalb County District Attorney's Office plans to review the report to determine if they will begin a criminal investigation.

"My message to the board is you are lucky you got off so lightly," said DeKalb resident Kirk Lunde. "That is my message to Eugene Walker.  You have lied to the citizens of this county for years, there is no responsibility for your behavior, you have gotten away with it for years and you got off lucky with probation."

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