SACS does not have to produce open records

Due to the fact that they are a private, non-profit company, SACS does not have to comply with Open Records. Although Sam Olens disagrees, we think a change in law is necessary. If a private company has the power to control public schools, then their evidence for taking action should be open to the public.

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27 Responses to SACS does not have to produce open records

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    SACS does NOT have the “power to control public schools”. The only “power” SACS has is to say whether or not a district meets *minimal* “standards”.

  2. ursokm16 says:

    no no no–no more separate constitutional rules for schools –require open records for all so-called “public-private” groups. Most are doing the “peoples business” of government behind closed doors.

  3. ursokm16 says:

    any call for public/privates to be required to open their records should be for ALL public/privates to be required–not just SACS. We already have too many rules specifically made for school systems. Even the removal of school boards executive priveledge should have ben for all government boards–not just school boards.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    I disagree. SACS can tell the board or administration to do as they’re told or else your accreditation will be pulled. The SACS report created to pull the accreditation doesn’t have to be supported with evidence. They do this all the time from primary schools to colleges. I’d say SACS does indeed have the “power to control public schools”. DIO

  5. howdy1942 says:

    We have seemed to lose sight of just what SACS does. SACS does not have any such power to control schools. SACS cannot make Dekalb or any other school system do anything. SACS cannot force itself on Dekalb or any other school system. SACS does establish a set of standards and, if a school system chooses SACS, to say to the world whether it (a school system) meets those standards set by SACS. That, in no way, is controlling a school system.

    The Dekalb County School System chose SACS. Clayton County also chose SACS as did the Atlanta Public School System. The DCSS seemed to have no problem with SACS when it found issues in Clayton and APS. It was only when SACS found problems in the DCSS that somehow Dekalb now has issues with SACS. Why didn’t you say something earlier, before SACS found issues?

    As I’ve said before on this blog, I’ve been through three reviews conducted by SACS. In each case, they chose some very specific people to be interviewed and they also chose some at random. They observed classes which they selected at random. They interviewed teachers which they selected at random. And they interviewed other administrative officials they chose at random. Based on these interviews, SACS officials arrived at some conclusions based on all the interviews – there were able to form some consensus of opinion. They also found areas in which there was no consensus. In its report, SACS clearly discussed both. Confidentiality of the information provided by individuals is absolutely critical to this process. This process would collapse into a “popularity” contest if SACS had to say who said what. That would defeat the basic purpose of accreditation – to give a school or system an outside, objective look at what it found and recommendations for addressing each. That is exactly what it did in the DCSS on multiple occasions. In each of the three cases in which I was involved, there was some good and there was some bad. But we took action to fix problems, we worked with SACS, we asked questions to insure we had a proper understanding, we presented an action plan SACS for review, and we invited SACS to come back. They did and we were successful in resolving each issue. And we were better for it.

    Dekalb County has consistently fought SACS – an accrediting agency it chose! Until recently, it was readily apparent that the DCSS chose not to communicate with SACS. I read much of the “action plan” presented to SACS by the DCSS earlier in 2011. If that was an “action plan”, it was very, very poorly prepared. And even if it was, it was never, ever fully implemented. The DCSS is where it is because IT chose to be where it is.

    I’ve also pointed out that SACS accredits the vast majority of colleges and universities in the South. That would not be the case if its accreditation were somehow lacking or if its processes were faulty. I would invite you to go out to the website for the University of South Carolina and see what its President has to say about its upcoming SACS review there. You’ll find a completely different attitude from that shown by the DCSS. The DCSS nor the Attorney General of Georgia are going to have any impact on what SACS is or what it does. It is never going to become a “government” body and produce findings designed to be used in a court of law. That is simply not what it is nor is that what it is about. SACS did not cause the DCSS Board to be removed – it placed the system on probation! The State of Georgia, its Legislature and its Governor, passed a law designed to protect the interests of our children and it is that law that was used to remove the Board. SACS gave the DCSS a year to fix its problems – 11 items! That’s not asking too much. Yes, there are recall procedures, but the Georgia law governing them is so very burdensome requiring proof that one of four ethical violations had occurred before it could be used. Were that not the case, then a recall election probably could have been scheduled before that year was over. However, what would have happened to the 11 outstanding action items? No, don’t try to shift this problem to SACS and away from the DCSS.

    For the record, I have no link with SACS whatsoever nor does any member of my family of which I am aware. Let’s get the focus back on what is at issue – the Dekalb County School System. I think all of us are very well aware of the sordid history of the DCSS. The DCSS HAS declined over the years. The DCSS is among the very lowest of school systems in a state that is also among the very lowest. I’ve attended meetings of the former board and they were pitiful and they WERE dysfunctional. Its legal expenses WERE out of control. The board DID interfere with employees of the system, with teachers, and it did use its power to make poor decisions, such as that to hire both a black-owned firm as well as a white-own law firm to do the same work and to pay twice for the same work. The board DID grossly mismanage its tax resources as shown in spending $18 million legal expenses over a dispute of no more than $1.5 million. The board DID go through four superintendents in four years. One superintendent was indicted by a grand jury and, even then, the board did not terminate him. Likewise, it was unable to terminate the chief of operations who was also indicted. These problems were those of the DCSS alone and we should not be making excuses for them.

  6. dsw2contributor says:

    howdy1942 @August 6, 2013 at 8:36 PM – “Let’s get the focus back on what is at issue – the Dekalb County School System.”

    Yes, let’s put the focus back on DCS: Earlier this evening (August 6), DCS sent out an interoffice memorandum email stating that, as part of TOMORROW’s (August 7) registration, DCS is being required to document the “language spoken at home” for every single child in DCS. The email also included a new form upon which this information will be captured.

    Scuttlebutt is that DCS is in extremely (boiling!) hot water with the federal DOE, because of Atkinson’s terminating all the language translators.

  7. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Actually, at the same time Atkinson was cutting the translators (with no challenge from any Board member, by the way), the Feds were already all over DCSS. High school principals were being interviewed, data collected etc.
    Unfortunately, the feds move very slowly and so an entire year was lost. Now the situation has come home to roost and there you have it.

  8. McAllister says:

    @concernedmom30329 I remember that the RIFs and the budget brought by Dr. Atkinson were opposed by several board members. I don’t think it is accurate to say that no one challenged her when she didn’t get unanimous votes on those things.

  9. ok, ok,… it’s semantics. If you don’t like the word ‘control’ (and we didn’t say complete control, but they do have an awful lot of control as they control board behavior by intimidating them into supporting the superintendents – ask any former board member if they felt they could question a super without fear of retribution from SACS)- let’s just use ‘heavy influence’.

    And Howdy – perhaps you weren’t reading the old blog – but put “SACS” in the search bar and you’ll find plenty of discussion.

    Here’s one:

    Sunday, April 10, 2011
    SACS experiencing backlash

    We used to think SACS evaluated things like teacher quality, curriculum, student success and equal access. We have learned that they do not. They really simply care about governance and administration. This is why we now advocate for another barometer to evaluate school quality.

  10. As far as interpreters go – here’s an old post with a reprint from Mundo Hispanico:

    Friday, September 11, 2009
    The school of discord

    There’s a lot of old conversation being recycled — it’s a bit unnerving that we feel compelled to simply link to the old blog just about every day.

  11. Dekalb County has consistently fought SACS – an accrediting agency it chose! Until recently, it was readily apparent that the DCSS chose not to communicate with SACS. I read much of the “action plan” presented to SACS by the DCSS earlier in 2011. If that was an “action plan”, it was very, very poorly prepared. And even if it was, it was never, ever fully implemented. The DCSS is where it is because IT chose to be where it is.

    So, again… Ramona.

  12. McAllister says:

    @DSW 6:45am “So, again…Ramona.”

    Exactly. So why do the state school board, Sen. Millar, and Mark Elgart continue to support her? They gush with praise when they are in the room with her. They can’t really believe it. Is there something behind this? Are they just afraid to criticize a black women? DeKalb will never improve as long as Ramona has so much central office power.

  13. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    SACS isn’t the organization you remember. Just about everything you said about SACS is incorrect. I’ll correct a few here …

    Howdy1942 said “SACS cannot make Dekalb or any other school system do anything.”
    SACS doesn’t run a school system, but they come in from time to time and say do what I tell you or you will loose accreditation. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to prevent the wrongful intrusion in governance matters. I could give you countless examples in Georgia.

    Howdy1942 said “Why didn’t you say something earlier, before SACS found issues?”
    Everybody has been screaming for the last 10 years. SACS gave Crawford Lewis full accreditation despite RICO charges. SACS didn’t even come in for the worst cheating scandal in American history at APS, except to get Khaatim El to step down for looking into the cheating allegations.

    Howdy1942 said “In each case, they chose some very specific people to be interviewed and they also chose some at random.”
    Actually, the school district chooses who SACS talks to.

    Howdy1942 said “SACS accredits the vast majority of colleges and universities in the South. That would not be the case if its accreditation were somehow lacking or if its processes were faulty. “
    SACS used to be a respectable accreditation agency. North Carolina just kicked SACS out of their state all together. This trend will continue.

    I’m not defending DCSD, but I am saying SACS isn’t the quality accrediting agency it used to be.

  14. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Truthfully, politics in North Carolina make GA looked like a reasoned, progressive state right now. So I would not hold NC up as a model for anything.
    That said, SACs failed the students of DeKalb. I believe it was because of the reactions of some to the Clayton situation with the calls of racism. (It would be important to note that Cobb has spent years in advisement and that is a majority White system.) I think Elgart didn’t like the attention the Clayton situation brought onto the agency and choose to back off DeKalb.
    My perspective is that the worsening financial situation was one he couldn’t ignore. In the last five years, SACs has put numerous colleges and universities on probation because of their financial situation. How could he ignore DCSS?
    NC, and other states, can intervene in school systems because their Consitution doesn’t prohibit them from doing so. My legislator tells me that GA can do little. The state Constitution doesn’t permit much intervention in the workings of school systems. This needs to change, though I have very little confidence in the State to do the right thing.

  15. Dekalbite2 says:

    “Everybody has been screaming for the last 10 years. SACS gave Crawford Lewis full accreditation despite RICO charges. ”

    That’s why Lewis hired Gloria Talley – to get DeKalb through the SACS review. That was common knowledge at the time.

  16. Stan Jester says:

    The relationship between SACS and school administrators seems to be akin to bond rating agencies and bonds. I’m skeptical of both.

    Where has SACS been?
    DeKalb schools didn’t get a single financial warning until the Special Visit report in Oct 2012 despite spending their entire fund balance savings over the last 10 years.

    Policy DJE – Commonly Known as the Purchasing Policy
    SACS asked DeKalb Schools to amend Policy DJE. The administration came up with the policy amendment and the board approved it. Dr. Atkinson refused to follow said policy. In the Special Visit report from Oct 2012, SACS came down on the board for asking her to follow the policy.

    In The Myth of Local Control, Nancy touches on these issues. SACS and “the legal framework in our state reinforces the supremacy of the superintendent’s position relative to a board.”

  17. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    I’m not connecting the dots. I’m saying SACS should have reevaluated the accreditation level and the quality of DeKalb Schools when the Superintendent was charged with racketeering.

    I’m not clued into Gloria Talley, former Deputy Superintendent for teaching and learning. Please enlighten me regarding her role in this.

  18. Dekalbite2 says:

    Before the racketeering charges, DeKalb was on thin ice with SACS. Ms. Talley was Director of LEAD for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in Atlanta before Dr. Lewis hired her to head Curriculum and Instruction. SREB was involved in accreditations as well so the expertise was there. She knew how to present DeKalb to SACS and what it took in the way of responses to satisfy them. Dr. Lewis knew how valuable it was to hire someone to steer DeKalb through the SACS review.

  19. Dekalbite2 says:

    That’s not the way SACS works. They had just accreditated DCSS shortly before the charges so how could they now say – oops! Made a mistake. That would have begged the question as to why they failed to uncover anything so egregious.

  20. howdy1942 says:

    @Concernedmom30329 is correct about North Carolina – there is a lot of dissent in that State because of what its Legislature and Governor have done to “Advance to the Rear” during this year’s legislative session. I wouldn’t hold the action taken by the North Carolina Legislature this year as an example to follow.

    Regarding SACS, I think that we just need to agree to disagree. My experience with SACS has been far different. In the case of Dekalb, the problems with the School Board were so blatant, so obvious, and so bad that governance had to be addressed. With financial management out of control, with four superintendents in four years, with one superintendent indicted and with the chief operations officer indicted, with legal issues costing more than its four neighboring counties combined, with very questionable hiring practices regarding superintendents, and with a public outcry about its performance, any reasonable accrediting agency would conclude that governance had to be addressed.

    I don’t view SACS as a threat at all. That may be the case for a school system that hasn’t been doing what it should have been doing for an extended period of time. As teachers, we were given the dates when SACS would be on campus and that our classes could be observed. That happened in my case. They simply wanted to see if I was prepared, that I conducted my class in a professional manner, and they wanted to gauge the interest of the students. They reviewed my syllabus and my lecture plans and the material used in class. I later learned that they had interviewed one of my students. I was present for the SACS readout and there were no threats to anyone or to our college. SACS simply presented it findings – the good, the bad, and the ugly! They were responsive to our questions, both at the readout and later. We worked with SACS to fix our shortcomings and, in the end, all was well. SACS does set standards and they do enforce them. As in most cases in life, if one approaches SACS in a positive, cooperative manner, then the results will be constructive and helpful. I don’t think that was the case in Dekalb.

    I’m sure that individual experiences will differ, but my observations did not show SACS to be controlling or threatening. I don’t know what SACS did in Dekalb 10 years ago – I just appreciate what they are doing in Dekalb now.

  21. Just me. says:

    Mr. Norreese Haynes and I have been the earliest (since February 15, 2008) public dissenters and most vocal critics of SACS in Georgia. Norreese Haynes, who was sitting on the Clayton School Board at the time, called the so-called “Report” that SACS issued on the above date “a sham and a farce.” He issued his press release within the hour of the SACS “Report.” It was indeed a sham and a farce, just like SACS’s “Report” in DeKalb.

    Mr. Haynes and I are writing a book about what is really wrong with public education in Georgia, and one of the things that is wrong is the game that the school accrediting agencies play. Here is one of the chapters on the book which deals with SACS in Georgia.

  22. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    North Carolina is still way ahead of us in education.

    @Howdy1942, You’re experience with SACS was different when you were teaching. No kidding, Sherlock! How long ago was that? 1942 your birthday? SACS isn’t the accrediting agency it once was.

    Is that speculation regarding Talley or can you link me to anything that talks about her SACS expertise and why Lewis brought her in?

  23. Dekalbite2 says:

    Just speculation. Asking former employees why she was hired elicited the response of “to get DeKalb through the SACS” review. No impropriety on her part is or was implied.

  24. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Do you appreciate anything about SACS before Oct 2012? What report did they provide that had any relevance to what was going on?
    DCSD was doing exactly what SACS asked them to do. On March 3, 2011 SACS sent DCSD a report with 8 required action items. As of Sept 8, 2011 DCSD had completed 7 of the 8 items.

    As far as SACS was concerned, everything was hunky dory at DCSD until Oct 2012. DCSD may not have been doing what they should have been doing, but they were doing exactly what SACS told them to do.

  25. I do recall that Lewis brought Talley in to help get systemwide accreditation from SACS. Lewis was the first to do this – as a system – not individual high schools… I don’t think Talley did anything improper – she just knew how to get this done. She was the administrator’s administrator… she was very defensive of that (in)famous trip to Hollywood.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010
    Talley Defends the Hollywood Trip

    And very defensive of her large administration:
    Sunday, May 23, 2010
    What the Budget Cuts Mean

    Really, once again, just put search terms in the old blog. Not a whole lot has really changed. We just keep discussing the same old issues – it’s just that some of the names have changed.

  26. I have to wonder, going waaaaay back, why SACS didn’t take issue with the amount of money approved by the board at the time – spent on conducting a ‘study’ to see how much to countersue Heery Mitchell for. Lewis and the board spent $3.6 MILLION to do a study! From the general operating budget! For a SPLOST construction project! To file a countersuit on a $1.5 million claim! And then they continued to spend millions upon millions on the case – as well as more money on the Lewis criminal case… Why no trouble with any of that? Why no trouble with the inordinate amount of “Executive Sessions” to “discuss legal matters”?

    Great excerpt, btw – from Dr Trotter’s book! Thanks for the link!

  27. Sarah says:

    While I believe that records pertaining to public school accreditation should be made public, even when held by a private organization, I think anyone involved with Dekalb Schools recognizes that the problem here is Dekalb Schools. This isn’t a Board problem or a school-specific problem. This is a district wide issue that has been allowed to ferment for years. It has caused a trickle down reaction that impacts every school in this district. The mismanagement is obvious, even to those outside of our field. Two law firms because you can’t agree? If no warning bells were ringing before that (and they should have been) then certainly once that decision was made, parents and teachers should have stepped up and started the repair process. An attitude of complacency and silence was promoted with every improper action that was tolerated. We have created this mess, created a district where parents have to go to the state BOE to get their children registered for school, a district where Kanye West’s song “Clique” is considered appropriate for a seventh grade talent show, a district where administrators treat parents and teachers with contempt and students with indifference. We have created a district where teachers are not allowed to teach, students are not allowed to learn and parents are not allowed to have appropriate involvement. This isn’t the fault of SACS. The only complaint that might be laid at their door is that a lack of aggressive action on their part as an agent of oversight helped prolong the issues within this district. This DCSS problem was created, enabled, and even enforced right here at home. We will not repair it by blaming SACS or anyone else. .

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