SACS Chief Praises New DeKalb School Board Members; Says Much Work Remains

Mar 13, 2013

Dr. Mark Elgart, CEO of AdvancEd, the parent firm of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Credit AdvanceEd

  Governor Nathan Deal's appointment of six new DeKalb County School Board members has drawn praise from the head of the county's accrediting agency.  But he also said the appointments were just one step in a long process for the DeKalb School Board, as it moves to get the system off accredited probation.

Dr. Mark Elgart is the CEO of the parent firm of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.  He said he applauds the process the Governor used to select the six new members, and he called them outstanding, experienced individuals who are dedicated to community service.  But, Elgart said the new appointments alone are no guarantee that SACS will move any faster to take DeKalb’s schools off probation.

"Oh, there's a lot of work to be done," Elgart said, in a conversation with WABE's Rose Scott.

Last December, SACS gave the DeKalb board four benchmarks to meet by year’s end:

  • a written plan for unifying the board; 
  • procedures to ensure that board decisions reflect the will of the members and abide by the law;
  • policies to ensure board members don’t intrude on responsibilities of the staff;
  • a plan for fiscal stability. 

But Elgart said the new board will get some help.

"We're going to be meeting with them in the coming weeks," he said, "Not only helping them understand the challenges that are ahead, but providing them some training in their new roles."

Elgart took issue with a televised report that quoted him as saying Governor Nathan Deal and state officials moved too fast in suspending the six former board members.  Elgart said the report took his comments out of context--and that the governor was adhering to a 2011 state law.

"We have no issue with the state speed, in which they did things," Elgart said.  "In fact, it's unusual at times for state governments to be able to move that quickly.  So the Governor and his staff should be applauded for that effort."

Elgart said he was suggesting that the process mandated by the 2011 law might be changed, to allow state officials more time to make key decisions about the fate of members of troubled school boards.