As seen in the news last week, the DeKalb County School System’s accreditation status has been elevated from probation – which is one step above complete loss of accreditation – to “accredited warned.” This increase in the system’s accreditation status is the direct result of the hard work of Superintendent Michael Thurmond and the new board of education that was appointed last year.
The new board of education was installed only because Governor Nathan Deal had the courage to replace the board pursuant to a law which permits the governor to do so if a school system’s accreditation is at risk of loss. A loss of accreditation would have threatened the worth of high school diplomas issued in DeKalb County, homeowners’ property values and the willingness of businesses to locate here.
I was proud to be one of only seven (out of 23) DeKalb County legislators who stood with Governor Deal when he announced his decision to suspend and replace the DeKalb BOE. I also attended the BOE meeting last week at which Dr. Mark Elgart of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) announced the elevation of DeKalb’s accreditation status.
Dr. Elgart underscored the importance of this year’s school board elections, which will be held May 20, to the continued improvement of our school system. It’s critical that voters be vigilant not to return the BOE to the dysfunction, cronyism and meddling that put our schools on unstable ground in the first place. Dr. Elgart also noted that, with its existing financial resources, DeKalb should be able to have one of the best school systems in the nation.
Things are not perfect in the DeKalb County School System. But at least now the trajectory is pointed in the right direction. Simply put, the threat of accreditation loss is the single most important issue facing DeKalb County right now.
Here is Governor Deal’s public statement on the positive news:
“Today’s announcement is excellent news for the students in DeKalb schools who ran the risk of owning tarnished degrees and for homeowners whose property values would have fallen precipitously,” Deal said. “In early 2013, we faced a crisis in DeKalb. Working together with many local leaders who had the courage to step forward, we put aside short-term politics for a long-term solution that is paying dividends today. I would like to thank my friend Superintendent Thurmond, the volunteers on the nominating panel, my school board liaisons and the DeKalb legislators who stood with me when we made this announcement last year. I also want to give a special thanks to the diverse group of public servants who stepped up during their community’s time of need to serve on this school board. They have made a positive difference, and for that, we are grateful. As I often say, my No. 1 goal is to bring good jobs to Georgia, and education plays a critical role in that effort. Today we celebrate this positive development, as well as the great example that DeKalb has set by rallying together for the public good.”