Founded in 1895, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement is a non-governmental agency that accredits about 13,000 public and non-public institutions worldwide. While other accreditation agencies exist, SACS is the largest and most recognized, school board attorney Glenn Brock said. Most colleges will not accept students who don’t graduate from an accredited school, he said.
SACS is a division of AdvancED, which employees 180 people and has
corporate offices in Tempe, Ariz., and Alpharetta.
The review team, which is staying at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center, began its visit with a meeting Sunday. They are interviewing school and district staff, board members, and community members from Monday to Wednesday. The chair of the review team, Dr. Nikki Armato, AdvancED’s chief learning officer, will give a preliminary verbal report to the school board at a special called board meeting Wednesday at 3 p.m. The report will include overall observations and recommendations. The team will finalize its written report and send it with an accreditation recommendation to AdvancED’s “Accreditation Commission,” which makes the final decision. The company’s commission consists of 40 educators from around the world.
Cobb will receive a copy of the report being submitted to the commission a month or so after the visit. The commission meeting will be conducted at the end of January, and Cobb will receive confirmation of its accreditation decision following that meeting, AdvancEd spokeswoman Jennifer Oliver said.
District spokesman Jay Dillon said in an e-mail that the accreditation team met with PTA leaders Monday, “as well as with a couple of parents who were either specifically asked or specifically requested to be interviewed.”
“Additionally, the SACS committee will interview a parent group from each of the 24 schools they visit,” he said.
Jo Ellen Smith was the only parent Dillon would name who the team had met with.
Tom Harper, a Kennesaw Mountain High School parent, sent a request Wednesday to the head of the accreditation firm, asking that his group be allowed to meet with the evaluation team.
“By this letter, I am requesting an opportunity for a group of concerned parents to meet with you and your committee publicly to share our view of the issues and problems in our district. We can be available on a date and time chosen by you for a meeting at the District’s Glover Street Office. The courtesy of a prompt response would be greatly appreciated,” Harper wrote to AdvancEd CEO Dr. Mark Elgart.
Harper is a founding partner of Harper, Waldon & Craig, an insurance defense firm.
On why he wants to meet with the accreditation group, Harper said, “I wanted to give them a different perspective on the issues facing the district, and confirm that there are legitimate reasons for opposition to the board’s chosen course of action in so many areas.”
Harper has critiqued the board’s method of governance in letters to the editors on such subjects as Georgia’s Open Meetings Act and block scheduling.
It is unclear whether the accreditation team will agree to meet with Harper’s group since Oliver said Monday that Elgart had not received his letter.
In February, Cobb school board Chairman Dr. John Abraham invited Elgart, who is based in Alpharetta, to speak to the board about best practices. In that meeting, Elgart praised the board as “a pioneer” for being the first system, along with Fulton School District, to obtain accreditation as a district in 2004. He told them at the time that since there hasn’t been a SACS visit in the last five years, Cobb is in good standing.