Cobb Schools’ special review by its accrediting body, Cognia, is expected to take place in August, the district announced Tuesday.
The special review, which Cognia says was brought on by more than 50 complaints from the Cobb community and Cobb Schools staff, as well as a letter from the seven-member school board’s three Democrats, will occur between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18, a news release from Cobb Schools said.
The review will involve presentation of evidence concerning four specific Cognia standards, which the district says relate to “governing authority, equitable opportunities and student performance,” as specific areas of focus.
The review is slated to include interviews between Cognia and individual board members, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, district principals, teachers and community members.
“We know the schools in Cobb are a big reason why families, homeowners, taxpayers, and businesses choose to live and work in Cobb County,” the district’s news release said. “It continues to be important to the Cobb County School District (CCSD) that every Cobb family is kept aware of the ongoing special review being conducted by our current accreditation agency, Cognia.”
The district was made aware in mid-April of Cognia’s decision to conduct its review, and the district says that, over the last 60 days, it has been “working with Cognia staff to establish a timeline and process for the review.”
According to the release, the district has spent more than 600 hours preparing for the review while it also prepares for the 2021-22 school year.
“The Cobb County School District believes that transparency in this process is important and will update our community again as new information becomes available in August,” the release said. “Thank you for your patience and continued support for all students, families, and residents of Cobb County.”
Ragsdale has noted that loss of accreditation could have serious consequences for students, staff and the greater community.
Loss of accreditation, should it come to that, could make students from Cobb less competitive during college acceptance and make it harder for them to receive the HOPE scholarship. Changes in accreditation status could also affect educator recruitment and retention and district enrollment and funding, according to the district’s news release. And beyond the implications to the district are also concerns of ripple effects on the county’s economy, property values and bond credit ratings, Cobb Schools officials said.
But Democratic board members Davis, Dr. Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre” Hutchins have asserted, as has Cognia president and CEO Mark Elgart, that the district’s accreditation is not at immediate risk, and wouldn’t be unless the district is resistant to recommended changes to actions that may violate Cognia standards. Even that, Elgart has told the MDJ, would still be many months out.
The Cobb community should not panic, he said.
“We’re here to help them improve,” Elgart said of the district and board. “We’re not here to penalize them.”
Davis, Howard and Hutchins all pointed to Elgart’s comments in the MDJ at a Cobb meeting of the Cobb County Democratic Party last month, with Davis saying Ragsdale’s statements had “put a lot of fear” into people. She called those statements “irresponsible.”
“We’re not going to lose accreditation,” Davis said, pointing to Elgart’s interview with the MDJ.
Cognia did not immediately respond to request for more details on the impending review Tuesday.