Wake County Schools

Wake schools review could happen without board's help

Posted January 13, 2011 5:59 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2011 11:06 p.m. EST

Wake County Public School System

— The head of a national organization in charge of accrediting the Wake County Public School System says a review of the board’s governance and actions could still happen – with or without the Board of Education’s cooperation.

"We are prepared to come on site and meet with individuals that are willing to cooperate with us, and we will conduct our work with or without the cooperation of some or all of the members of the board of education,” Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of AdvancED, said Thursday.

Elgart said an accreditation review team would, instead, interview educators and community members about the board’s decisions in recent months, including its move to a controversial student assignment plan that moves away from a decade-old policy of busing students to help achieve socio-economic diversity.

The AdvancED team has been planning for months to interview board members after the North Carolina NAACP filed a complaint in March with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a subdivision of AdvancED, alleging that some board members want to segregate the school system.

Board members have since been discussing withdrawing their accreditation after AdvancED refused to limit the scope of its review and allow an attorney to be present to represent school board members because of a legal challenge that the NAACP also filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.

The board sent a four-page letter Thursday repeating its concerns and asking for a review that “must be fair and directly related to the accreditation of our schools.”

Elgart said AdvancED does not want to dictate policy but look at how decisions are made.

The board’s letter goes on to say that without AdvancED’s “unequivocal consent … we will be left with no choice to decline to participate in the interviews” and that the board will have to “reconsider its continuing relationship” with the group.

"It is hard for me to believe that the company we employ would certainly not want to cooperate with us," Board chairman Ron Margiotta said Thursday.

Board attorney Jonathan Blumberg said the board has, so far, been cooperating with the review by answering questions and providing documents and even a face-to-face meeting.

“The board does want this to work, does want to continue with the certification process,” he said.

Elgart disagrees.

“It continues a pattern of being confrontational and not cooperating with the process,” Elgart said Thursday of the letter.

Elgart said AdvancED is prepared to "come on-site and meet with individuals willing to meet with us." 

Accreditation is important, because it can be used in determining a high school student’s acceptance to a higher institution of learning.

How institutions use it varies, however.

Officials at several local colleges and universities say there are a number of determining factors in student acceptance – ranging from student grades and test scores to campus and community involvement – but that accreditation is still an important factor.

The community group Great Schools in Wake Coalition also weighed in on the matter Wednesday, issuing a statement saying that dropping accreditation could cost students millions of dollars in academic and athletic scholarship and educational loans and limit acceptance to colleges, universities and military programs.

And board member Carolyn Morrison released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying withdrawing accreditation would be “another blow” to the school system and could be misinterpreted by the public.

Other board members have suggested looking at other accreditation groups.

"There are several other agencies that do accreditation of a higher caliber (that) we are looking at,” board member John Tedesco has said.