Cobb school board members call for accreditation review

Cobb County schools will have their accreditation reviewed after three school board members asked the district’s accrediting agency to conduct a special review. According to the school district’s superintendent, that review could have negative consequences.

The Cobb County School District will undergo a Special Review from its accrediting body, Cognia — formerly AdvancED and SACS — following a request that Cognia conduct an unscheduled review filed by three school board members, Charisse Davis, Dr. Jaha Howard, and Leroy “Tré” Hutchins in January 2021. Cognia communicated they had received additional complaints from groups and individuals alleging the same or very similar violations of Cognia standards. 

“We are a strong district with a history of academic excellence, student success, and sound fiscal stewardship,” Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said. “This unscheduled review is unusual for several reasons, including Cognia’s recent extension of our accreditation term only one year ago. In 2019 and 2020, Cognia’s leadership expressed sufficient confidence in the District to extend our accreditation through 2024 – the maximum length we could have been given.” 

“The communication I received from Cognia centered upon allegations of political disagreements and intra-personal behavior within the board of education. While these are serious concerns, an unscheduled Special Review seems to be a very unusual response, particularly following the extension of our accreditation and the possible adverse effects of a Special Review to the District’s students, faculty, staff, and community. Given this, the District is taking this Special Review very seriously. The District will fully cooperate with Cognia in moving forward without delay. I have every confidence the District’s adherence to performance standards will be evident, just as it was in 2019 and 2020,” said Superintendent Ragsdale. 

The Cobb County School District is the second-largest school system in Georgia and the 25th largest in the nation. With a graduation rate of 89% and 111 total schools – including 66 elementary schools, 25 middle schools, 17 high schools, one charter school, one special education center, and one adult education center.

Determinations made through a Special Review Team could negatively impact college acceptance rates, college scholarships, enrollment, funding, and educator recruitment and retention, as occurred in Clayton and DeKalb counties in 2008 and 2011. Impacts can also negatively affect a county’s economy, property values, and bond credit ratings. 

A request that Cognia conduct an unscheduled review was filed by three CCSD Board of Education members, Charisse Davis, Dr. Jaha Howard, and Leroy “Tré” Hutchins, in January 2021. A copy of their initial request for review can be found here

The District first received notice from Cognia in late February, which primarily centered upon complaints about the Cobb County Board of Education’s behavior as a governing body. The District’s response, which can be read here, provided extensive data in response to the complaints. Despite this, a notice of an official Special Review was received earlier this week. 

“The District has taken great care to provide Cognia extensive information demonstrating our adherence to its standards,” said Ragsdale. “While the District’s record speaks for itself, we know there is always room for growth in all areas, including effective Board governance and interactions. Georgia law establishes maintaining accreditation as a primary responsibility of a board of education. The District is committed to continuous improvement in meeting our obligations under Cognia, state law, and Board policy.” 

No timeline for the Special Review has been established.

Two metro Atlanta school systems have had accreditation problems in recent years. Clayton County lost its accreditation in 2008 and DeKalb County lost full accreditation in 2011. Both school systems eventually earned back full accreditation status.

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