As a controversial redistricting bill made its way from the House to the governor's desk, the head of the international registry for accreditation expressed concerns with the governance model proposed in House Bill 978.
"The election of the Board chair by registered voters in Cherokee County is highly irregular," Mark A. Elgart, the president and CEO of AdvancED, wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to current Cherokee Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman. "Normally the Board chair is elected by members of the Board.
"If the decision is incorrect the school system and Board would have no recourse. The school system’s ability to function could be significantly impacted including its capacity to meet accreditation requirements."
The Cherokee County Legislative Delegation, whose members sponsored the redistricting bill, met with Elgart, according to Rep. Charlice Byrd's (R-Woodstock) Sunday Local Voices column on Woodstock-Towne Lake Patch.
After that meeting, Byrd said members of the delegation concluded that school systems with a countywide-elected chair have "statistically fewer issues with accreditation, not more."
But in a new email, Elgart offered a slightly different take on the meeting.
"Their conclusion (not mine) is that electing a chair county wide has no greater chance to cause governance issues than a normal election of the chair by the Board of Education," he wrote in the April 1 email to Chapman. "The bottom line is they clearly have political reasons for wanting to" change the way that Cherokee elects its school board chair.
The Cherokee County School District released that email on Monday, the contents of which are below.
----- Original Message -----
From: Mark Elgart [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Sunday, April 01, 2012 08:07 AM
To: Chapman, Mike
Subject: RE: Final letter cherokee redistricting
Good morning. I did meet with the delegation. I shared with them my position which is the same as I stated in the letter to you. I told them that redistricting is not an accreditation issue. However, the proposed manner to elect the chair of the Board of Education could be a significant issue if the voters elect the wrong person. In such cases, the school system's accreditation could be threatened if the elected chair causes problems with governance and the overall operation of the school system. I stood by my professional opinion.
The delegation respectfully disagreed with my statement that electing a chair by voters is highly irregular. They claim that 29 districts in the state of Georgia do so in this manner. I stated that may be the case but this is highly irregular as compared with the rest of the country. Their statement was that they only cared about Georgia. I still stated that I have concerns for the system.
They asked how many of the 29 school systems have had governance issues related to accreditation. I quickly reviewed the list and said at least 3 or 4. They asked how many districts in Georgia have governance issues for which I could not state an exact number over the past 10 years. Their conclusion (not mine) is that electing a chair county wide has no greater chance to cause governance issues than a normal election of the chair by the Board of Education.
I asked them for a rationale to elect the chair in this manner and there was no clear reason or rationale. The bottom line is they clearly have political reasons for wanting to do this and I have clear concerns for doing it in this manner. In the end, it is a local decision and the accrediting agency cannot impose its will on the county or the legislature. However, nothing I stated in my letter has changed as a result of my meeting with the delegation.