The Liberty County Board of Education voted 4-2 on Monday to undergo training ordered by AdvancED, the accrediting agency with the power to strip the school system’s accreditation.
School board members Dr. Yvette Keel and Carolyn Smith-Carter voted against the measure during Monday’s workshop.
The vote occurred after LCSS Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry reiterated that the district remains accredited but is in jeopardy of losing accreditation unless the board unanimously commits to working together on AdvancED requirements, which are due by Oct. 31.
Board member Marcus Scott IV, who was at the 8 a.m. called meeting for the budget, did not attend the workshop.
The Liberty County School System is accredited “under review,” which is one step above loss of accreditation. AdvancED cited issues among board members as its reasoning for its grade of the system.
Perry said the district has complied with state law which requires LCSS to file documents with the state department of education. He said the state will hold a hearing and may decide to continue the process if the entire board showed their willingness to move forward with the directives.
He added that the state could also decide to make recommendations to Gov. Nathan Deal for the removal of board members.
“I think this board needs to decide exactly where you are because this is serious,” Perry said.
He said LCSS has a plan to meet AdvancED directives and he is ready to present it to the state to show that the school board is moving forward. He noted the plan does allow the board to make certain adjustments during this preliminary stage.
It was evident there was a rift between board members prior to the vote.
“I have no problem working with my fellow board members on these directives,” Board Chair Lily Baker said. “I know why I ran for office and that was to take care of the children.”
Board member Carol Guyett also spoke out in favor following the AdvancED requirements.
“So having said that I am willing to do whatever it takes, whenever it takes for however long it takes to get this resolved to the satisfaction of the state, AdvancED and also to the faculty and staff,” she said.
Dr. Keel and Carter both read from prepared statements explaining why they planned to vote no.
Keel said she still had concerns of the board’s appointment of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to conduct the training. She, Smith-Carter and Scott in January voted against the appointment of the Carl Vinson Institute to conduct training.
Baker, Guyett, Verdell Jones and Marcia Anderson voted to use the Carl Vinson Institute. They also voted Monday to move ahead with AdvancED requirement.
Keel’s objection to the company was among her reasons for voting against moving forward with AdvancED directives.
“I am greatly concerned that this company’s work specializes in non-profit organizations and greatly lacks experience working with public school systems,” Keel said. “None of these topics in their experience portfolio are on the list of directives given to the Liberty County School Board by AdvancED for correction.”
Keel said she also thought Baker misrepresented the board when she read a letter at the May 14 called meeting. During that called meeting Baker read a statement saying that she, “along with other board members,” took the AdvancED directive seriously and were committed to resolving the matters at hand.
“In drafting her statement she did not have approval for her statement from members of the entire Liberty County School Board,” Keel said. “Had Chair Baker contacted me about her intentions of the content of her May 14 statement I would have told her that since AdvancED has determined that years and hundreds of hours of training on these directives have been unsuccessful to this point I personally have little to no faith that more training, especially by the Carl Vinson Institute, will be successful in correcting the directives in the future and although, as stated by Chair Baker, I do take these directives very seriously, I will vote no to work on those directives with members of this board.”
Smith-Carter said that she agreed with AdvancED in that the board is an embarrassment to the community and praised, as the report did, Perry bringing stability to an otherwise dysfunctional school board.
“Statistics and experts have shown that a dysfunctional school board will, inevitably, lead to a lack of student achievement,” Smith-Carter said.
She said the board has wasted taxpayers’ funds taking training that was never taken seriously by members. She said constant violations and micromanaging of former Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee had spiraled out of control and the school board continues to act unethically.
Jones praised Dr. Perry and the school system staff. She thanked board members who said they plan to move forward with the directives.
“About 10 years ago I raised my hand and took an oath and said that I would do everything possible to help this system move forward,” Jones said. “Today I am still willing to do that. My focus is not on the adults but it is on the children because that is what a school system should be focused on.”
“I’m worried about the kids in our system and I’m worried about our community,” Anderson said. “This effects the whole community. I think this, today, is very telling. I will do whatever in my power in my short time before I retire, to do whatever I can do to help this system be the best that it can be. I do not want to be an embarrassment to this system. I do not want to be a troublemaker and we owe this to our children. And anybody that does not make this effort, in my opinion, does not deserve to be on this board in the first place.”