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School accreditation team coming this week
Letters from AdvancED have said the planned visit has been scheduled because of complaints about how the school board has been operating.

The school accreditation agency AdvancED will visit the Liberty County School System next week, according to video minutes from the Jan. 9 school board meeting.

LCSS Board Chairwoman Lily Baker mentioned that AdvancED will meet with Board members Jan 18-19, as she addressed LCSS Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry just before the meeting was adjourned.

Baker said the board expected to be informed this week what times representatives of AdvancED would be meeting with each board member.

Based on emails obtained by the Courier on Friday through an open records request, an AdvancED team will arrive Wednesday.

The team will report to the board of education building Thursday where they will meet with each board member. Based on the schedule each board member and Interim Superintendent Franklin Perry and Chief Academic Officer Patti Crane will spend an hour with the team. Interviews will continue on Friday and time was also set aside for teamwork exercises and additional interviews as needed

AdvancED wasn’t scheduled to return to Liberty County until May. However, in a March 13 letter from AdvancED chief accreditation officer Annette Bohling to former LCSS Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee, the accreditation group determined, "That an onsite investigation was warranted and necessary to evaluate the adherence of Liberty County Schools to the Accreditation Standards for Quality School Systems.

Bohling’s letter stated that AdvancED had received continuous complaints about board members.

The letter pointed to allegations that included a board member accused of violating school district policy regarding access to school facilities and the discussion of personnel issues outside of executive session.

The letter also addressed complaints by former LCSS chief financial officer Roger Reese, accusing the BoE and Lee of violating policies regarding banking services.

The visit comes at a time when LCSS is in the midst of a five-year external review process. School systems are evaluated by AdvancED every five years to maintain accreditation.

On March 6, 2016, AdvancED sent a team of six educators to Liberty County for the five-year review.

AdvancED reportedly determined that there was needed improvement among the governing board of the system after interviewing six of the seven board members, one at a time, and determined that though most had attended the necessary training provided by the Georgia School Board Association, not all were using it.

The review team reported a number of situations when board members were not operating responsibly and functioning effectively.

AdvancED reported it was clear that the board had "problems" related to the LCSS code of ethics and its training, documents show.

AdvancED reviewers also found that surveys showed less than half of parents thought the school board did its job well.

Based on the findings, the ERP Team advised the LCSS to provide more focused training and support for the BoE.

However since the 2016 review AdvancED received three letters about the board’s behavior and its alleged noncompliance with or violations of policies.

Those letters prompted AdvancED to send what it calls a Special Review Team, "to provide all parties with the opportunity to review information and evidence related to the stated concerns so that an informed decision can be made as to the validity and extent of alleged violations relating to the accreditation Standards and indicators," the agency said.

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