While the Liberty County School system waits until next week for a rescheduled visit from the schools accrediting group AdvancED, one school board member said the board hasn’t learned from past training.
The subject came up at Tuesday’s work session during discussion of AdvancED’s Jan. 29-31 visit.
Part of that discussion included additional board training required by AdvancED, and Liberty County School System Maintenance and Operations Director Jason Rogers said of four firms submitting proposals to conduct that training, a committee recommended the Carl Vinson Institute/Fannin Group as the best option.
The second ranked firm was listed as Four Point Education Services.
But BoE member Carolyn Smith-Carter said the board has taken sufficient training classes the past three years that have yielded little to no results.
She said board members failed to internalize any training and have already spent $57,000. She also questioned whether the request for proposals of the training firms were in the previous meeting minutes and whether the BoE looked at firms that were approved by the Georgia School Board Association.
Smith-Carter said she’s been on the board for five years and continues to be the victim of or the witness of what she termed “bullying” by fellow board members.
She mentioned a rift between herself and BoE member Verdell Jones.
Jones said the continued training was necessary and was mentioned in previous meetings. She added the board needs to comply and complete existing recommendations previously set by AdvancED. She added that the behavior of the board does not benefit anyone and hurts the children.
LCSS Interim Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said it was obvious to everyone that problems still exist within the board.
He said they needed to be remedied for the benefit of the children’s education.
Dr. Yvette Keel questioned the timing of moving forward with the selection of a firm and more training since AdvancED arrives next week and would likely make new recommendations based on their investigations.
After the discussion a motion to approve the Carl Vinson Institute/Fannin Group was placed to a vote, and the district will now negotiate regarding services and fees that will be brought before the board for approval.
The AdvancED team will arrive Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday they will report to the board of education building and meet with each board member, independently, for an hour. If times permits they also have slotted time for team-building exercise with board members.
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.