The Bibb County school systems leadership was in such a shambles that evaluators considered leaving in the middle of their recent review. Yet they also praised the systems efforts to reform, and their support has led to reaccreditation of the school system.
The different findings came from the evaluators of AdvancEd, who were gauging whether the school system was on the road to improvement. The evaluators gave the lowest possible marks to the school board and the school systems technology efforts, and not once did they give the system the highest possible mark.
When the evaluators visited a school board meeting in April, they knew the board hadnt been able to elect officers or to agree on many agenda items. Then they were shown a Web page that mentioned Steve Smith, the new interim superintendent, although Smith hadnt yet been hired.
This release of confidential information had been an issue before the Team arrived. However, this time it occurred while the Team was at the Board meeting. To add frustration to the meeting, the Board was called to order and immediately went into executive session for about two hours, the lead evaluator, Stephen Oborn, wrote in a report received this week by the Bibb County school system.
Earlier in April, the board had voted to censure an unnamed -- and unknown -- board member it accused of leaking information to The Telegraph about a buyout of then-Superintendent Romain Dallemands contract.
The Telegraph got the accreditation report through the Georgia Open Records Act. The general themes, but not all of the critical details, were shared in a May 1 presentation to the school board and staff.
AdvancEds board voted June 22 to reaccredit the school system. Jennifer Oliver, a spokeswoman for the organization, said she couldnt say at what level the district was reaccredited until the school system receives formal notification. That hasnt been done yet.
Oborns report recommended monitors to supervise the Bibb County school systems need to reform its leadership, and he quoted a teacher as saying, We are held hostage.
But the evaluators stayed and discovered new attitudes after that school board meeting. That night, the school board picked a complete set of its own leaders after nearly four months without a president or vice president.
Board President Wanda West said Friday that the school board and school system have been working together better and knew much had to be done. West said the AdvancEd accreditation report also tells the school board and school system more of how they need to improve.
The only question: Can the board get the work done? West said. Can the board come together as a team with the superintendent to help get the district on track? Theres a lot of work to be done. Its not impossible. I do believe every board member has the interests of the children at heart and the community at heart.
Oborns report is filled with positive superlatives, such as uncommon, incredible and passionate. The accreditation report portrays a physically clean school system where students feel safe and cared for.
The report faults the school system for using data well to improve some programs -- but not finding a good evaluation process that can change or eliminate entire initiatives. The report also found little evidence that the system had good procedures in place to recruit and place staff, which has also been echoed in a human resources audit.
The system also needs to focus on students in special-needs or gifted programs and ensure that all students are learning, the report said.
In many of the school systems worst areas, including leadership, technology and human resources, the report notes that reforms are being made.
Indeed, the evaluators praised the systems strategic plan, known as the Macon Miracle, which aims to fix many of the weaknesses that evaluators later identified.
Accreditation is a process used to ensure that school systems are learning more about what they do and studying ways to improve. In that area, the school system also needs work, the report said.
The Bibb County School District lacks a clearly defined system for continuous quality improvement, Oborn wrote. Some of that needs to come through the school board, which should create a plan and leadership that will promote student performance and system effectiveness and communicate a system wide purpose for student success.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.