School examiners say the Bibb County school system should get reaccredited, but that it also needs a special monitoring team to make sure the system’s leadership problems get proper attention.
The accreditors gave the school system grades that are neither at the highest nor lowest ends of the scale -- though the worst-scoring area, in governance and leadership, is the one that needs the monitoring, said lead evaluator Stephen Oborn of AdvancED, a retired principal.
“We are proud of you. You have work to do,” Oborn said during a called board meeting in which the review team gave its preliminary findings. He said the system had already identified its problems, many of which have been in the news. The system has two years to show progress toward solving its problems.
The system has had leadership problems, and it is now negotiating a contract with the man who would be the system’s third leader this year. On Monday, the school board named an interim superintendent, former Central High School Principal Steve Smith. Smith will take the reins from an acting superintendent, Susanne Griffin-Ziebart. The board bought out the contract of then-Superintendent Romain Dallemand in February, just a few months after giving him a new contract.
The board itself spent four months without appointing its own leadership, and it has a history of splintered votes.
After the AdvancED presentation, board members vowed to improve.
Oborn said the reviewers’ recommendation is likely to be approved in June by the AdvancED board.
On a scale of 1 to 4, the system’s governance and leadership drew a 1.67. Efforts to use results for continuous improvement earned a 2.0, with resources and support systems at 2.25, and teaching and assessing for learning at 2.33. The system’s purpose and direction earned the highest grade, at 2.5.
Oborn said it’s not yet clear how Bibb County’s scores stack up against other systems because the accrediting agency is just implementing the system this year and hasn’t collected enough numbers yet to compare.
Parts of the accreditation review resulted in standing applause from the audience of mostly school administrators and employees.
Oborn praised the school system’s strategic plan, known as the Macon Miracle, because it provided a significant platform for improvement.
“We heard about it over and over again,” said Oborn, who highlighted a Macon Miracle assembly of about 4,500 people.
Oborn also praised the Welcome Center, created under the Macon Miracle plan, saying that one parent used up most of the evaluators’ time at the site praising the center and classes she’d taken.
But Oborn also highlighted the system’s shortcomings, including poor communication with parents and an inability to bring together stakeholders. He said parents want to come in and help.
“You need to do that,” he said. “The results will be astronomical.”
Accreditors also said the board needs to develop protocols to work ethically together and communicate well. The board also needs to work to promote student performance and communicate a systemwide purpose that will lead the system to success.
Accreditors said their review was based on data, documentation and interviews with 461 people since Sunday night. Accreditors and schools were largely on the same page.
“We were in lockstep with a lot of your self-evaluations,” Oborn said.
Jane Drennan, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, told the school board that much work remains.
“Our children need us every day. Our children need every one of us every day to support every one of them,” she said.
Smith was introduced at the beginning of the meeting, and he greeted many of the male board members with handshakes and shared hugs with some of the female board members. He said the accreditation report spells out things the school system needs to do better and will result in a plan that will be implemented and reviewed to ensure it’s on track.
Smith agreed the system needs to work better with its partners.
“Solid communities are built on a foundation and a partnership between the school, the home and the community, and it’s critical that we all work together,” he said.
Board members pointed to recent unanimous votes, such as those to appoint board leadership and select an interim superintendent, as signs they’ve turned a corner.
“We acknowledge that the board has not necessarily worked as one in the past and now, now it begins,” board member Jason Downey told The Telegraph.
Board member Thelma Dillard said she wanted to act on the recommendations “so we can have an almost perfect system. And I look forward to the monitoring, so you can make sure we do what we need to do.”
The school board meets next at 5 p.m. Thursday in the board room at 484 Mulberry St. Agenda items include the Macon Promise Neighborhood program, the budget and a proposed consulting contract to straighten out the system’s problems with a pay scale.