The Bibb County Board of Education is up against a deadline. The board has thought of a novel idea to get its homework in on time. Couched in the phrase, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” the board has decided to copy a board manual from DeKalb County that had been copied from an Austin, Texas, school district that lays out polices, procedures, administrator roles and training for new board members, among other things.
Both school systems had found themselves sideways with AdvancED, the organization that could yank the system’s accreditation, causing all sorts of mayhem. Loss of accreditation would be piling on a system that’s already under attack. That’s not AdvancED’s purpose, but the hammer remains a possibility.
The system has known this homework would be coming due for two years. AdvancED told board members they would be back in 24 months, and the days of reckoning will arrive in May. The governance handbook, no matter where it comes from, will not convince AdvancED that the board has changed its ways. And manual or no manual, board members go through madatory training to learn what a member can or cannot do. Just as an aside, admitting in a public meeting that you’re going to essentially plagiarize another system’s product is not a good idea. Board member Jason Downey said, “AdvancED loves it. It obviously works. There’s no reason it can’t work for us, but not every system’s the same. So we need input from all of you. ... We want to make sure this is specific to us.” The last caveat is important. Something that should have been worked on during the past two years has come down to a two-month sprint. They want the manual finished by April 1. Good luck with that.
It’s going to be a tough sell. AdvancED officials read the newspapers. They know board member Lester Miller interfered with an investigation that involved stolen money at a school in his district. They know that most of the people who put together the accreditation package, led by Jane Drennan, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, have left the system. They know that it took the board two years to find a superintendent. And they also will know that the Welcome Center, one of the bright spots in the report two years ago, has been completely dismantled.
Adding to the system’s worries is Gov. Nathan Deal’s list of failing schools. Bibb County has 14 schools on the list: nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. How AdvancED will view the governor’s actions and the appearance of Bibb’s schools on the list is unknown.
Bottom line, we imagine AdvancED’s focus will not be a physical manual or handbook, but rather how well a handbook, that hasn’t existed, has been followed. Our guess is that the system will be given a temporary grade -- an “incomplete.” AdvancED will allow the new superintendent, Curtis Jones, some time to turn the system around rather than doom him right out of the gate.