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Gainesville schools' accreditation to be announced today
System was last reviewed in 2007
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Gainesville City Schools called board meeting

When: 1:35 p.m. today
Where: Gainesville City Schools Board Office, 508 Oak St., Gainesville
Contact: 770-536-5275

View the accreditation standards

The Gainesville school system has been under scrutiny since Monday.

Results of the district's accreditation visit this week will be revealed and discussed today at a special called board meeting.

"The whole purpose of this board meeting is to hear the report from the visiting accreditation team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "That is the accrediting body for most of the southern colleges, universities and public schools."

SACS is a division of AdvancED, a worldwide education community that oversees the accreditation process.

The accreditation process looks at how school systems are reaching seven set standards, including a research-based curriculum, a comprehensive assessment system and fostering effective communication among stakeholders. School board members must do a self-study and provide evidence they are trying to achieve the standards, a process that can take anywhere from four months to a year, Dyer said.

There are several reasons why accreditation is important for a school system.

"Students who graduate from a nonaccredited school aren't eligible for certain scholarships, including the HOPE scholarship," Dyer said. "It's also a way for a third-party organization to say this school system is doing the job they're supposed to do."

The three-day process included input from all facets of Gainesville schools.

Monday, the team of five officials — three from Georgia and two from Alabama — received Gainesville's self-study and examined it in-depth. The team also began a lengthy interview process with the school board members, community stakeholders, business and community partners and parents, Dyer said.

"(Tuesday) one of them went to each of the schools and did a similar process," she said. "They toured the school, visited classrooms, interviewed school leaders, parents and teachers."

Tuesday evening and this morning, the team worked on writing their report on Gainesville City Schools and how well the system was meeting the seven standards.

"We expect some commendations, but the purpose of the task is to give us recommendations for improvement," Dyer said.

Accreditation is usually done every five years.

"David Shumake (assistant superintendent for Gainesville City Schools) and I decided to go ahead and put in for accreditation a year early so we could complete that process before we reapplied for charter system status," Dyer said.

A major purpose of the visit is to look at what has been improved since the last accreditation.

In 2007, the last time the system was accredited, there were two areas of improvement. The first was to stabilize Gainesville Middle School with consistent leadership. At the time, the middle school had problems with teacher and administrative turnover.

"Lately in Georgia there's been a lot of emphasis on board ethics and board governance in reports. ... We expected and did find out they're asking us a lot of questions about the board of education and school governance councils and how those work together," Dyer said. "The other thing they'll really look at is Wood's Mill High School because that's never been part of the district accreditation."

The second area to improve was communication and involvement with Latino parents.

Dyer said she does not expect any major areas of concern to come to light at today's meeting.


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