Accreditation agency not on board with Wake

January 14, 2011 8:53:14 PM PST
An international school accreditation firm is describing the Republican majority on the Wake County School Board as confrontational.AdvancED says it will not accept the latest terms offered by Wake County school leaders for the agency's review.

The agency has launched an investigation into the board's decisions and policy changes after complaints from the community.

On Thursday, board attorneys sent AdvancED a letter outlining several conditions that needed to be met in order for board members and staff to cooperate with AdvancED's investigation. In the letter, the board said anything less than a positive response would force them to re-consider its relationship with the agency.

AdvancED sent a letter Friday afternoon in response to the school board majority's demands, saying it will "respectfully decline" conditions like advising board members in advance of what will be asked during the review and allowing school board members to have attorneys at their side for interviews by the agency.

The president of AdvancED has said he is deeply concerned about the board's reaction to the investigation and has encouraged the board to consider withdrawing its accreditation unless it cooperates.

The issue will affect mostly college-bound high school students and their ability to get into some universities that require accreditation.

And the CEO of AdvancED, which accredits 27,000 institutions worldwide, says he has never seen a school board as uncooperative as Wake's and it's suspicious.

"If everything is fine and they believe the school system's operating effectively, then why the hesitation," Dr. Mark Elgart said.

Incoming Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata said at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce reception for him Firday night that he encourages those involved in the accreditation issue to put students first.

"We need to sometimes hang our egos at the door and you can expect for me to do that every time," Tata said. "This is a big deal and we need to make sure we get it right for the kids."

Tata says he hopes both sides will agree to work together and think about those college-bound high school students whose ability to get into some universities would be jeopardized.

"These seniors and juniors that are graduating and preparing to graduate and their hopes and dreams are hanging on moving out in the right direction with accredited diplomas, I pray that we are keeping them first and foremost in our minds," Tata said.

Click here to watch Tata's speech at the reception

On his way into the reception, the school board chairman said he was disappointed with AdvancED's response.

"I was hopeful that AdvancED would go along with our request," Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said.

But some board members say they will meet with AdvancED with no conditions.

"I don't have anything to hide," Wake School Board Member Kevin Hill said. "I don't believe anybody does. I don't mean to insinuate that. But I'd be very comfortable sitting with them without an attorney."

"We will meet with those members of the board who will abide by our policies and procedures and if others choose not to we'll proceed with the review with our without the board's support," Elgart said.

He says AdvancED will come to town in mid-February to begin its review. That means the Wake County School Board will have to make a quick decision on what to do next.

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