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Special training for school board to be held Monday

The Grady County Board of Education is scheduled to meet Monday evening for special training after being put on notice by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that the board is being monitored for alleged misconduct by two board members.
Dr. Larry Green, former Thomas County school superintendent, who was appointed to serve as interim superintendent at Miller County for seven months during the upheaval there that climaxed with the removal of the Miller County Board of Education by Governor Nathan Deal, will conduct the whole board training.
Board Vice Chairman Scott Higginbotham and board member Jeff Worsham have allegedly acted inappropriately in their pursuits to make changes to the softball and baseball coaching staffs at Cairo High School.
The SACS External Review Team learned about the alleged misconduct during the two-day review at Cairo High School on April 16 and 17, 2013.
During those two days, according to the review team lead by Dr. Gary Dorough, “disparaging remarks were made about some of the school’s governing board members’ attempts to usurp the principal’s authority. It was clear to the review team that recent events of some of the governing board members concerning athletics was a distraction to the administration and staff during the review. Board members using their assumed powers to micromanage the school athletic program is a blatant abuse of power.”
Once the team’s report was received by the SACS office in Atlanta, officials requested a response from former superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis. Pharis issued his response on June 26 and on July 2, Jay Wansley, associate director of AdvancED Georgia, of which SACS is a division, notified Superintendent Lee M. Bailey of the accreditation agency’s concerns.
Superintendent Bailey recommended the board schedule the special board training that will focus on board members’ duties and responsibilities.
If alleged micromanaging and abuse of power continues and is proven it could result in Cairo High School losing its accreditation, which according to Jennifer Oliver, vice president of communications for AdvancED, is serious.
Ms. Oliver said that many, but not all, colleges, universities and military academies only accept students who have graduated from accredited schools.
A loss of accreditation would also make it more difficult for students to transfer from one school to another.
Cairo High School has been accredited by SACS since 1945 and, according to Ms. Oliver, every five years the school must be reaccredited.
The accreditation standards focus on qualities that drive quality education and focus on continuous improvement, Ms. Oliver said.
“We have no influence on whether someone remains in office. However, if the school is not following the commitments to standards that is something we would want to look into,” Ms. Oliver said.
According to Ms. Oliver, SACS is monitoring the situation here, but is giving the Grady County Board of Education the time to address the issue through board training like the session set for next week.
Jay Wansley, associate director of AdvancED recently told The Messenger in a telephone interview, “The governor has been removing board members left and right. I hope this board is not oblivious to what is going on and that it is not the board’s job to micromanage the school system.”
SACS and AdvanED officials are encouraging school personnel, concerned citizens or parents to report to them any abuse of power by members of the local school board.
The special board training will take place at the VanLandingham Center and is expected to last three hours.
The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday and the first order of business will be to approve the 2013-2014 budget and set the ad valorem tax millage rate.
All meetings of the board of education are open to the public.

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