DeKalb schools are now on probation

In 2005, DeKalb County’s Lakeside High School was ranked by U.S. News and World Reports as Georgia’s best high school.

Now, the county’s school system has been put on probation by its accrediting agency. This is not especially surprising, since dysfunction has reigned for several years now.

The Atlanta Journal-Consitution reports:

In a scathing report, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accuses DeKalb officials of engaging in bickering and nepotism while letting district finances wither. Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of SACS parent company AdvancED, also said the district had allowed academic achievement to slip.

The decision by the accrediting agency could have wide-ranging effects on the local economy, observers say, from discouraging businesses from relocating to DeKalb to depressing housing values, which already have dropped precipitously.

The problems stem from a decade of “poor, ineffective governance” that has caused a decline in academic performance and pushed the nearly 100,000-student system to the financial brink, said Elgart. The district could finish the school year in a deficit should any unforeseen expense arise, he said during his morning announcement.

The next step, accreditation loss, is “imminent” if officials don’t respond appropriately, Elgart said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more.

Incidentally, last night, Lakeside’s principal sent out this half-empty/half full meassage to the community:

Dear Parents, Students, and Lakeside Supporters,

The last ten days have presented our staff with some challenges. In six different instances, we have had student fights that resulted in the suspensions of the students fighting and for five students, their arrests.

In addition, we have had increased instances of thefts. These have also resulted in several suspensions and at least one arrest. Our School Resource Officer, our campus supervisors, our teachers and our administrators have been working together to bring a halt to these incidents and to bring definite consequences to the students responsible.

As frustrating and disappointing as these disruptions are, they pale in comparison to Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut. Still the heroism and positive responses that were demonstrated in that tragedy have been similarly evident at Lakeside. In several instances, students have intervened to quiet disagreements before they escalated. In at least two cases, students stepped in to protect a staff member or a student from being hurt. Other students have alerted staff members when they got wind of a forthcoming altercation. Students also have come forward to provide evidence that helped to resolve thefts and return stolen items to their rightful owners.

What has also been evident to me these past few days and throughout the school year are the caring attitudes I see evidenced by the overwhelming majority of students. Lost items are returned to the office or their rightful owners. Students on crutches or in wheelchairs get the assistance they need from other students. Dozens of students showed up on a recent Saturday morning to help clean our campus. Several students spent their own money for shirts and formed a spirit squad to bring some extra fun to our home basketball games and donations for local charities. Frequently I see students reaching out to others who seem alone or dispirited. All of these actions make me proud to know these students and to be associated with Lakeside High School.

I know that it is our nature to focus on the tragedies and the things that are wrong in our own lives, our schools, and our society. I hope, however, that at this special season of the year, each of us will also spend time looking for the good in one another. I wish each of you a joyous holiday season!

Joe P. Reed
Principal of Lakeside High School

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