Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Georgia Leads the Nation in Comprehensive School Board Reform

/PRNewswire/ -- - Today Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law landmark legislation that gives Georgia the most comprehensive school board reform legislation in the nation.

"SB 84 gives the state the ability to step in when a local school system's accreditation is threatened. This bill strikes the appropriate balance between local control and state intervention when a system is in crisis," said Gov. Perdue. "I am especially appreciative of the efforts of business leaders from the Metro Atlanta and Georgia chambers of commerce who worked so hard for this legislation."

"While very few states have legislation that outlines the roles and responsibilities of local school boards, as well as ethics requirements of school board members, many states could benefit from such legislation," said Dr. Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, parent organization for the K-12 division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). "School systems in Georgia will benefit from effective leadership that supports delivery of a quality education. With this legislation, Georgia will lead the nation as a model for local school board governance."

This legislation is being closely watched across the nation by school systems that have faced probation and/or are on the verge of losing their accreditation in states including Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Additionally, throughout the nation, school systems are seeing their budgets, resources, staffing and student achievement negatively affected by poor school board leadership.

"The legislation is the culmination of 18 months of Georgia's business leaders' professional and personal time to address dysfunctional school board members causing the loss of a system's accreditation, and the accompanying economic loss to that community," said Sam A. Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

"Good board governance is essential for the effectiveness of any organization, from Fortune 500 companies to local school districts," said George Israel, president of the Georgia Chamber. "This legislation provides assurance to parents and students in communities across Georgia and offers an example for other states that are dealing with this issue."

The bill is aimed at keeping Georgia school systems from losing accreditation, like Clayton County Public Schools did in 2008, becoming the second school system in the nation after Duval County, Fla., to lose accreditation in the past 41 years. The bill includes sweeping reforms in school board governance; supports accountable, well-trained, ethical school boards; and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of board members and superintendents.

"We couldn't just stand by and watch students, schools and communities suffer," said John Rice, vice chairman of GE, and co-chair of the Commission for School Board Excellence. The commission -- a diverse task force of key business leaders, educators and school board experts -- examined research and best practices in school board governance and provided recommendations for improvements in Georgia. They presented their findings to Georgia's State Board of Education in September 2008.

In counties where school systems fail or are at risk of failing, the devastation is deep and long-lasting -- families relocate, students leave the school system, housing prices plummet and new economic development opportunities are often redirected from the county altogether.

GE's Rice adds, "This action provides a responsible standard for school board governance across Georgia, contributing to improved outcomes for all students and much lower risk of school system failure."

The main components of the bill are:
-- additional qualifications for school board candidates
-- better-defined board and superintendent roles and responsibilities
-- a code of ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for all school boards
-- updated mandatory training to reflect current responsibilities
-- and the Governor's ability to temporarily intervene when a school
system is in trouble.

"Good board governance is essential for school systems to succeed on the state and local levels," said Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. "I witness firsthand the strong link between effective state school boards of education and academic improvement across states."

Metro Atlanta Chamber -- The Metro Atlanta Chamber brings the best together to help Atlanta thrive. We mobilize and connect the business community to drive economic development and public policies that promote sustainable growth. Our board draws from Atlanta's top business leaders. We have a professional staff of 90 and serve 4,000 member companies who employ nearly a million workers. In Economic Development, our project managers attract the best companies and the best jobs. In Public Policy, we tackle crisis issues and critical quality-of-life challenges such as transportation, water and education. For our members, we offer 150+ events and activities each year to help them connect and make business contacts. In sports, MAC's Atlanta Sports Council has helped drive almost $2 billion in economic impact over the past 10 years by hosting major sporting events. In 2009, the Chamber celebrated 150 years of bringing Atlanta leaders together.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce -- The Georgia Chamber is the grassroots voice of business, vigorously representing its diverse membership in the public policy arena. As it constantly works to protect Georgia's enviable pro-business environment, the Chamber remains mindful of its mission to keep the state economically prosperous, educationally competitive and environmentally responsible.

Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education -- Founded in 1992 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education consists of business, education, community and government leaders who share a vision of improved education. Working to be Georgia's foremost change agent in education, the non-profit, non-partisan, independent organization takes lead roles in efforts to shape policy and reform education. The mission of the Partnership is to inform and influence Georgia leaders through research and non-partisan advocacy to impact education policies and practices for the improvement of student achievement. More information about the organization is available at www.gpee.org.

AdvancED -- The world's largest education community, AdvancED represents 27,000 public and private schools and districts in 50 states and 65 countries and serving over 15 million students. AdvancED is the parent organization of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI). AdvancED is dedicated to advancing excellence in education through accreditation, research, and professional services. For more information, please visit http://www.advanc-ed.org/ .

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