Team to recommend district accreditation for GCPS

SUWANEE - A regional accreditation review team will recommend Gwinnett County Public Schools receive district accreditation as a quality school system.

At the end of a four-day visit, a Quality Assurance Review Team for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement made the recommendation Thursday without reservation after reviewing documents, interviewing 807 stake holders and engaging in professional deliberations.

The team will make the recommendation to SACS CASI Board of Directors, said Eddie Krenson, chairman of the review team.

"Gwinnett County is a fine, fine school system," Krenson said. "You have every right to be proud of what you've achieved here."

If the SACS CASI board approves the recommendation, it will be the system's first district accreditation. All of the system's schools are accredited, said Sloan Roach, the system's spokeswoman.

Krenson said the review team found the system's strengths lay in its "stable, visionary and effective leadership at all levels ... (and its) continuous focus on the core business of teaching and learning."

The review team found the system has experienced continuous improvement in academic achievement, even when faced with unparalleled growth, unparalleled diversity and a growing number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, Krenson said.

The continuous growth of the student population is the foremost challenge facing the system, Krenson said. The increasing diversity and the increasing demand for more classrooms reflect this challenge, as do funding issues, he said.

"We challenge you ... to continue to close the achievement gap at all levels," Krenson said.

GCPS was also asked to recruit and retain high-quality staff members and administrators with an emphasis on increasing the percentage of teachers and administrators who reflect the increasing diversity of the students served.

The system was also asked to continue to study the long-range impact of increasing student growth on the system.

Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the review team "was very much on target."

The system will focus on closing the achievement gap toward the high end and work toward having all students perform at high levels, he said.

Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Carole Boyce said the review was a "validation of everything we have done from the very beginning up until now."

Board member Robert McClure said he was encouraged that the review team did not uncover anything the school system wasn't already aware of.

"It's very unusual you get hit by a bus that you see," he said.

The school system will receive a written report of the review team's findings and recommendations within 30 days. The review team will return in two years to see what GCPS has done with the recommendations.

If the recommendation is approved, the school district will be accredited for five years.

Krenson said district accreditation is a concept that has existed for about five years. Other accredited school districts in metro Atlanta include the Cobb County School District and the Fulton County School System. l>