Cobb County Schools will undergo “special review” by accreditation agency

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The accreditation of Georgia’s second-largest school district could be in danger. Cobb County Schools notified employees and families that it will undergo a special review by its accreditation agency.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district received a notice from Cognia this week.

“We are a strong district with a history of academic excellence, student success, and sound fiscal stewardship,” Ragsdale said in a news release. “This unscheduled review is unusual for several reasons, including Cognia’s recent extension of our accreditation term only 14 months ago. In 2019 and 2020, Cognia’s leadership expressed sufficient confidence in the District to extend our accreditation through 2024 – the maximum length we could have been given.”

In January, school board members Dr. Jaha Howard, Leroy “Tre” Hutchins, and Charisse Davis filed a request with Cognia. The three Democratic board members asked for the agency’s “professional expertise” and noted “continued silencing” when it comes to addressing district challenges.

One example Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose has reported on involves a group of students who are pushing district leaders to rename Wheeler High school, which is named after a Confederate general.

“Is it worth it, at the end of the day, to be in this position?” Jose asked.

“I think this is definitely worth it because if you give up now, you’ll never get improvements done,” said Ashleigh Ewald, a senior at Wheeler. “We have hope that 20 years from now, students attending Wheeler can see who was on the right side of history.”

In order for a board member to get an item on the agenda, there needs to be a majority vote. There are four Republicans and three Democrats on the school board.

“What we’re doing is not political. I don’t think that race relations or racism is political and should not be, said Wheeler student Sonaj Sanders. “Do they want to hear anybody’s opinions? Because we want our voices heard. We think our issue is valid and important.”

Cognia will also look at how the district handled the coronavirus and agenda items related to the expansion of literacy interventions.

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Ragsdale said if the district loses its accreditation, it will make students less competitive during college acceptance and make it harder for them to receive the HOPE scholarship.

That’s not all.

“This affects every single homeowner because they are messing with your property values and they’re messing with teachers. They’re messing with everyone, so everyone needs to voice their opinion because enough is enough,” said Amy Henry, a mother with children in Cobb County Schools. “When they go apply for college, if the school is not accredited, that impacts the kids trying to get to school.”

“Every single person should be up in arms that this is happening to a national-ranked school system for political reasons,” Henry added. “It impacts teachers. We can’t hire as many teachers.”

She’s asking families in Cobb County to email the district at communications@cobbk12.org and Cognia at Andre.Harrison@cognia.org

“People move to Cobb County for the schools. Let’s be honest. They are nationally ranked schools,” said Henry. “Everyone is affected, so everyone needs to step up and voice their opinions, start writing letters, sending ... emails.”

No timeline for the special review has been established, the district said.