DeKalb County school officials are considering a proposal to allow administrators at individual high schools to seek accreditation for the school from a state agency.

School board member John Coleman, who lives in Brookhaven, said he and fellow board members will consider May 6 whether to allow DeKalb high schools to pursue state accreditation as individual schools.

“We want to make sure we’re enabling that process,” Coleman said. “[We’re tyring] to help that process along to protect students and parents.”

Some Dunwoody parents want Dunwoody High School to seek accreditation from the Georgia Accrediting Commission in Athens because the county’s current accreditation – which applies to all DeKalb high schools — is in jeopardy.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACs), which accredits schools regionally, put the DeKalb County system’s accreditation on probation because of management issues involving the county school board.

Some Dunwoody parents fear that if SACs revokes DeKalb’s accreditation during the next school year, students graduating high school may face a harder time winning scholarships or acceptance to some out-of-state colleges. So they want to seek a back-up accreditation from the Georgia commission, an independent, 109-year-old agency that accredits Georgia high schools.

“High school accreditation is simply too important for us to sit by and do nothing,” Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall, who has been working to win approval of the back-up accreditation, told about 50 parents and local officials who attended a meeting April 28 of the Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education, a new nonprofit organization working to improve Dunwoody schools.

Nall said undertaking the Georgia commission’s accreditation process will cost Dunwoody parents from $2,000 to $3,000. He said several individuals and groups already have volunteered to contribute.

Coleman said school board members want to make sure the process is available to all the high schools in DeKalb and the district may contribute some funds to high schools that need the aid.

Nall said he had been assured by SACs that Dunwoody High’s efforts to win a separate accreditation would have no effect on SACs’ decision regarding the county system’s accreditation.

DeKalb school officials have said they believe is highly unlikely that the county schools will lose their SACs accreditation. Interim School Superintendent Michael Thurmond says school officials are working to address SACs’ complaints and will do so by the agency’s deadline. Gov. Nathan Deal removed six board members and appointed replacements to address the accreditation issue.

Nall called the state accreditation “a safety net” for students graduating next year and in following years. If SACs pulls its accreditation of the county’s high schools, he said, Dunwoody students still will be able to claim they graduated from “an accredited high school.”

Some out-of-state colleges require accreditation from SACs or another regional agency, he said, but others will accept the state accreditation.

“This is about all college-bound students in DeKalb County,” Nall told parents at the April 28 meeting at Dunwoody United Methodist Church. “The board needs to hear [from parents] that this is for all over DeKalb County. It’s not just for Dunwoody. Because if it’s just for Dunwoody, it’s not going to fly.”

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Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.