Is it the Wake County school system or AdvancED that is being unreasonable and uncooperative in the accreditation review?
As noted in today's article, both sides insist they've been cooperative and that the other party has been unreasonable. There has been plenty of finger pointing over the process, which is putting at risk the accreditation of Wake's 24 high schools.
"All said, the history of communication reflects that the school system has been cooperative and that AdvancED has not," writes school board attorneys Ann Majestic and Jonathan Blumberg in Thursday's letter to AdvancED. "Collegiality is a two-way street, and the school system wants to restore constructive dialogue and good faith to this process."
The school board says its making "reasonable requests" when it asks for things like allowing lawyers to provide counsel to school board members and staff during the interviews and to know what topics will be covered in advance.
But Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, accused Wake of being confrontational. He said Wake is only the second school district in the past 25 years that has refused to cooperate with a review by the accrediting agency.
Elgart accused school board members of trying to misinform the public by accusing AdvancED of wanting to dictate how students will be assigned. He said they're only reviewing whether the school board followed its own policies and procedures when it changed the student assignment policy.
“It’s disappointing in the fact they’ve failed to recognize that we’re trying to help them improve,” Elgart said. “We’re not here to dictate policy to them.”
Elgart took aim at one of the most frequent complaints from Wake about AdvancED not allowing board members and staff to have legal representation during the interviews. AdvancED has said that school attorneys can attend the meetings only as observers.
"This isn't a legal proceeding," Elgart said. "This is not a deposition. This is not a thing that would require an attorney to be present."
In her statement Thursday, school board member Deborah Prickett said it was unfair for board and staff not to have legal representation when AdvancED would have a lawyer at the interviews. That's because Ken Bergman, AdvancED's general counsel, was to be the leader of the review team coming this week.
Elgart said Bergman wasn't participating in the meetings in his capacity as an attorney. He also said that a new team will have to be formed because this week's visit was postponed so Bergman might not be on the new one.
In Wake's earlier letters this week to Elgart, Majestic raised concerns about not having legal counsel present because of the federal Office for Civil Rights investigation that touches on many of the same issues as the AdvancED complaint. It's not a surprise since the NAACP filed both complaints.
"We've told them we're not here to investigate the OCR complaint," Elgart said. "We're not here to judge the OCR complaint. We're here to investigate whether they are following their own policies."
Elgart said the four requests in Thursday's letter were the same ones that AdvancED has previously rejected. He said granting them would result in Wake being treated differently than other members who've faced reviews.
There's been talk from some school board members about seeking accreditation from a different group. But Elgart said that's not as easy as it seems.
Elgart said that the accrediting agencies are reluctant to grant their seal of approval to institutions who've had problems with their prior agency. Even if another group agrees to review Wake's accreditation request, Elgart said that the district would likely face the same questions they're getting now from AdvancED.
“The school system can’t play a shell game here,” Elgart said.