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February 19, 2018

Ann Levett, Ed.D.


Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
208 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401

Dear Dr. Levett:

Enclosed is a copy of the report of the Special Review Team for Savannah-Chatham County Public School
System. The findings and observations of the Special Review Team indicate that the school system is not
meeting one or more of the AdvancED Standards listed below.

 Standard 1.4: The governing authority establishes and ensures adherence to policies that are designed
to support institutional effectiveness.
 Standard 1.5: The governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within defined roles
and responsibilities.

The report includes several Improvement Priorities related to these Standards. It is the responsibility of the
school system to identify and implement corrective steps to address the Improvement Priorities noted in the
report. As such steps are implemented, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System officials should
ensure that appropriate evidence, including documentation of results, is maintained.

To ensure progress is being made, the institution is required to host an on-site Monitoring Review prior to
October 31, 2018. No less than two weeks prior to the review, the system is required to submit an Institution
Progress Report detailing the steps that have been taken. A template for this report is attached. .

Please note that it is the responsibility of school system officials to share the contents of the report with the
system’s governing body and the community.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Special Review Team Report for Savannah-Chatham
County Public School System or addressing the Improvement Priorities, please contact the Director of the
Georgia Office of AdvancED, Dr. Greg Arnsdorff at garnsdorff@advanc-ed.org.

Sincerely,

Heather S. Kinsey
AdvancED Chief Operations Officer

cc: Greg Arnsdorff, Ed.D., AdvancED Georgia


Special Review Team Report
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
Savannah, Georgia

Dates of Review:
November 13 – 16, 2017

1 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Special Review Report
Introduction

A Special Review may be conducted in response to complaints or information about an institution and/or its
system (district, board, or corporation) to determine adherence to the AdvancED Accreditation Standards,
Assurances, and policies. The institution and/or its system must respond to the Improvement Priorities of the
Special Review Team. Monitoring Review Teams may be sent to the institution and/or its system at regular
intervals to ensure that progress is being made toward the Special Review Team’s Improvement Priorities.
Both Special Review Teams and Monitoring Review Teams are empowered to make accreditation
recommendations based upon evidence obtained during the review.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) received a letter of notice from AdvancED on
August 31, 2015, regarding a complaint and allegation that suggested SCCPS may be in violation of the
AdvancED Accreditation Standards for Quality Schools, specifically, Indicator 2.2 - The governing body operates
responsibly and functions effectively and Indicator 2.3 - The governing body ensures that the school leadership
has the autonomy to meet goals for achievement and instruction and to manage day-to-day operations
effectively. The school system’s required response to the AdvancED notification encompassed a joint letter
from the SCCPSS Superintendent and the School Board President on September 16, 2015. The letter stated
the School Board President and Superintendent of Schools were “fully committed to moving our Board and
School District forward with respect and an understanding of our respective duties. It is our intent to dispel
any misconceptions of a lack of trust or an unsound working relationship.” On September 16, 2015, AdvancED
sent a letter back to SCCPSS stating there was not sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation at the time
and “should additional complaints be received, a response from the school system may be required.”

In March, 2017, numerous stakeholders filed verbal, written, and/or electronic complaints and allegations
with AdvancED expressing concerns that the actions and behaviors of one or more board members were in
violation of AdvancED Accreditation Standards and Policies, including but not limited to Standards associated
with the Leadership Capacity Domain. Stakeholders alleged the following actions and/or behaviors by the
SCCPSS Board of Education:
 Overstep of governance role
 Lack of relationship building with fellow board members
 Use of social media to communicate inaccurate information
 Interference with principal and student placements
 Failure to plan school board retreat
 Inappropriate contact with vendors prior to major contract selections
 Public discredit of the superintendent
 Undermining the superintendent and the Board

On March 9, 2017, AdvancED determined the need for additional information regarding the complaints about
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. On March 21-22, 2017, AdvancED determined that a letter
of required response should be sent to SCCPSS. On March 30, 2017, AdvancED Chief Operations Officer, Dr.
Annette Bohling, sent an official notice to SCCPSS requiring a response from the district. On April 28, 2017,
the SCCPSS Superintendent responded via letter acknowledging receipt of the AdvancED notification and
detailing his concerns.

2 | Special Review Team Report 2017


On May 3, 2017, AdvancED determined a Special Review was warranted by SCCPSS as a result of the numerous
stakeholder complaints and allegations. On May 17, 2017, a Special Review letter of notice was sent to
SCCPSS. A Special Review Team was appointed by AdvancED to make an onsite review to the institution on
November 13-16, 2017. The team’s purpose in reviewing the institution was to gather information and
evidence needed to determine if the alleged actions and behaviors of the Board of Education were in violation
of the AdvancED Performance Standards including but not limited to:

Leadership Capacity Domain

AdvancED Accreditation Standards for Quality Schools (Effective school year 2016-2017)
 Indicator 2.2: The governing body operates responsibly and functions effectively.
 Indicator 2.3: The governing body ensures that the school leadership has the autonomy to meet goals
for achievement and instruction and to manage day-to-day operations effectively.

Subsequent to the notice of the Special Review, AdvancED transitioned to the new AdvancED Performance
Standards for Schools, therefore the Team reviewed evidence pertaining to the following Standards:

Leadership Capacity Domain


AdvancED Performance Standards for Schools (Effective school year 2017-2018)
 Standard 1.4: The governing authority establishes and ensures adherence to policies that are designed
to support institutional effectiveness.
 Standard 1.5: The governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within defined roles
and responsibilities.

Additional stakeholder complaints and allegations were filed with AdvancED in April, May, August and October
2017.

Activities of the Special Review Team

In preparation for the onsite review, the Special Review Team conducted various conference calls with each
other to gain a deeper understanding about the school system and the complaints previously submitted to
AdvancED. In addition to the review of the complaints received, the team reviewed the school system’s
governance polices, board meeting agendas and board minute summaries. The team also reviewed previously
recorded board meetings from November 2016 through the time of the Special Review.

The Lead Evaluator of the Special Review Team worked with the school system in preparation for the onsite
review by engaging in conference calls to prepare for the stakeholder interviews. The Lead Evaluator
identified the types of stakeholder groups to include in the interviews based on the concerns stated in the
stakeholder complaints. Three external stakeholder groups also requested an opportunity to participate in
the Special Review interviews. The Lead Evaluator contacted the external stakeholders to participate during
the onsite interviews, and the school system scheduled the school board members and the district
leadership/staff. Although some stakeholders expressed concerns regarding anonymity, each person agreed
to participate in the Special Review interviews. The school system also administered a stakeholder survey to
elicit additional feedback.

3 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Once on-site, the Special Review Team engaged in the following activities:
 Interviews with the school system’s board of education, leadership team and internal stakeholders
 Interviews with external stakeholders representing civic, ministerial and parent groups
 Artifact review included:
o Governance policies
o Email correspondences
o SCCPSS website
o News media articles
o Social media documentation
o Board members’ letters of censure
o Resolution to Recommit
o District Accountability System-Reporting, Evaluating and Monitoring Instrument (DAS-REMI)
o School board training plans
o Job descriptions
o Survey results
o Self-Assessment results
o Board meeting video recordings
 Team deliberations and report preparation

Findings

Based upon the information collected and reviewed, the Special Review Team found sufficient evidence to
support a finding that the institution is in violation of AdvancED Standards and Policies.

Results from the Special Review are reported in four ratings represented by colors. These ratings provide
guidance and insight into an institution's current performance-level for each of the identified Standards and
Policies.

Rating Description
Needs Improvement Identifies key areas that need more focused improvement efforts
Emerging Represents areas to enhance and extend current improvement efforts
Meets Expectations Pinpoints quality practices that meet the Standards
Exceeds Expectations Demonstrates noteworthy practices producing clear results that exceed
expectations

Performance Level Score:

1.4 The governing authority establishes and ensures adherence to policies that Rating:
are designed to support system effectiveness.
Emerging

Improvement Priority #1:


Adhere to all established policies regarding the roles and responsibilities of governing board members and
ensure ethical behaviors are pervasively displayed.

4 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Evidence:
A review and analysis of the Savannah-Chatham County School System (SCCSS) Policy Manual revealed a
plethora of policies in Section B - School Board Operations that clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of
the school board. Policies BBAB and BBD delineate the duties and responsibilities of the Board as well as the
relationship of these duties to those of the superintendent. The policies clearly state, “The Board of Education
believes that the legislation of policies is the most important function of a school board and the execution of
the policies should be the function of the superintendent.” The intent of these policies as identified in the
manual is to “free the Board to devote its time to policy making and appraisal franchise” while at the same
time allowing the superintendent to manage the day-to day operations of the school. However, interviews
with stakeholders as well as a review of both written and videotaped artifacts revealed that board members,
individually and collectively, do not always adhere to these policies which specify their role and responsibilities
as well as other policies included to promote efficient board operations.

Stakeholder interviews repeatedly revealed a culture that had been established over time in the district where
board members were allowed to overstep their boundaries engaging in activities that did not align with their
designated role. Both internal and external stakeholders shared information about actions that the board
members in the past had “gotten away with” began to surface openly following the 2015 election of a new
board president and has continued most recently with the selection of a new superintendent.
Communications about board interference and deteriorating relationships between the board president and
the previous superintendent as well as televised broadcasts yielded sufficient community concerns, hence the
formal complaints to AdvancED in 2015. The Special Review Team reviewed a joint statement letter dated
September 2015, signed by both the board president and the then current superintendent, acknowledging
past misalignment in positions on some topics but echoing their collective commitment to “focus on the
future and seek to conduct the business of the Board in a collaborative spirit that serves to keep the best
interest of our students in mind.” According to stakeholder interviews, soon after the joint statement was
signed, adverse temperaments resurfaced. Documentation revealed ongoing disputes surrounding the
construction bidding process, potential board interference with vendors who were submitting bids,
accusations about the accuracy of the superintendent’s recommendation to the board, and an actual
television interview of the board president denouncing the vendor recommendation and subsequent board
vote. The superintendent made the decision to retire at the end of the 2017 school year resulting in the
search and selection of a new superintendent.

Members of the review team viewed email evidence and heard first-hand through interviews, information
about other instances in which board members may have operated outside their roles. One such artifact was
an email from a board member to a principal questioning the placement of a student at a certain school. The
board member’s email was prompted by a communication from a community member who had been
contacted by the guardian of the student. On Sunday, February 26, 2017, another board member sent an
email to the superintendent specifically requesting the Leader Keys Effectiveness System (LKES) rating of
principals by stating, “LKES rating of the principals of each school over the past five years (or as long as we
have been measuring this if less than five years).” Even though the intent of these requests, from the board
members’ perspectives, may have been warranted, many staff members voiced that such requests often made
them feel obligated to address the request because the source was a board member. Ironically, district and
school-level staff stated the quantity of requests via email or written communication has decreased since the
knowledge of the impending visit from the AdvancED Special Review Team; however, staff indicated they still
receive phone calls and/or face-to-face requests from board members.

5 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Review team members also had the opportunity to read an extensive email communication that focused on a
board member’s decision to “opt out” of her child’s participation in the Georgia Milestones Assessment
System (GMAS) standardized testing. An associated communication not included in the email trail was a
correspondence to the board’s attorney from the board member. The board member asked if her decision to
“opt out” of GMAS test for her child would impact her position on the board. This correspondence to the
attorney clearly stated, “I have no intentions of encouraging other parents in the district to opt out (though I
will encourage anyone who asks to follow their conscience on the matter).” An April 6 Facebook post from the
board member included the comment, “Sharing this as a parent who opted my son out of GMAS this week, as
an educator, and as an advocate for children in our community, not as a spokesperson for the other Savannah-
Chatham County School System Board members.” However, in replying to a response from a Facebook friend,
the board member stated, “I would opt-out as a form of civil disobedience.” The Facebook posting also
included a link to an article written by Diane Ravitch entitled “Why all parents should opt their kids out of high
stakes standardized tests.” School board Policy BH – Conduct as a Board Member states that “each member of
the board agrees that he or she will: 4. Take no private action that will compromise the board or school
system administration.” Actions by board members as private citizens have the potential to appear as
messages that represent the entire board.

Stakeholders stated concerns that the same Board that had received the Georgia School Board Association
(GSBA) Distinguished School Board status in 2014 and Exemplary School Board status in 2015 and 2016 is
currently being seen as in disarray because of lack of leadership, poor relationships and interference in daily
operations. Examples of the disarray were evident regarding some school board policies to which the board
members do not fully adhere. Policy BBI-Board Staff Relationships stipulates the ethical, businesslike, and
lawful conduct including proper use of authority and appropriate decorum when acting as board members.

The Special Review Team viewed various recordings of board meetings containing comments and actions that
were disrespectful and confrontational. Policy BC-Decorum in Board Meetings states “appropriate decorum
will be observed by all speakers including, but not limited to refraining from personal attacks on staff or board
members.” Interviews with stakeholders throughout the review described board meetings as being like a
“circus.” In questioning stakeholders, descriptions of board meeting decorum included words or phrases such
as “adversarial”, “embarrassing”, “dysfunctional”, “intimidating” and “demoralizing.” Numerous stakeholders
recounted an incident in which the board president angrily directed that the microphone of one board
member be cut off, interrupting his dialogue and curtailing the audience’s ability to hear the statement of his
opinion on the matter being discussed. At one board session, during the audience participation of the
meeting, one citizen commented about being bothered about the unprofessional manner in which board
members conducted themselves during meetings. Additionally, one board member stated that members
should “keep their personal squabbles out of this.” An open exchange between a board member and the
board president centered on the designated 3:30 p.m. timing of the meeting when there was knowledge of a
subsequent meeting taking place at 4:00 p.m. In a subsequent email communication, the board president
responded to the timing of the meeting by stating she had “suggested an earlier time than was advertised.”
According to the email, “she did not want to embarrass the superintendent” by stating this in the open
meeting.

Board meetings were described as “uncontrolled chaos” with board members “blurting out and refusing to let
others talk.” Staff members shared feelings about being scrutinized and interrogated in meetings regarding
information that had been shared with board members a week in advance to give opportunities to clarify any
misunderstandings beforehand. They described a difference between questioning for understanding and an

6 | Special Review Team Report 2017


interrogation. A stakeholder shared an account whereby in one of the board meetings a staff member left the
room in tears after trying to share information with the board and being intensely questioned.

The Special Review Team heard stakeholders’ recounts of the May 22, 2017 board meeting and also reviewed
the video of the board meeting of the selection of the new superintendent. After concluding the Executive
Session, the public meeting was reconvened and opened with the board president affording each board
member the opportunity to voice his/her rationale for approving or disapproving the superintendent’s
recommendation. The board’s open comments included information that had previously been discussed and
shared in private during the Executive Session. This was a violation of protocol for a closed Executive Session
as stated in Policy BH-Board Code of Ethics, Domain V: Board Meetings (5): “Maintain the confidentiality of
all discussions and other matters pertaining to the board and the school system during executive
session of the board.” Methodically, those in favor rendered their words of support and reasoning that
included accolades and commendations such as “She is well-qualified for the job.”, “Dr. Levett has
documented expertise.”, “The selection of Dr. Levett acknowledges and supports the belief in growing our
own talent.” and “I feel Dr. Levett is the only one who could immediately address our impact schools.” Those
opposed then offered their thoughts that included statements such as “You are entering a very divided district
and a divided board. Your style is ‘my way or the highway’ and that is a dangerous leadership style.”
Sentiments voiced by another board member included, “I pride myself in supporting my constituency. I have
received many, close to 100 people from my district, that do not want me to support this recommendation.”
Another board member began his statement by first saying, “I am disappointed in seeing items from Executive
Session in the media” and went on to express concerns that over the last couple of years there have been
concerns about personnel management, academic affairs, and leadership in the schools all centered around
the newly selected superintendent. The last board member to speak echoed serious concerns about where
“Academic Affairs has taken us” and that complaints have been lodged by community members about Dr.
Levett hanging up on them on the phone, not being helpful with issues, and, personally, having a lack of trust
in Dr. Levett. Even though each board member concluded their comments by offering support to her once she
became superintendent, such open actions and verbal portrayals clearly only established a tone of divisiveness
as opposed to unity among and between the board members and district leadership.

Policy BCBI-R-Public Participation in Board Meetings-Special Meetings states a legal requirement for a called
meeting. According to the policy, “a written notice of a special meeting stating the purpose of the meeting
shall be delivered to each Board member not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of the meeting.
Business transacted at a special meeting will be limited to that stated in the notice of the meeting.” According
to the videotaped recording of the September 25, 2017, Special Called Meeting, the first item of the meeting
was to amend the agenda to change the title of the item to be discussed at the meeting. Interviews indicated
the posted item for discussion was the plan to make up days missed during Hurricane Irma and included the
proposed makeup days. The exact wording on the summary of the meeting stated the action taken was, “That
the amended agenda be approved with the following revision to Item 4.01 - Amendments to SY 17-18
Academic School Year Calendar.” During the meeting, it was noted that several people had signed up for
public comment based on the original dates included in the posting. Even though the topic of discussion was
similar, including one set of dates on the posting, making an amended agenda change at the onset of the
meeting may have caused some confusion and ultimately may have expanded the meeting discussions in a
way that violates the special meetings notice requirements.

Policies BH-Board Code of Ethics, BH-E (1)-Board of Ethics and BH-E (2)-Board of Ethics Pledge based on state
law, concisely and clearly outline criteria for board operations in the seven domains - Governance Structure,
Strategic Planning, Board and Community Relations, Policy Development, Board Meetings, Personnel, and
7 | Special Review Team Report 2017
Financial Governance. In addition to these domains, the policies include guidance on Conduct of Board
Meetings and Conflict of Interest. Included in the addenda to the main policies are signature pages and a
pledge that, according to the policy, board members should review and sign annually and then file the
signature page with the secretary of the board.

Specific sections of Policy BH-Board Code of Ethics that the Special Review Team found evidence of limited
adherence included:

Domain I: Governance Structure

1. Recognize that the authority of the board rests only with the board as a whole and not with individual
board members and act accordingly.
2. Support the delegation of authority for the day-to-day administration of the school system to the local
superintendent and act accordingly.
3. Honor the chain of command and refer problems or complaints consistent with the chain of command.
4. Recognize that the local superintendent should serve as secretary ex-officio to the board and should be
present at all meetings of the board except when his or her contract, salary or performance is under
consideration.
5. Not undermine the authority of the local superintendent or intrude into responsibilities that properly
belong to the local superintendent or school administration, including such functions as hiring,
transferring or dismissing employees.
6. Use reasonable efforts to keep the local superintendent informed of concerns or specific
recommendations that any member of the board may bring to the board.
Domain V: Board Meetings
The Special Review Team notes only the policies listed below are relevant to this Special Review, hence the
absence of statements 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

3. Work with other board members in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of
opinion that may arise during the discussion and resolution of issues at board meetings.

5. Maintain the confidentiality of all discussions and other matters pertaining to the board and the school
system during executive session of the board.

Conduct as Board Members

The Special Review Team notes only the policies listed below are relevant to this Special Review, therefore
hence the absence of statements 1, 2, 5 and 6.

3. Communicate in a respectful professional manner with and about fellow board members.
4. Take no private action that will compromise the board or school system administration.

Interviews with board members throughout the review revealed very limited knowledge about the policy and
the requirement to annually review, sign, and file statements indicating awareness and commitment to
fulfilling the requirements of the policy. No artifacts that included past or current completed signature pages
were available for the team’s review. Even though there was no specific evidence that board members had

8 | Special Review Team Report 2017


ever invoked the sanction options included in the ethics policy, members of the Special Review Team learned
of three instances when board members had written a letter to the board president about concerns regarding
not adhering to the roles and responsibilities of board members. On August 11, 2015, board members wrote
the first, a letter to the superintendent and the board president citing their “concern about the functioning
and integrity of the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education.” Interviews revealed that a second letter
of censure was generated by board members to be given to the board president. The board subsequently
decided not to deliver the letter due to an unfortunate extenuating circumstance that impacted the board
president. Their concerns were verbally expressed to the board president.

On October 3, 2017, board members all signed a third letter of censure stating, “On 6 September at the Board
of Education’s monthly meeting, all Board Members agreed to a Resolution which reaffirmed our commitment
to recognize that the Superintendent is in charge of day to day operations of the Savannah-Chatham School
System. Hours later, you wrote on Facebook a post that, in nature, subverted the Superintendent’s
authority.” The letter concluded by stating, “This conduct is unacceptable for any Board Member, especially
the President of the Board. You have been addressed several times in private about your behavior, to no avail.
This is yet another expression of concern from the Board. Please consider your actions before taking them
and remember that the Superintendent is in charge of the day to day operations, not you.” Interviews
revealed that board members attempted to deliver this letter during Executive Session but the board
president challenged that this was not a legally acceptable item for a closed session discussion and refused to
accept it. It was later presented to her, but not openly read, once the board reconvened after the Executive
Session. Interviews revealed that almost immediately, the complete letter appeared on numerous Facebook
pages throughout the community and was ultimately shared with the media.

Policy BDE-Policy Review and BDE-R-Policy Review states “All policies shall be reviewed at least once every
four years. The Board shall engage an outside organization such as the Georgia School Boards Association to
assist in identifying when policy changes are needed due to changes in laws, regulations, etc.” Subsequently,
Policy BDE-R identifies the Internal Audit Department as being the entity responsible for “tracking policies to
ensure they are reviewed in accordance with Policy BDE.” However, examination of the online Policy Manual
initially revealed a listing of board policies with latest revision dates ranging from December 14, 1994 to as
recent as October 4, 2017. Further review yielded that the actual last revision dates may have been more
recent but not always adhering to the policy requirement of being reviewed “at least once every four years.”
For example, the vast majority of policies in Section B - School Board Operations were last revised on January
19, 2010, over seven years ago.

Interviews with district level staff included a description of the policy review process. However, the interview
also revealed that some sections of the Policy Manual had been addressed more consistently than others.
Even though a review of a policy does not necessarily mean the policy needs to be revised, a clear and
systemic process to review policies will help ensure awareness of said policies by board members.

Rationale:
Written policies serve to provide structural guidance for an organization’s operations as well as to promote a
legal foundation during decision-making. It is imperative that members of the board, both individually and
collectively, adhere to board policies. Failure to adhere to established policies opens the door for flagrant
legal as well as ethical violations by the elected board.

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Directives:
1. Design and implement a process to review, sign, and file the Code of Ethics annually at a designated
board session or public gathering of the Board.
2. Display behaviors through all actions and words that demonstrate professionalism, mutual respect,
clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a board member, and a commitment to sound
ethical practices.
3. Establish and document process implementation of the board’s policy on Policy Revision to ensure
timely review, updates and revisions to guidance that outline the board’s operational procedures.

Improvement Priority #2:


Determine, implement and analyze the results of a regularly scheduled board assessment process.

Evidence:
Policy BCBL - Review of Board Procedures clearly requires that a board self-assessment is to be conducted at
least once a year. In addition, the policy stipulates that the Board and Superintendent are to meet in a board
retreat to assess the strengths and weaknesses addressed in the annual board self-assessment. When
reviewing board minutes and observing the previously recorded videos of board meetings from November
2016 up to the time of the Special Review, the team could find no evidence of annual board self-assessments
prior to the June, 2016 self-assessment. In June 2016, the SCCPSS Board of Education agreed to complete the
requirements to become a Board of Distinction with the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA). As a part of
that process, the nine-member Board of Education and six additional persons completed a Governance Team
Self-Assessment tool on the Board. The Internal Auditing Department tabulated and submitted the results to
the GSBA. There is no evidence in board minutes or previously recorded video of board meetings that the
results of this particular self-assessment were ever discussed or analyzed. In fact, stakeholders shared that
the reason for completing the GSBA Governance Team Self-Assessment tool was strictly to meet a required
component in the submission process for Board of Distinction.

According to interviews, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board of Education did not hold
a Board Retreat in 2016. Although the 2016 retreat was scheduled, it was canceled by the board president
and was never rescheduled. A Board Mini Retreat was held on October 15, 2017. Although the agenda topics
covered topics such as The Main Purpose for Existence (Why Are We Here), Emotional Intelligence (EQ),
Building Blocks of an Organizational Team, Developing a Communicative Process, and Where Do We Go Next,
it did not reflect discussion of a self-assessment or results. The team reviewed results from a continuous
improvement survey administered to principals in November 2017. There was no evidence documenting the
analysis and use of the survey results.

Rationale:
The purpose of a self-assessment is not to demean any board member or point fingers of blame. Governance
boards can maximize the benefits of conducting self-assessments and asking questions such as: “Are we
functioning as a unified board? Are we on track? How do we know? How am I doing as an individual board
member?” When boards commit to and invest time in properly conducting self-assessments and more
importantly, analyzing and using the results with fidelity, their performance individually and collectively can
lead to, not only improving board governance, but also tangible and intangible outcomes such as healthier
board relationships and greater organizational effectiveness.

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Directives:
1. Select and implement the systematic use of a board self-assessment tool that is inclusive of the
assessment of the collective performance of the board, as well as the extent of individual board
member responsibilities.
2. Select and implement the systematic use of a board assessment tool/survey to be used by internal and
external stakeholders to assess the collective performance of the board.
3. Determine and implement the process for the review of the board self-assessment and stakeholder
assessment/surveys, as well as the process for tabulation of results.
4. In accordance with the systems board policy, participate, annually in a retreat that allows the Board to
discuss, analyze, and use the board self-assessment and stakeholder assessment/survey results to
improve and strengthen board relationships and performance.

Improvement Priority #3:


Identify, develop, and implement policies and/or guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media
by board members in support of their roles and responsibilities to demonstrate ethical behavior with the
highest degree of integrity and fidelity.

Evidence:
SCCPSS addresses social media use in SCCPSS Internet Acceptable Use Regulation IFBG-R. However, the
Internet Acceptable Use regulation, last reviewed on June 10, 2015, details the expectations of students and
SCCPSS employees as it pertains to online etiquette, social networking, web 2.0 tools, personal
responsibilities, teacher web pages, and consequences. The regulation does not provide specific guidance to
SCCPSS Board of Education regarding expectations and responsible use of social media relevant to the roles
and responsibilities of board members.

The SCCPSS 2017-18 District Accountability System - Reporting, Evaluating and Monitoring Instrument (DAS-
REMI) Manual articulates the following in Strategic Goal 3: “To maximize family and community engagement
that contributes to the advancement of student success.” Regarding social media, Board Action #3 that
supports this goal states the Board will “Use online social media to communicate with the community and
stakeholders.” Although this statement clearly articulates that the Board will use online social media to
communicate with the community and stakeholders, it does not provide specific guidance as to the
appropriate use of online social media in relation to the roles and responsibilities of board members.

Additionally, Objective B under this goal pertaining to stakeholder communication states the following:

B. To increase positive and targeted communication to stakeholders that creates awareness and
enhances school pride.
1. Positive Media Impressions: This report will be based on information provided through all
communication channels (broadcast, print media, district website, social media feed, and media
outlets) that presents positive impressions of the district and/or schools. Tracking positive
media provides an important indicator of stakeholders’ exposure to and awareness of the
efforts, events, and achievements that help to build positive perceptions, awareness, and pride
within the schools and the community.

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SCCPSS Policy BH-Board Code of Ethics, Domain III: Board and Community Relations states the Board will
“Seek regular and systemic communications among the board and students, staff and the community” as well
as “Communicate to the board and the local superintendent expressions of public reaction to board policies
and school programs.” Additionally, this policy clearly articulates that board members will “Take no private
action that will compromise the board or school system administration.” As evidenced through Facebook
posts by the board president and another board member, the SCCPSS Board of Education is in violation of
their policy. Evidence reviewed by the Special Review Team included the April 6 - 7, 2017, Facebook response
by the board president regarding Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) testing. The statement
posted by the board president, “… There is no 4th grade GMAS” was incorrect. A follow-up email was sent to
the Board by the Chief of Public Affairs & Administrative Services Officer reminding them about the GMAS
administration.

The review team noted documentation of another board member’s Facebook Messenger post from June 2017
regarding reimbursements for teacher out-of-pocket expenses. The post stated, “If you still have your receipts
– email them to Mrs. Rhone-Bush in the Academic Affairs office, and she will start the process of reimbursing
you.” Although the board member’s communication expressed support of the teachers, the district has a
specific reimbursement protocol. Interviews and email communications not only revealed the “dilemma” to
“responsibly manage unverified and unbudgeted reimbursements from an undetermined number of staff” but
also highlighted the fact that teachers spend their personal funds to acquire the necessary classroom
materials and supplies.

During August 7 - 8, 2017, email communications by the superintendent were sent to the Board and district
level leaders regarding an operational update in “Planning for the Solar Eclipse” on August 21. The
superintendent’s email detailed the factors that would impact a “No School Day for Students” due to the solar
eclipse. Mid-way through the email, the superintendent stated, “Please maintain this information as
embargoed until you have received official notice from our office.” Interviews revealed that the board
president posted information from the superintendent’s operational update on her Facebook page prior to
the official notice from SCCPSS. The board president emailed an apology to the superintendent regarding
“taking down my Facebook page in an attempt to stop the information you were holding from getting too far.”

On September 6, 2017, a Resolution to Recommit was created by the school board. The purpose of the
recommitment, signed by the newly appointed superintendent and the nine school board members, was “to
express support for the superintendent and to reaffirm and individually recommit to the continued success of
SCCPSS.” Section H stated that “Board members and the Superintendent recommit to ensuring that the
SCCPSS maintains and communicates at all levels of the organization a purpose and direction for continuous
improvement that commits to high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about
teaching and learning.” Following the recommitment resolution, the board president posted comments on
her Facebook page regarding Hurricane Irma evacuation. The board president stated that her family was
going to evacuate. The post also stated “Board policy allows up to five absences to be excused with a parental
note, so if your family has special circumstances that require leaving early, I urge you not to wait.” The
superintendent sent email communications from September 6 announcing that “Our team will assemble … to
evaluate all the data and make decisions.” As evidenced through subsequent emails from September 6 – 12,
2017, the superintendent communicated the decisions made regarding school closures as a result of Hurricane
Irma. Email documentation revealed the board president indicated that she did not receive any email
messages from the superintendent. As evidenced through email documentation, the superintendent’s emails
regarding Hurricane Irma were delivered to the board president’s SCCPSS email address as well as her Gmail
address.
12 | Special Review Team Report 2017
On October 3, 2017, a letter of censure was given to the board president following the Recommit Resolution
that was agreed upon and signed by the board on September 6, 2017. The letter focused on the Facebook
communication posted by the board president on September 6, 2017 regarding Hurricane Irma evacuation.
The board stated, “It is important that you understand that your voice in any medium is not separate from
your role as board president.”

Rationale:
The use of various social media applications such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat are
becoming commonly used communication tools in school systems across the country. School boards also are
becoming avid users of social media, but when social media, traditional news outlets and board meetings are
used by the Board to express negative personal opinions, concerns, and/or criticisms of district employees,
including the superintendent and/or other board members, the board’s actions are in direct violation of
established board policies and generally accepted best practices. When school boards develop and use social
media policies and/or guidelines to communicate positively about the school system, the results will foster
community engagement and support of the overall vision and mission of the district. Also, the
communications should not encroach on the roles and responsibilities reserved for the Superintendent and
staff.

Directives:
1. Review and identify current board policies, regulations and Internet Acceptable Use Regulation IFBG-R
to determine which ones, if any, guide the governing board as to the appropriate use of social media as
it pertains to the roles and responsibilities of the SCCPSS Board of Education.
2. Research the social media policies, regulations and guidelines for boards of education from other
school systems similar to SCCPSS.
3. Participate in training specifically to address the appropriate use of online social media by school board
members.
4. Develop and implement social media policies, regulations and/or guidelines that provide board
members clear parameters in their use of online social media (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram,
Snapchat, Twitter, etc.) to communicate to stakeholders to “help build positive perceptions,
awareness, and pride within the school and the community.”

Performance Level Score:

1.5 The governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within Rating:
defined roles and responsibilities.
Emerging

Improvement Priority #4:


Develop and implement a communication protocol that details appropriate and inappropriate use of
communications, is aligned with Board Policies BH, BBD, and BBI, generally accepted best practices and is
consistent with present-day communication realities.

13 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Evidence:
Board Policy BBI, Board-Staff Relations, (adopted October 05, 2005, reviewed January 19, 2010), clearly states
that: The Board commits itself and its members to ethical, businesslike, and lawful conduct, including proper
use of authority and appropriate decorum when acting as Board members. Board members will not attempt
to exercise individual authority over the organization. The following shall govern Board/staff relationships:

a. Members' interaction with the Superintendent or with staff must recognize the lack of authority
vested in individuals except when explicitly authorized by the Board.

b. Members' interaction with the public, press, or other entities must recognize the same limitation
and the inability of any Board member to speak for the Board except to repeat explicitly stated Board
decisions.

c. Members' will not publicly express individual negative judgments about Superintendent or staff
performance or other Board members. Any such judgments of Superintendent or staff performance
will be made only by the full Board meeting in executive session.

Numerous interviews, email documentation review, local news reports (television and newspapers), social
media postings, and a review of archived board meeting videos reveal that certain, but not all board members
consistently and frequently are in violation of board member conduct as codified in Board Policies BH, BBD,
and BBI as well as generally accepted best practices. The Special Review Team concluded that over the past
two to three years, there have been examples of problematic board communications. Some of the postings
and comments centered on district decisions not yet made public and evidenced through emails dated
September 6 – 12, 2017 (i.e. Hurricane Irma evacuation). Personal opinions and questions regarding the
district’s procedures pertaining to the awarding of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax
(ESPLOST) contract were evidenced through a local news outlet on March 7, 2017. Board members shared
negative opinions about the newly appointed superintendent that were discussed in the closed Executive
Session during a public board meeting on May 22, 2017.

As stated previously in this report, Board Policy BH - Board Code of Ethics (adopted November 02, 2005,
revised February 01, 2017), clearly states that:

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board of Education desires to operate in the most ethical
and conscientious manner possible and to that end the board adopts this Code of Ethics and each member of
the board agrees that he or she will:

Domain I: Governance Structure

1. Recognize that the authority of the board rests only with the board as a whole and not with individual
board members and act accordingly.
2. Support the delegation of authority for the day-to-day administration of the school system to the local
superintendent and act accordingly.
3. Honor the chain of command and refer problems or complaints consistent with the chain of command.
4. Recognize that the local superintendent should serve as secretary ex-officio to the board and should be
present at all meetings of the board except when his or her contract, salary or performance is under
consideration.

14 | Special Review Team Report 2017


5. Not undermine the authority of the local superintendent or intrude into responsibilities that properly
belong to the local superintendent or school administration, including such functions as hiring,
transferring or dismissing employees.
6. Use reasonable efforts to keep the local superintendent informed of concerns or specific
recommendations that any member of the board may bring to the board.

Board Policy BBD, Board/Superintendent Relationship (adopted October 05, 2005, reviewed January 19, 2010),
clearly states that: Members of the Board, from time to time, may request information about various aspects
of school district operations. Board members should use caution in making such requests, refraining from
superfluous or excessive inquiries, since staff response requires that they spend valuable time away from
important duties and responsibilities.

The following criteria shall be applied:

A. All such requests shall be made to the Superintendent or his designee.

B. Requests for information requiring significant research and development, or that will require
considerable time for preparation shall be made in writing. The Superintendent shall submit an estimate of
the preparation and staff time required to respond to the request, and may recommend that the request
come from the Board.

Interviews and email documentation revealed an attempt by a board member to gather LKES ratings of middle
school principals as well as another board member inquiring about the “JGS teacher shake up” questioning if
“there has been any follow up with the principal about trying to limit the number of teachers changing grade
level.” Additionally, interviews and review of emails revealed common perceptions that some board members
use their position to influence employee placements/appointments and student placements.

The most recently conducted Governance Team Self-Assessment (June 2016) also revealed the need for board
members to improve their understanding and use of appropriate governing body communications. Specific
item scores and related comments revealed a belief that work regarding roles, responsibilities, and, in
particular, communication is needed. Examples of comments from the results of the GSBA Governance Team
Self-Assessment are as follows:

Domain I – Governance Structure


C. The board acts as a policy-making body separate from the roles and responsibilities authorized to the
superintendent.
I.C.
“A specific board member publicly speaks about … daily visits to … schools and additionally, demands
regular meetings with the principal ....”
“I feel that some of our Board members “overstep” their bounds with the Superintendent and staff.
We provide funds and Superintendent implements policies.”
“Too much meddling in operational, personnel, and contract issues by Board members.”

Domain VI – Personnel
C. The board adopts personnel policy that is implemented by the superintendent.
V.IC.

15 | Special Review Team Report 2017


“Element #2 of this standard needs improvement. There are 2 – 3 board members who
inappropriately but consistently tell the Superintendent in Executive Session who to hire, who to
transfer or promote- and who not to. This is a clear violation of this standard.”

Domain VIII – Ethics


A. The governance team adheres to, adopts and practices a Code of Ethics, avoids conflicts of interest, and
annually reviews ethical standards to ensure and enhance governance structure and organizational
effectiveness.
VIII.A.
“What we sign and how we behave are two different things.”
“There are a handful of individual board members who need to fully adopt and abide by this Code of
Ethics.”

Board member comments during the May 22, 2017 board meeting denigrating the newly appointed
superintendent, interviews with local media deriding an established board bid process, and various social
media postings regarding student/teacher school attendance and school closures prior to the district issuing
its official positions (Savannah Now, Nov. 12, 2016), are not only in violation of district policy, but serve only to
sow confusion, further divisiveness within the community, and cause internal ill will and resentment.
Currently, the communications protocol and preferences are that board members “may always contact the
Superintendent” and to copy the Superintendent on “any correspondence to/with staff.” Interviews, review
of a proposed “Communication Protocol and Preferences,” and feedback from board members regarding the
superintendent’s communication proposal revealed the initial efforts of improving communications between
the Board, Superintendent and SCCPSS district staff. The Board of Education and the Superintendent must
commit to continuing the process of defining improved communications.

Directives:
1. Develop a communication policy, plan and/or guideline(s) that are appropriate to a public-school board
and clear in outlining acceptable uses and protocols of communication.
2. Identify an expert in this field to work with the school board to develop and implement board member
training in the understanding and use of this policy.

Rationale:
Effective school boards are focused on building positive relationships and clear communications between the
district superintendent, staff members and each other. Although board members may highlight and pursue
issues that impact their communities, highly effective school boards remain purposeful and inclusive in sharing
information with each other. Developing and implementing a communication policy, plan and/or guideline(s)
with clear and specific protocols will serve to provide much needed guidance for board members as they act
as individuals and as a unified group when sharing important information with their local and district-wide
constituencies.

Improvement Priority #5:


Develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive board professional development plan that
encompasses both individual as well as whole group learning to support the needs identified from the self-
assessment, internal, and external stakeholder feedback and other emerging topics relevant to enhance
board performance and organizational effectiveness.

16 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Evidence:
Policy BBBC - Board Member Development Opportunities states, “All board members shall meet or exceed the
annual training requirements of Georgia Law and records of such compliance shall be maintained in the Board
office by the Board Secretary.” The policy also states that board members should be involved in professional
learning opportunities developed and delivered through the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and
the National School Boards Association (NSBA). An artifact that was presented for the team’s review was the
Local School Board Governance Annual Training Report which was presented at the September 6, 2017 board
meeting and submitted to the Georgia State Department of Education (DOE) on September 29, 2017.
Information in the document described it as the “Local Board Training Plan for individual board member
training and whole board training resulting from an assessment identifying areas of board governance
improvement.” The listing included the names of each board member along with approved training course(s)
and planning dates of completion. Many of the topics identified were general session topics delivered by the
GSBA to whole group audiences via conferences and/or online coursework. The sessions were not specific to
the needs of the SCCPSS Board as identified in its assessment.

The Special Review Team learned of an August 25, 2017 onsite session with the SCCPSS board members that
was facilitated by a GSBA representative to enhance awareness about the AdvancED Accreditation process
and preparation for the then pending onsite Special Review. The presentation included topics such as
Overview of Governance (SB84 and AdvancED Governance Standards), AdvancED: Purpose, Procedures,
Consequences’ and Board Governance - Best Practices.

During the review, members of the team engaged in discussions with the consultant who had worked with the
SCCPSS in the past and recently facilitated a Mini Retreat with the Board and district leadership on October 15,
2017. The theme of the retreat was “Moving from the Past: A Strategic Eye on the Future.” According to the
facilitator, one element introduced during the retreat was an acronym for Transparency, Respect,
Understanding, Strategic and True to Self (TRUST). As a start, the facilitator focused on the positive attributes
of both individual board members as well as the Board as a whole. Interviews revealed that as part of his
work, he has conversed with each board member individually either face-to-face or through a telephone
conversation and plans to continue the dialogues in the future. The team also reviewed a news article
entitled, “SCPSS Board Works Together at Retreat,” for additional evidence of the mini retreat and the initial
efforts of relationship building by the board.

Rationale:
The essence of professional development is the implementation of lessons learned throughout day-to-day
practices as a means of enhancing organizational effectiveness. Collecting data through a multi-tiered
approach from various sources provides a comprehensive assessment of the professional learning needs of
board members, collectively and individually. Professional learning opportunities can then be tailored to
address these assessed needs. A method of monitoring implementation via mechanisms such as informal
surveys and feedback forums can better ensure the lessons from professional development sessions are
practiced and utilized during decision-making and other activities of the Board. A systematic, data-driven
professional learning program can align and support the overall effectiveness of the organization as well as
enhance the performance of board members.

Directives:
1. Based on self-assessments results, develop a comprehensive board professional development plan that
is specific to the SCCPSS Board of Education.

17 | Special Review Team Report 2017


2. Utilize results from the Board’s self-assessment and stakeholder feedback surveys to identify specific
topics for individual and/or whole board professional learning.
3. Collect and analyze survey data from various stakeholder groups to determine stakeholder perceptions
about the Board.
4. Ensure that annual board retreats provide opportunities reflective of the needs assessment results and
annual Governance Team Self-Assessment results.
5. Compare the Governance Team Self-Assessment results year-to-year to assess board progress.

Improvement Priority #6:


Participate in board professional development training that encompasses building trust and demonstrating
respectful behavior between board members.

Evidence:
Interviews with board members and a review of the local School Board Governance Annual Training Report
revealed that board members do participate in mandated yearly Georgia State Board of Education
professional development programming. In fact, new board members must complete fifteen hours of training
while veteran board members must complete nine hours of training yearly. Georgia also mandates that each
school board as a whole must complete three hours of training yearly. A review of board meeting minutes
and documents revealed that the Savannah-Chatham School Board is in compliance with these state
requirements. Interviews revealed that the 2016 board retreat was cancelled and not rescheduled.
Additionally, it is important to note that the SCCPSS board as a whole created and attended a School Board
Mini Retreat, October 15, 2017. This retreat included a presentation by a Georgia State Board of Education
representative who included in his remarks topics such as The Main Purpose for Existence (Why Are We Here),
Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Building Blocks of an Organizational Team, Developing a Communicative Process
and Where Do We Go Next. Despite undergoing training, significant board member behavioral issues continue
to exist including a lack of trust and lack of relationship building between some of the board members.

The Special Review Team identified the violation of some board policies. According to Policy BBD –
Board/School Superintendent Relations, “The Board of Education believes that the legislation of policies is the
most important function of a school board, and that the execution of the policies should be the function of the
Superintendent.” Policy BBI – Board/Staff Relations (a., b. and c.) and BH – Board Code of Ethics (Domain I:
Governance Structure - 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6) discuss board member roles and responsibilities, including and
specifically, the clear distinction between board member and superintendent roles and responsibilities and
proper board member behavior regarding issuing any public statements or comments. Interviews with
leadership at the school and district levels verified that board member behaviors, as they pertain to direct
contacts with district employees, have had a disruptive effect on district operations. Interviews revealed that
district employees are receiving mixed messages when individual board members contact them. A review of
newspaper articles, social media postings, archived board meetings and internal emails verified these
concerns by staff and provided evidence of violations of the policies identified above.

The 2016 Governance Team Self-Assessment results revealed through the ratings and comments, an
undercurrent of unease regarding possible board member over-reach and a lack of understanding of what
constitutes board member roles and responsibilities. Examples of some of the results from the self-
assessment taken by the Board are as follows:

18 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Domain Description # # Needs Comments
Satisfactory Improvement
I. Governance A. The governance leadership 10 5 “Too much meddling in issues that
Structure team is comprised of the local are the province of the
board of education and the Superintendent.”
superintendent, and adheres
to appropriate roles and “Too many of our Board members
responsibilities, as defined in put pressure on our superintendent
the state constitution, state in regards to day to day
law, local act, and board operations.”
policy.
C. The board acts as a policy- 8 6 “I feel that some of our Board
making body separate from members "overstep" their bounds
the roles and responsibilities with the Superintendent and staff.
authorized to the We provide funds and
superintendent. Superintendent implements
policies.”

“Too much meddling in operational,


personnel, and contract issues by
Board members.”

“Some Board members involve


themselves with personnel matters
that should be left to the
Superintendent.”

VI. Personnel C. The board adopts personnel 9 6 “While not a regular occurrence,
policy that is implemented by there have been occasions where
the superintendent. Board members have gone beyond
the "accept or reject" of
recommendations.”

“Board needs to let the


Superintendent execute policy and
stop meddling.”

A review of letters and interviews also revealed that eight of the nine board members felt compelled to send
letters of reprimand to the board president on August 11, 2015, and on October 3, 2017, taking issue with
“conducting board affairs through news media and social media” and subverting the authority of the
Superintendent. Board members do avail themselves of state mandated training annually. The Board also
recognizes the need to “work on things” and must therefore commit to receiving training that meets their
specific areas of needs if they are to become an effective governing board of education.

Rationale:
Stakeholders that were interviewed expressed a deep commitment to the school system, as well as grave
concern for the current state of affairs. There is a need for change in the way board members operate and
behave with and among each other. The school board members must take the lead and move their
commitment to action. Committing to comprehensive professional development that includes team, trust,
and relationship building will help ensure productive and positive behaviors that demonstrate commitment to
continuous improvement of a unified board.

19 | Special Review Team Report 2017


Directives:
1. Develop a comprehensive board member professional development plan that is specific to the SCCPSS
Board of Education based on needs assessment results.
2. Identify an expert in the field to provide training and guidance in team, trust, and relationship building
specific to the needs of the SCCPSS Boards of Education.
3. Continue with annual mini retreat-like programs that provide opportunities reflective of the needs
assessment results and annual Governance Team Self-Assessment results.
4. Compare the Governance Team Self-Assessment results year-to-year to assess progress.

Accreditation Status

Based on the findings of the Special Review Team and subsequent review by the AdvancED Georgia State
Council, AdvancED concludes that the Savannah-Chatham County School System is in violation of the following
AdvancED Accreditation Standards and/or Policies:

AdvancED Performance Standards for Schools (Effective school year 2017-2018)


 Standard 1.4: The governing authority establishes and ensures adherence to policies that are designed
to support institutional effectiveness.
 Standard 1.5: The governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within defined roles
and responsibilities.

In accordance with AdvancED Policies, the high schools in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
will continue with their current accreditation status of Accredited pending progress made by the date of a
Monitoring Review to be held prior to October 31, 2018. The purpose of the Monitoring Review will be to
assess the progress made in complying with the Special Review Team’s Improvement Priorities listed in the
following section. No less than two weeks prior to the scheduled review, the institution must submit an
Institutional Progress Report detailing the steps taken, with supporting evidence, to address the Improvement
Priorities. A report template will be provided to the institution.

Improvement Priorities
The institution must address the following Improvement Priorities made by the Special Review Team:

1. Adhere to all established policies regarding the roles and responsibilities of governing board members
and ensure ethical behaviors are pervasively displayed.
2. Determine, implement and analyze the results of a regularly scheduled board assessment process.
3. Identify, develop, and implement policies and/or guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social
media by board members in support of their roles and responsibilities to demonstrate ethical behavior
with the highest degree of integrity and fidelity.
4. Develop and implement a communication protocol that details appropriate and inappropriate use of
communications, is aligned with Board Policies BH, BBD, and BBI, generally accepted best practices,
and is consistent with present-day communication realities.
5. Develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive board professional development plan that
encompasses both individual as well as whole group learning to support the needs identified from the
self-assessment, internal, and external stakeholder feedback and other emerging topics relevant to
enhance board performance and organizational effectiveness.

20 | Special Review Team Report 2017


6. Participate in board professional development training that encompasses building trust and
demonstrating respectful behavior between board members.

Next Steps: Using and Acting on The Report


A copy of this report is sent to the head of the institution. The institution shall use the report to guide its
response to the findings and its improvement efforts. The institution is accountable for addressing the
Improvement Priorities identified in this report. AdvancED is available to assist the institution in its
improvement efforts.

The Monitoring Review must be scheduled prior to October 31, 2018.

Closing Comments
Successes and challenges of school systems have major impact on the school community. In spite of the
challenges the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System faces, the stakeholders expressed throughout
the interviews their desire to focus on the system’s vision, “From school to the world: All students prepared
for productive futures.” Initiatives such as Balanced Literacy, Eureka Math and Work Force Development are
evidence of the system’s ongoing quest to make positive impacts on teaching and learning. Yet the challenges
of underperforming schools are a reality that must garner targeted focus by SCCPSS. When school boards are
plagued with challenges among each other and with the superintendent, their roles and responsibilities can
become blurred. Instead of the students remaining the focus of the system, the behaviors and actions of the
board are exposed to the public and unfortunately take the attention away from achieving the system’s vision.
A commitment to the Board Guiding Principles by the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board
of Education should serve as the impetus for board members to refocus, recharge and recommit to their
respective roles and responsibilities in service to the entire school community.

School systems are not without challenges as their sole responsibility is to provide quality education for all the
children they serve. The adults in charge of serving students have an obligation to every child as they
advocate beyond the district they represent. Once a school board member has been elected to represent a
district, his/her obligation is not only to the children within that district but now to the children in the entire
school system. Members of any board of education must serve as advocates for all children no matter the
district in which they reside. As educators, parents and communities hold high expectations for our children,
so is true for elected public officials.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System cooperated fully with the AdvancED Special Review
Team as it recognized the seriousness of the violation of the AdvancED Accreditation Standards for Quality
Schools Indicators 2.2 and 2.3 (Effective school year 2016-2017) and AdvancED Performance Standards for
Schools Standards 1.4 and 1.5 (Effective school year 2017-2018). The Improvement Priorities established by
the Special Review Team are focused actions that must be taken seriously by the SCCPSS Board of Education.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board of Education must realize that the Improvement
Priorities are not optional actions. Adherence to policies will ensure compliance respective to their roles and
responsibilities. Use of a board self-assessment and stakeholder assessment of the board will provide
feedback for improvement by each board member. A commitment to professional development that is
specific and comprehensive for the board will help the board become more effective in their policy leadership.
The appropriate use of social media will add value to the service of the board and the work of the school
system. And finally, understanding the difference between appropriate and inappropriate use of social media
is imperative to operating as an effective board.

21 | Special Review Team Report 2017


22 | Special Review Team Report 2017