(Duffie Dixon, 11Alive News)
DECATUR, Ga. -- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has placed DeKalb County Schools on probation through 2013.
The accrediting agency held a news conference at noon Monday following an intense investigation.
MORE | Read the SACS report here
"We want to see sustained progress," SACS president Mark Elgart said of the school district during the press conference. He added that SACS believes it will take more than a year to reach that goal, as "there are no proper checks and balances to explain where the money went."
"If we're going to change a school system, it needs to start with those that lead the school system," Elgart added.
In October, a SACS team of investigators spent more than 40 hours interviewing school principals, board members, staff and even people in the community.
RELATED | DeKalb Schools respond to SACS criticism
MORE | SACS investigating DeKalb County Schools
Parents have vented anger at the DeKalb School board in the past year over everything from failing to get a handle on budget issues, to layoffs and furloughs and the dismantling of the beloved Fernbank Science Center.
Elgart has said the DeKalb School Board "isn't a board anymore. It's actually nine political leaders who have their own alliances and allegiances."
"They pursue their own interests, in spite of what the system needs. It's their interests that are in charge of what happens," Elgart said in an interview last week.
At Monday's conference, Elgart warned that if the school district doesn't take "proactive action" to place students' needs above those of board members, the system's loss of accreditation is "imminent."
School Board Chairman Eugene Walker declined to comment Monday on specific accusations contained in the report.
Dr. Walker said the board will do everything necessary to save the school system's accreditation.
"Any time you have an elected group of people, they have positions that they contend for, but it's not that, in my opinion, we've been that disagreeable.... We heard what they [SACS investigators] were saying. We're going to change the culture to be more inclusive and transparent, where we can be rest assured, and everyone we represent can know, that we're doing our best for our youngsters.... This probation is somewhat of a setback to us, but a serious wake-up call, and we're going to address the things that SACS pointed out to us."
The DeKalb County School District released a statement Monday afternoon about Elgart's report:
Today, members of the DeKalb County Board of Education, along with the Superintendent and Senior Team, met with AdvancED and Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO of AdvancED.
During this meeting, Dr. Elgart reviewed the Special Review Team Report from the October 17-19, 2012 visit. As a result, the District is now being placed on Accredited-Probation until December 31, 2013.
The District has received this information and will work collaboratively to review the findings and begin to address the required actions. The District still remains fully accredited ad students' academic status remains unchanged.