JONESBORO, Ga. -- The Clayton County School Board met before a packed house Monday for the first time since learning the district's accreditation may be in jeopardy.
Last week, the board received a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) highlighting issues with board governance.
The board voted to add the letter to the top of the agenda, then used a discussion period to speak directly to the parents gathered in the room, hoping to ease concerns.
"Please don't always believe everything that you read," said District 3 member Jessie Goree. "I would ask that you believe in us."
"We're going to take care of the children of Clayton County," added Dr. Alieka Anderson, District 8 member.
Board member Charlton Bivins (District 9)said this letter does not represent the same situation the district faced in 2008, when Clayton County schools actually lost accreditation.
He called SACS' actions "reckless" and "unfair," and scolded the organization for airing the complaints publicly without first speaking with board members.
"The fact that we're going back through this [fear] based on merely a two-page letter is causing a crisis in Clayton County," he said.
But many parents were not convinced.
"No more. We've given you the opportunity to make good on what you've said in the past, and we see the mistakes you're making," said Barbara Gibbs. Her daughter Rhuna is a fifth grader in the district.
"It's causing us a lot of hurt; it's causing the children a lot of setback," she said. "And we're not going to take that anymore."
Richard Jones has been through this before. With an 11th grader in Clayton County schools, he faced the first loss of accreditation in 2008, but chose to "stand by Clayton County."
"I really can't believe that I'm seeing the same thing all over again, that our school board has not learned from the lessons of the past," he said. "But if you look at the problems from the past, it's definitely not the schools. It's definitely the people on the board."
Monday's meeting wasn't limited to parents and district employees. During the public comment section, the mayors of Riverdale and Lovejoy addressed the board, saying they represented mayors from all seven municipalities within Clayton County.
Riverdale Mayor Dr. Evelyn Wynn Dixon pledged her support and resources to the board, but also said she and the other mayors won't stand for a repeat of 2008. It could mean tragedy for her city, she said.
"Huge economic impact, because with the property going down after the first loss of accreditation, imagine what this would do," she said. "We would have absolutely nothing."
She added that two businesses with plans to expand in Riverdale pulled out this week after hearing about the SACS letter.
The board voted unanimously to allow interim superintendent Luvenia Jackson to respond to SACS. The response must be submitted by January 15, 2013.