August 28th, 2008
03:09 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The very bad and the very, very good

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

In four decades, just three public school districts in the US have lost their accreditation. The dubious honor of that number three spot now belongs to Georgia’s Clayton County.

During the five years I spent in Atlanta, I heard a lot about Atlanta public schools, much of it negative. Parents and teachers, however, were working extra hard to change that. The school district we lived in had a great elementary school; it would have been a fantastic place for my son to begin his education. Sadly, our neighbors in Clayton County can’t say the same.

Clayton County is part of the metro Atlanta area. This district serves 50,000 kids, though according to the report that resulted in this lost accreditation, it doesn’t serve them well. The findings from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools point to a “dysfunctional”, “fatally flawed” school board, but they were given a second chance – an opportunity to fix their schools.

Clearly, they didn’t. My heart goes out to the families who live in this district.


The pictures and stories coming out of India are surreal. An area the size of Delaware is underwater. Entire villages were swallowed by the floodwaters, and there are at least two more days of heavy rain still to come. Some 2.6 million people are affected, and for many their chances are directly tied to their economic status. The poor can’t afford to seek higher ground, and in this area, that could be almost everyone.


When you see villagers stranded on rooftops in India, it’s impossible not to think of those stranded after Hurricane Katrina. Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the storm. You could argue it also marks the third anniversary of the day this country changed. The disaster also changed many Americans – for the better. You may be one of the thousands who couldn’t sit back and watch the new reality, maybe you were one of the many who jumped up and took action.

Three years later, there is still much work to be done. A couple from Washington is making sure it gets done. Meet this week’s CNN Hero, Liz McCartney, co-founder of St Bernard Project. She and her partner are an inspiration, and a testament to the power of a few dedicated people.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Michelle Fonthill Ont,Canada

    Hi Erica

    Wow I can't believe it's the anniversary of Katrina already. It's still a memory no one can and ever will forget. The images of stranded poeple on roof tops begging for help,It's so sad and fustrating to know that even in present day poepele are still struggling to re build thier lives after this disaster. I hope and pray that this storm that is now appraoching can be weathered and familes will be safe .

    Thanks for your post Erica
    Have a great day

    August 29, 2008 at 9:34 am |
  2. Beverly

    The Clayton County School Board should be brought up on criminal charges. They deliberately worked against the very children they promised to support. Even when given written, specific instructions describing exactly what to fix they opted to continue to serve their own self interest. Sadly the children and teachers will suffer for the indiscretions of a select few.

    August 29, 2008 at 9:15 am |
  3. mkaryl


    I lived in Atlanta for 24 years...I am also very familiar with the problems and complaints about the school districts in the Atlanta Metropolitan area...the situation is pathetic...I have lived in the South Hampton area of VA for the last year and I am very impressed with the schools in the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach...in fact, I would be pleased to be able to teach in the schools here...never felt that way in GA.

    August 28, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  4. Sandra, Wadley Ga.

    Good evening Erica. The loss of accreditation is so sad for Clayton County school students who have worked so hard in order to prepare themselves for a promising future by furthering their education. I know Governor Perdue is seeking to regain the accreditation as soon as possible and I wish him the best for the sake of the children.

    I pray for those precious souls in Bihar India who are suffering terribly. These are trying times and we must reach out to one another and lend a helping hand.

    August 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  5. tammy

    Well, public schools in the United States have been going down hill for a very long time. Under paid and over worked teachers and adminstrators do not help our children. I understand school pride but remember that the mascot name is secondary to the education of the children. I live in a district that is troubled. I see all the collection buckets around town. Parents and teachers are trying to raise money to SAVE the school. But I never drop in any money. I hate to say it but consolidating the school district with another more finacially stable one would be better. What is more important school pride or the education of the students?

    August 28, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  6. Rose from Southern Calif

    HI Erica, hope your day is a great one...

    Sorry to hear about the Atlanta's schools not good for their children thou.
    My grandchild goes to a private school here in southern California, just because of the problems here in our public schools it's not safe anymore the important programs are being cut. The money that the public schools are getting, where is it going? Not to the students that needs it.
    And when I went to school in the 1970's it wasn't that safe either. The classrooms was one side the bloods and the otherside the crips gangs! Can't CONCENTRATE when you're doing you school work. We had old teachers who didn't care, and a school budget that was a Joke! Try to work with that.

    August 28, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  7. Chris - Hemet, Ca.

    As an ex California teacher I'm surprised that more schools in our nation haven't lost accreditation. I left teaching because I found myself becoming more and more frustrated. Frustrated at the district office, budget cuts and even the lack of responsibility by the students. The final straw was trying to teach 5 periods a day (History), averaging 35-40 students per class and having only 38 text books....TOTAL. One class would use them then leave them under their desks for the next class. Couldn't get paper pencils etc., I always ended up buying materials myself. On the other hand I could order all the computer software I wanted. California has cut the education budget every year since 1984, possibly longer, but that's when I started keeping track. As a result the schools are overcrowded and the curriculum almost nonexistent.

    August 28, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    I hope Gustav doesn't test NOLA's levees next week. I also hope it doesn't hit anywhere that is populated too! Too much flooding right now in the world from Nepal to Bahir, to Bangladesh to west African nations such as Ethiopia. And you're right – the ones that suffer the most are the poorest ones – especially the women and children.

    When I went to school (back when stone tablets were the latest style according to my children) the school system I was in was fortunately a good one although its declined in later years as well. I was well prepared for college = I don't understand how the schools of the 60s and 70s did so much with less funding than they have now and how the schools now can't do as well with more funding. No wonder people are home schooling their children – besides the safety issues you at least have some control over what they learn.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  9. Eugenia - San Francisco

    The same St. Bernard parish that the levees were repaired with newspaper?

    I'm sorry Erica, I really adore you.

    August 28, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Lilibeth

    I am devastated by the latest news from India. I really hope Gustav decides not to fall on land and stay on the ocean. What can we do to help?

    All this is happening while I try to enjoy the convention. The electrifying speeches have moved me and I feel privileged that I got to see history in the making in my lifetime. But it’s hard to enjoy it when you know there are other distressing things going on.

    Take care,
    Edmonds, Washington

    August 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    Perhaps if the money for schools went less to the big shots and more to the teachers and students, we'd finally have the countless years of bad school districts end.
    The flood in India proves once again, that we are very much connected to one another. Mother Nature knows no boundaries. It's up to us to be a good neighbor to those hit by her punch. Today, someone, somewhere, needs help. Tomorrow it could be us. Take Care

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    August 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  12. Audrey

    I don't think John King takes pleasure in pointing out Obama's weaknesses. However, it's his job to discuss the facts rather than rave about how great Obama is....there are too many people doing that already.

    August 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm |