|6 ousted, DeKalb schools’ officials set Town Hall|
|Monday, 25 February 2013 19:46 | Written by Valerie J. Morgan|
A Town Hall meeting will be held in South DeKalb on Tuesday evening to discuss Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to remove six of DeKalb’s nine school board members.
School board member Jesse "Jay" Cunningham, Jr. and the DeKalb County School District will host the meeting for parents and citizens on at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King High School. Interim Superintendent Michael L. Thurmond and staff will attend.
Cunningham said Thurmond will answer questions and give an update on where the district stands concerning its accreditation and the governor’s actions today.
Deal signed an executive order this afternoon to dismantle the board following a unanimous recommendation by the Georgia Board of Education. The state board recommended removing the board members with pay after a 14-hour hearing on Thursday, Feb. 21.
“The stakes are indeed high. The future of almost 100,000 students who are in the DeKalb County School System is indeed something we cannot take lightly,” Deal said in announcing his decision to remove six board members.
Deal’s decision, however, is not final. The school board has filed a lawsuit in state and federal court challenging the 2011 law that gives the governor the right to remove elected officials. Judges in both courts will hear the cases later this week.
State Rep. Rahn Mayo said he doesn’t know if there was any “good outcome” from the Governor’s decision today. Mayo said he didn’t support an elected official suspending other elected officials.
“I think that if voters are dissatisfied, they should have a recall and elect someone else,” Mayo said.
Mayo said with the Governor’s actions today, voters are likely facing a very lengthy court battle.
“I think what we have in front of us is a Supreme Court case,” said Mayo. “This is not going to be the last school district where we have this kind of fight. It’s going to be an ongoing legal battle that the Governor probably is going to challenge as a Constitutional amendment.”
Meanwhile, Deal has appointed a five-member panel to nominate replacements for those he removed. The panel, comprised of three blacks and two whites, includes State Board member Kenneth “Keith” Mason, who will serve as chair: James “Jim” Bostick, Jr., a former member of the Georgia Board of Education; Sadie Dennard, vice chair of the education committee for the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce; Alicia Phillip, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; and Garry McGiboney, a representative of the Georgia Department of Education.
The ousted board members include: Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Donna Edler, Nancy Jester, Pamela Speaks, Eugene Walker and Sarah Copelin-Wood. All six were part of the negative review that resulted into the school district being placed on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The three remaining school board members—Melvin Johnson, Jim McMahan, and Marshall Orson—were spared from the Governor’s decision because they have only served since January.
The six board members will be paid while they are on suspension. DeKalb School Board members earn $18,000 a year.
Reactions to the Governor’s Decision
By Dr. Eugene Walker, School Board Member, District 9
The Governor is wrong in his decision to suspend members of the DeKalb County Board of Education.
The DeKalb School District has been placed on probation by a private accrediting institution called SACS which holds considerable sway in the education community. SACS has made a multitude of allegations, some of which I agree with, but all of them were developed unilaterally in a shrouded process. The leadership of SACS is not elected by the public, do not have to conform to open meetings and open records laws, and are not subject to constitutional due process as they sit in judgment of public institutions and elected officials.
The DeKalb Board of Education, like all school boards, is a public institution. We have open meetings, open records, due process, and we are accountable to the people who elect us into office. If there is cause to remove a member, such as an indictment or if a member resigns or passes away in office, the voters return to the ballot box to name the successor. It is the democratic process: the electorate chooses their representative leadership. My constituents elected me, my colleagues’ constituents elected them and Governor Deal’s elected him. It’s the model our founding fathers took great pains to create. It’s the way it should be.
What we have here is the State of Georgia once again meddling in local affairs. Rather than funding local school systems properly, the General Assembly chose to write Senate Bill 84, a popular but undemocratic law to impose state will on local politics. The Governor has been hamstrung by an onerous law which gives an inordinate amount of power to a private company, SACS, and an appointed state board. One member of this board was appointed only last week and home schooled her children to boot. This law, which requires the State Board to recommend the removal of all or none of the school board members, if it was constitutional to begin with, replaces the legitimate will of the voters with that of an appointed group. This process is a clear attempt to circumvent or get around the democratic process - citizens electing and holding accountable their elected officials.
We have had problems on the DeKalb Board of Education. The DeKalb Board of Education is composed of democrats, republicans, black, white, men, women, liberal, conservatives and tea partiers. By virtue of the electoral process, all are represented and have a seat at the table. The wisdom of the voters created the diversity, which is good and healthy for a representative democracy. These problems of communication and respect for each other have been brought to our attention, and we are working on them. We have hired a new interim superintendant, we have passed a responsible budget, we have identified resolutions to many of the issues raised by the mighty SACS and I have resigned my chairmanship to effectuate the additional changes that are needed as we move forward.
It is against this backdrop that I take a stand to fight for and preserve the democratic process and remain hopeful that those who believe in and support the U.S. and State Constitution will join in. I will not quit or step aside. Governor Deal is wrong to thumb his nose at the U.S. and State constitutions, and he knows he is wrong. I place my faith in God and the voters of DeKalb County, not elitists under the gold dome who never set foot east of Moreland Avenue.
To my Constituents:
I am writing you this letter in response to the decision of the Georgia State Board of Education to remove six of the elected DeKalb County board members. As you know I was elected by 64% of the voters to represent DeKalb County. Your vote would be nullified if I am removed by the Governor. To date the district has completed 8 of 11 action items that was cited by SAC, we are on a course of success. I am asking for your support in allowing me to finish my term so that I can continue the progress that we have begun in our district as follows:
* $280 millions of construction to the Southside of DeKalb county.
Addition to Martin Luther King High School
Addition to Southwest DeKalb High School
Addition to Miller High School
Renovation to Murphy Candler Elem.
Open Arabia Mountain High School
Renovation to Bouie Elementary
Opening of Flat Rock Elementary
Renovation to Canby Lane Elementary
Renovation to Miller Grove Middle School and various projects
* $79m in technology.
* Made District 5 a Technology pilot program
* Reduced trailers from 800 to less than 100
* Improved leadership in the district
· $59 Million in Technology
A. Making DeKalb County School System total wireless by eliminate landline internet
B. Implementing E-books.
C. All middle and high school iPods
D. Training Teacher on technology
E. Implementing Smart Board in every class room
F. Update all software/hardware
G. Continue work to selected new Superintendent
H. Implementing New Common Core
My platform during my election 7 years ago, which I have accomplished, are as follows:
2) Reducing overcrowding in schools
3) Financial responsibility
4) Improving technology
Thank you again for your support.
DeKalb County Board of Education
By Orrin C. Hudson
As a parent and community leader who has volunteered over 1000 hours teaching kids chess and life lesson in DeKalb schools, I would like to voice my concern about the Governor’s role in the removal of the six members on the DeKalb County School Board.
First of all, I believe the power to choose representation on our School Board belongs to the people of DeKalb County. That is our constitutional right that we should protect no matter what. We slide down a dangerous and slippery slope when we put into place laws that erode OUR voting rights—OUR ability to decide.
The school board has not faced any criminal charges. In fact, the sitting school board has positively addressed 8 of the 11 actions that SACS, the accrediting agency, required. I think the board should be given the opportunity to address the three remaining citations. After all, SACS gave the board one year to get on track. The board hasn’t had one year.
In addition, I believe that the Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond should be given an opportunity to lead the existing Board members, along with Dr. Melvin Johnson and Jim McMahan.
We need to move forward with real solutions that would address the root cause of the problems. I think that we can win with the new leaders we now have at the helm.
Orrin "Checkmate" Hudson