First Impressions

DeKalb’s new school board members receive mixed reactions

As DeKalb County’s new school board members roll up their sleeves to tackle getting the district off of accreditation probation, they are getting mixed reactions from the community, in terms of first impressions.


Gov. Nathan Deal appointed John Coleman, Michael Erwin, David Campbell, Joyce Morley, Karen Carter and Thaddeus Mayfield to replace the six board members he removed as the school district seeks to correct problems cited by its accrediting agency.


Dave Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said the community at large may not be familiar with the new board members, but he said that could be a good thing.

“They look like qualified people, based on their resumes, and I believe that’s what counts,” Schutten said. “I know two of them (Thad Mayfield and David Campbell). It doesn’t look like any of them are part of the school system or old regime, which really concerned people. Hopefully, we can put aside the infighting and move forward now.”


You can watch a video of the swearing in ceremony here.


Julie McKenna, a concerned parent who attended the swearing-in ceremony for the new board members, said she welcomes the new leadership, even though she doesn’t know any of the appointees.


“I’ve watched this school system and this board eroding for years. I am absolutely ready to work with these new board members,” said McKenna, who has two children in the DeKalb School System. “I know these new board members were vetted by a group of people I respect very much.”


DeKalb NAACP President John Evans remained skeptical. He said he knew only one of the new appointees: Thad Mayfield.


“I’ve seen Mr. Mayfield active in the community. I don’t know about the rest of them. They sound very educated. We may have a group of people who may say yes to everything that comes down the pipe,” Evans said.


Evans said the state NAACP plans to continue challenging the governor’s appointments as unconstitutional. Voters, he said, should have the right to recall those who are elected—not have them replaced by the governor.


Deal made his appointments to the DeKalb board using a 2011 law that permits him to remove school board members when a district is placed on accreditation probation. DeKalb was placed on probation in December 2012 after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) cited the district for financial mismanagement and governance issues.


Deal appointed five blacks and one white, the same racial makeup the board had before he removed the six members. Now there are only two women serving: Karen Carter and Joyce Morley. Previously, the board had four women: Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Donna Edler, who were all replaced, along with two men—Eugene Walker and Jay Cunningham.


The governor said he believes the new members are highly qualified and will do a good job.


“Several of them have very detailed experience in mediation and efforts to reach reconciliation in very difficult circumstances, which I think is a qualification that might be a very good one,” Deal said. “They are fresh faces.”


Since the announcements, Atlanta talk radio shows have lit up with people expressing their thoughts about the new leadership. Several said they had never heard of many of the appointees, but were glad the district is moving in a new direction. Others questioned why the appointees had never run for a school board seat in the past.


The newly-appointed Carter, a lawyer, provided an answer on the Mo Ivory Show, saying she had never run for a seat because it wasn’t the right time for her.


“Up until five years ago, I had a critically ill husband and that was not something that I could do,” said Carter, who said she is looking forward to serving and helping to get the district on track.


Thaddeus Mayfield, who also spoke during the March 14 Mo Ivory Show, said he, too, is looking forward to getting to work.


The new members, along with the three elected members—Dr. Melvin Johnson, Marshall Orson and James McMahan will conduct their first business meeting on March 20 at the district’s headquarters, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain.


Officials said the meeting agenda would be posted on the district’s web site no later than March 18, 6 p.m.


The new members on the nine-member board are:


District 1
John Coleman

Coleman is a strategic planning manager at Invesco. Previously, he held a variety of leadership roles at McKinsey & Company. He also serves on various nonprofit boards. Coleman has a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard and a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. He lives in Atlanta.

District 3
Michael Erwin

Erwin is a U.S. Navy veteran and has been a research assistant at Duke University Medical Center and the University of South Carolina. He has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Services and is past chair of the NOAA fisheries committees on fish species and fish diseases in Maine and South Carolina. In 2008, he earned a Ph.D. in biological science from the University of South Carolina. He has been a member of the faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College since 2009 and teaches undergraduate students in biological science. He graduated from North Carolina Central University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in biological science. Erwin lives in Decatur.

District 5
David Campbell

Campbell is a senior manager with Georgia Power, where he supports the company’s energy conservation efforts. He is a certified public accountant with managerial experience. Campbell received a degree in business administration from Albany State University. He is a former chair of Leadership DeKalb, a member of the DeKalb 100 Black Men and a member of St. Phillips AME Church. He formerly served on the Stephenson High School Council and lives in Lithonia.

District 7
Joyce Morley

Morley is the chief executive officer of Morley and Associates and is a nationally-known public speaker and trainer. She is a certified counselor, a trained mediator and serves on several local and national governance boards. Morley has a doctorate in counseling, family and worklife from the University of Rochester. She received her specialist’s and master’s degrees in counseling education from the State University New York College at Brockport, and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the SUNY College at Genesco. A Stone Mountain resident, Morley has lived in DeKalb County for more than 22 years.

District 8
Karen Carter

Carter serves on the faculty of Georgia Perimeter College where she is chair of the Business and Social Science department. She received a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications from Denison University and a law degree from Ohio State University. Carter has served as a classroom teacher and has held several senior administrative roles in the field of education. She is a graduate of Leadership DeKalb and is a community volunteer and PTSA member. Carter lives in the Lakeside community.

District 9
Thaddeus Mayfield

Mayfield is a senior partner with FOCOM, Inc., a Georgia-based business development firm. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Mercer University and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tougaloo College. He co-chaired the successful Friends of DeKalb Education SPLOST IV Campaign and is an active member of several business and civic organizations in the metropolitan area. Mayfield is a Lithonia resident.