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DeKalb NAACP blasts bill to shrink School Board

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DeKalb NAACP President John Evans said the civil rights organization may take legal action concerning HB 979, which reduces the number of school board members from nine to seven.

The DeKalb NAACP blasted state lawmakers for passing a bill that will reduce the number of DeKalb School Board members from nine to seven, saying the measure is another attempt to disenfranchise African Americans.

 

"We just think it is a clear-cut case of racism perpetrated on us by those who seem to specialize in drawing lines to mess us up and making decisions to tell the world that they're in power," said DeKalb NAACP President John Evans. 

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HB 979, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, passed the Senate and now goes to the governor for his signature.

The bill abolishes the two at-large (Super District) seats on the Board of Education. By eliminating the two seats, lawmakers avoided redrawing the boundaries, which likely would have been confusing for voters, who will go to the polls in three months. The elections will be held on May 20 and all of the seats--seven now--for school board are up for grabs.

State lawmakers have been discussing redrawing the school boundaries for years, but could not come up with a satisfactory planned. A law that was passed in 2011 was supposed to change the number of seats, but new boundaries were never approved.

 

Dr. Melvin Johnson, who chairs the DeKalb School Board, said board members had agreed recently to keep the number of seats to 9 to avoid any disruption or confusion.

 

"We have been very successful in working together to accomplish what we have with SACS(the district's accrediting agency) and other goals in the community. We wanted to stay on track. That was our main rationale," Johnson said.

Although te School Board made its recommendation, state lawmakers had the final say.

Evans said the NAACP might consider legal action, if the governor does in fact sign HB 979 and the elections have a lopsided impact. Evans said he believes that the board should be comprised of at least five African Americans to reflect the school district, which is predominately African American.

Evans criticized the DeKalb legislators for the bill being passed.

 

"The one flaw in this is they knew about this a year ago. They waited too late. They were not aggressive and did not consider the wishes of the DeKalb Board of Education," Evans said. "We have to depend on those who are in the Legislature--those close to the vest--to make decisions that represent constituents that they serve. I think we're going to have really deal with some of them on what they offer for office based on the facts of the matter and based on what they have not done for their constituents."

Lance Hammonds, first vice president of the DeKalb NAACP, says it is not so much the number of school board seats that matter as it is getting board members who will support education and resources for children throughout the county.     

 

"First and foremost, we are concerned with the education of the children in our county. We want a quality education for all of our kids. To get that, we we need adequate representation on the School Board. We need people who will act in the best interest of our children," Hammonds said.

 

Candidates who plan to run for the DeKalb School Board will qualify March 3-7. Hammonds said the NAACP plans to have an educational forum featuring the candidates on March 15, 10 a.m., at the DeKalb NAACP on Rainbow Drive. He said the NAACP is working on finalizing details and will update the community. 

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