Jesse Cunningham heads to re-instatement hearing on Monday

Written by Valerie J. Morgan

Jesse “Jay” Cunningham is urging DeKalb County residents to attend the upcoming state administrative hearing to determine if he and four other suspended school board members should be reinstated.


Cunningham’s hearing is scheduled Monday, July 15, 10 a.m., at the Office of State Administrative Hearings, 230 Peachtree Street NW Suite 830 Atlanta. Cunningham will be the fourth school board member to take the stand. Pamela Speaks, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Eugene Walker already have had their hearings. Donna Edler will go before Judge Maxwell Wood on July 16, wrapping up the court proceedings. No hearing was set for Nancy Jester because she did not petition the governor to reinstate her to the board.


“I am encouraging the community to come out and witness the hearing for themselves. They are the stakeholders who elected me and I think it’s important for them to attend,” said Cunningham, who will be representing himself at the hearing.


Cunningham, like the other four board members, are challenging the state law that allowed Gov. Nathan Deal to remove them. Deal suspended the board members in February, after the district was placed on accreditation probation in December 2012. Deal named six people who have never held office to serve on the reconstituted nine-member board.


Cunningham says that voters elected them to office and voters should be the only ones to remove and replace them, if they choose. Cunningham, who has served on the board 13 years, was elected with 65 percent of the vote when he was elected both, in 2006 and 2010.


“The DeKalb School System has had problems for years and we were working to get the district back on track," said Cunningham. "We brought in interim superintendent Michael Thurmond to help us execute the plan.  Now, the new reconstituted board  is following what we had already put in place.”


Judge Wood will make recommendations to the governor, who will have the final say in the school board members’ hearings.