As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal takes steps to remove six embattled DeKalb County School Board members, a U.S. District Court Judge temporarily blocks the replacement efforts until the outcome of a Friday, March 1 hearing. A court order, signed by Fulton County Judge Richard W. Story over the weekend, does not prevent Governor Deal from “acting” to suspend the six board members, but it does stop the governor from fully enforcing the removal and replacement of BOE members. The school board members say they are disappointed in the State School Board’s “removal” recommendation to Governor Deal. On the other hand, DeKalb County parents agree with the Governor’s decision and say it is time for a change.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Governor Nathan Deal said he accepts the States’ recommendation and decided it was important to move forward with the process. Deal signed an executive order Monday afternoon to remove the six board members and said he believes the state law authorizing his actions “is constitutional until someone tells him differently.”
The Governor also told the crowd at the Capitol, “The stakes are indeed high. The future of almost 100,000 students who are in the DeKalb school system is indeed something we cannot take lightly.”
Deal explained the process of removing the six longest serving DeKalb board members which includes appointing a five member selection committee to choose the board’s replacements. The removed DeKalb County board members will have 30 days to reapply for their positions. If they do not reapply, the replacement members would remain on the board until the next election.
Last week’s recommendation by the State School Board to remove the six members and leave the three newly elected members was based on allegations of abusive behavior and financial mismanagement. The six board members suspended with pay are: Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Donna Edler, Nancy Jester, Dr. Pam Speaks, and Dr. Eugene Walker. The three remaining board members, just sworn in last month, are: Dr. Melvin Johnson, Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan.
In December 2012, SACS placed DeKalb’s accreditation on probation which opened the door to the state board hearings in order to address the possible loss of system accreditation.
Former DeKalb Board Chair, Eugene Walker told local media that he was very disappointed in the State Board’s decision because the State did not take into consideration any of DeKalb’s recent efforts toward meeting SACS goals. Some of the ousted board members say they will continue to challenge the constitutionality of Georgia Law 20-2-72 (a)(n).
However, many parents continue to express their support in the Governor’s decision. Parents in South DeKalb say while they agree that a change is need on the board, they are concern about possible new representation, in that they want leaders who understands the needs of South DeKalb.
The DeKalb County School System’s accreditation is to remain on probation until December 2013. There will be another SACS review committee returning to DeKalb County for a progress report in May.