This week the DeKalb County Board of Education is scheduled to hold its first board meeting including the six newly appointed members named by Governor Nathan Deal last week. The board has not been able to meet for about two weeks. But as the full board starts digging through piles of unfinished work left growing while the dismantled body lacks enough members to conduct any business, the State Supreme Court is preparing to review the legalities of the new appointments. Some of the ousted board members say they are not given up their efforts to fight their suspension and removal. Removed member and former chairman, Eugene Walker leads the state challenge and says the board’s removal was based on “accusations, allegations and innuendos” lacking “proof or supporting documents.”
In February Deal removed six of the longest sitting members leaving three newly elected members in place. The Governor made the decision at the recommendation of the State School Board. In December 2012 the DeKalb District was placed on accreditation probation by SACS.
Last week U.S. Judge Richard Story officially sent a list of questions to the Georgia Supreme Court to tackle the constitutionality of the 2011 Georgia law that gives the Governor the right to remove and replace school board members.
In a detailed letter posted in Saturday’s AJC’s Get Schooled Blog, Eugene Walker points out that while the newly appointed members deserves everyone’s support, “the decision to suspend him and five other board members was not only illegal but based on distortions by the accrediting agency.”
Walker goes on the list specific reasons why SACS accusations of: financial mismanagement, rampant nepotism and cronyism and it critical issues of teaching and learning failures are all false.
The cloud that looms over the DeKalb County School Board is a dark and complicated one. Board members must work hard but quickly to save the District’s accreditation which hangs in limbo.
At the same time Eugene Walker says it is important to set the record straight and point out that “SACS and its agents distorted the actions of the school board and intentionally diminished the level of trust and confidence held by the constituents of the board members.” But Walker also states:
As our constitutional challenge makes its way through the courts, these appointees, along with the three elected officers allowed to stay, are in charge and everyone should be supportive of these stewards until the matter is resolved. I agree with the governor that there is a lot at stake and I urge the public and the media to stay involved as we move forward.
Going forward, we should all be aware that the SACS/AdvancED analysis and subsequent probation created the perception of many of the problems the system is facing today.
The DeKalb County Board of Education will hold its business meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.