The five member panel appointed to select replacements for the six removed DeKalb County School Board members completed all interviews of potential candidates on Monday. While the twelve names out of some 400 candidates have not been released yet, some community leaders are questioning Governor Nathan Deal hand in selecting and replacing the board members instead of an election.
As the nominating committee met Monday, the Georgia NAACP, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and other leaders also met with Governor Deal for about 90 minutes at the Capitol Building to discuss the issue of voter rights. But the outcome of that meeting was less than positive as civil rights leaders emerged angered by what they say was an insensitive tone by the Governor.
Among initial concerns, civil rights leaders say the Governor should not have the right to remove and replace elected officials. Civil rights leaders question the fate of a majority black school board in a majority black county when five of the six removed members are African Americans, and of the three remaining board members, two are white.
Neither the NAACP nor the Legislative Black Caucus denies that the previous board had real problems that must to be corrected. But they wanted to express to the Governor that it’s not too late to consider a voter recall or election giving district voters a chance to select their own representatives. Unfortunately, by the end of the closed door meeting members say Governor Deal finally told them, they should “find some good black people to run for office”. To that, the civil rights leaders felt the Governor’s comment implied that it very difficult to find good African American candidates. Marcus Coleman, of the National Action Network’s Atlanta Chapter , said the comment was “insensitive and inflammatory”.
The Governor’s spokesperson, Brian Robinson did not deny the comment, but focused attention on the fact that DeKalb County’s accreditation is at stake right now and the Governor had only one choice to make for the sake of some 99-thousand DeKalb students. Robinson also pointed out that voters will ultimately make the finally choice in 2014 when the DeKalb BOE seats will be up for re-election.
According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Brain Robinson said the Governor was encouraging the leaders to find qualified candidates to run in 2014.
“The governor said to please get involved and make sure these black candidates are good black candidates so we can have a functioning board,” said Robinson. “Gov. Deal wants to make sure every student graduates in schools that have kept their accreditation.”
However, the comment was not taken in a positive way. The nominating committee is still expected to present their selections to the Governor Deal for his review as early as Tuesday, March 12.
DeKalb County finds itself in such a predicament as the regional accrediting agency, SACS, placed the district's accreditation on probation December 2012 following a list of governance and financial mismanagement findings. SACS is expected to return to DeKalb County in May for a progress report. DeKalb County has until December 2013 to correct all SACS noted problems or face losing accreditation.