The vetting process began Friday for some 400 applicants looking to fill six vacant DeKalb County School Board seats. Governor Nathan Deal’s nominating committee, appointed to select the replacements for the removed DeKalb BOE members, is set to meet with the DeKalb Legislative Delegation for assistance in combing through the long list. The DeKalb Legislative Delegation met with the Governor on Thursday as the applicant’s names were released to the public. That list can be found on the Governor’s Website. Deal is expecting to have a much shorter list of candidates in front of him by sometime next week. He has directed nominating committee chairman, Kenneth Mason to work with his committee members to select at least two nominees for each of the six seats.
For DeKalb County, time is of the greatest importance. In May the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is expected to return to DeKalb to review gains made toward moving the system off of probation and saving it from losing accreditation. DeKalb County School’s accreditation was placed on probation by SACS in December 2012.
Right now there are only three, newly elected board members still seated, not enough for a quorum to conduct business. So the nominating committee has been charged to not only do a thorough review of each applicant, but make selections quickly.
Speaking with local media, Georgia State Representative Scott Holcomb (D) says, "the makeup of the new board members needs to be diverse, reflective of DeKalb County and people who can immediately get to work".
As the nominating committee works bring new members to the DeKalb board, one of the six removed members, Nancy Jester, officially announced her resignation on Wednesday. Jester (District 1) stated on her blog page that rather than contest the Governor’s removal she wanted to resign.
“For clarity, I wanted to resign from the board in advance of the hearing in February, but refrained from doing so because of the pending court case,” “If the ruling had gone the other way, the remaining board members would have remained on the board and they would select my successor. I wanted to prevent that. I am more comfortable with the Governor and his team selecting my replacement.”
Nancy Jester is the first suspended board member to resign. The remaining board members: Eugene Walker, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Donna Elder, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham and Pamela Speaks, have not announced resignation plans. As a matter of fact, Donna Elder has added her name to the nominating committee’s list. She decided to reapply for her position hoping the Governor will give her a second chance.
Former Board Chairman Eugene Walker says he will continue to challenge the state law that gives the Governor the right to remove and replace school board members. This is now a challenge U.S. District Judge Richard Story placed in the hands of the State Supreme Court in his order on Monday.
Most impacted by the DeKalb School District’s upheaval are the students. On Thursday, the 21 member DeKalb County Student Advisory Council got a chance to question Governor Deal about the system’s future.
Through a videoconference the students asked an hour worth of questions trying to understand how the state plans to correct adult created problems that are now impacting Dekalb students. Student Kirk Tucker was among the participates. His question to the Governor:
"Would my scholarship offers from Stanford and Vanderbilt, would those be taken away from me if we were to lose accreditation?"
The Governor’s reply:
"They would, as a general rule, not accept students from unaccredited schools."
In the meantime, some DeKalb county parents say they are not waiting on the district to fix its problems. Some Dunwoody parents have started looking into both creating a charter school system, and even breaking away from the DeKalb County School System to develop their own school district.
The loss of accreditation not only negative impacts students educationally, but the community economically, as property values will drop and businesses may choose to locate elsewhere.