Ga. BOE recommends Gov. Deal suspend 6 board members

11:13 AM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- After a 14 hour deliberation, the Georgia State Board of Education voted, unanimously, to recommended that Governor Deal suspend 6 of the 9 board members on the DeKalb County School Board. 

The DeKalb County School board members recommended for suspension, include: Eugene P. Walker, Nancy Jester, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jesse "Jay" Cunningham, Donna Elder and Pamela A. Speaks.

Since Thursday morning, DeKalb County's school board members have been in deliberation with the Georgia State Board fighting to keep from being removed from their posts.

RELATED | DeKalb school board elects new leader

Earlier this week, a judge refused to halt the hearing when DeKalb's School Board challenged the law as unconstitutional.

The judge ruled they had filed the request too late, but left open the issue until another hearing next week.

What could be a day long hearing began before a standing room only crowd.

Making the case for removal, State Department of Education, attorney Jennifer Hackemeyer claimed DeKalb's Board "receives a failing grade for governance."

She claimed evidence will show the school system's accreditation was placed on probation last December due to mismanagement, misconduct and political infighting by board members.

She said a good case exists to suspend 6 of the 9 board members with pay.

She did not include 3 newer board members elected last fall, after the problems surfaced.

Former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson argued on behalf of DeKalb's Board.

He began by blaming some of the controversy on a "degree of firestorm" from the news media, which he asked the state board to forget.

"Some things have happened that are not pleasant," Wilson admitted, including the threat to accreditation.

But he claimed the DeKalb Board has made "significant progress."

As examples he cited 5 new members elected since 2011, a newly elected Chairman, and last week's appointment of former State Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond as Interim Superintendent.

"The citizens spoke for change and that should matter," Wilson argued.

The state's first witness was Mark Elgart of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He explained problems that led his private agency to put DeKalb County Schools' accreditation on probation two months ago.

"The concerns here are not a political, but a performance issue. They (the board members) continue to treat it like a political matter," Elgart said.

Citing an earlier accreditation probation in 2004, Elgart claimed there's been a 10 year pattern of board failure and mismanagement.

After watching a year's worth of board meeting videos Elgart said, "the majority of their discourse has had little to do with student achievement.

"There's no cohesion about where they're headed and there hasn't been for 10 years," Elgart added.

 

Interim DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond asked State School Board members not to recommend removal of the school board that just hired him.

Even though he technically works for that board, Thurmond promised to do his best to persuade them to quit their bickering.

"I'm responsible, I bought the farm," Thurmond said. "Give me the opportunity to do the job."

In a related development, Governor Nathan Deal called a mid-afternoon news conference with members of the DeKalb County legislative delegation.

He was expected to react to the State Board's recommendation whether to remove 6 of 9 DeKalb School Board members.

But that news conference was soon cancelled when it became apparent the lengthy hearing might not end in time Thursday.

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