So, let’s try to recap: Since Dr. Atkinson
quit left her employment with DCSS, the DeKalb Board quickly convened in secret and agreed to hire former Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond as Interim Superintendent, offering a one year contract with a base salary of $275,000 and a $2,600 receiptless expense account (Board vote was 7-2 with Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks declining).
Nine days later, the DeKalb Board had their second hearing with the State Board, lasting 14 hours, after which the State Board made a recommendation to the Governor that he remove 6 of the 9 Board members (leaving the 3 recently elected: Melvin Johnson, Chair, Jim McMahan, Vice-Chair and Marshall Orson). Basically, this means that our remaining entire top tier school leadership have all been on the job a maximum of 6 weeks, with the new super having a tenure of 10 days.
Well, this is making former Board Chair, Gene Walker and his fellow consenting Board members (Excluding Nancy and Pam, who have consistently voted down all this recent legal spending) pretty upset. So, having been denied a hastily filed injunction the other day in an attempt to halt that fateful hearing, according to WSB, they have now filed an emergency request in FEDERAL COURT for an injunction to stop suspensions*. The latest from the AJC states, “The local board members filed pre-emptive court actions, seeking to restrain the governor. One hearing is scheduled in federal court Tuesday and another in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday. There was some last-minute legal tussling late Friday afternoon as the DeKalb plaintiffs asked a federal judge to act before Deal does, and state lawyers argued against that request.”
*[It is worthwhile to note that if the suspension is approved by the Governor, the members of the Board will continue to be paid during their suspension until the summer of 2014 when the entire Board will be up for reelection and the number of total seats will be reduced to seven, quite possibly leaving the current seven in those districts paid until those new members actually take their seats in January, 2015.]
Ironically, as one of our regular contributors pointed out, legally, the State Board should have removed all nine DeKalb members.
What’s illegal is only removing 6 of the 9 board members. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 says This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed. House Bill 115 [adding protection for recently elected Board of Education members] has not passed yet and once passed won’t be effective for a while.
Another of our regular participants had this very good idea as to what actions the Governor should take:
I think Governor Deal should forget about appointing a new school board.
Instead, the State of Georgia needs to appoint a Financial Control Board, just as Congress did for the District of Columbia government in 1995 (Wikipedia link)
The Financial Control Board could be dissolved once DCS achieved its fourth consecutive balanced budget.
We are BROKE! And our school board has hired a law firm to represent them in trying to hang on to control of the budget! Should taxpayers really be on the hook for the cost of this law firm too? Although the official vote at the Board ‘meeting’ where the contract with Wilson, Morton & Downs was approved, had a $50,000 per month budget, the actual contract only states hourly rates – there is NO CAP. [Download the fee agreement letter here.] In our opinion, a full forensic audit of the school system would have been a much better investment. This was publicly promised by Ramona Tyson – but never delivered, or even begun.
At Thursday’s hearing, one of the most poignant questions asked by a State Board member was regarding the amount DeKalb pays in legal fees. The questioner was floored to realize that we paid more for attorneys last year than for textbooks! In fact, Katherine Howe, DCSS head of curriculum, under questioning regarding textbook spending, admitted that many textbooks were not ordered because the “needs outweighed the resources”.
Well, not really Katherine! We have the resources… A BILLION dollars a year should do it! We just need someone in charge of that big pile of money who spends it first and foremost on the students, their teachers and their classroom needs.