After a grueling 14-hour hearing that lasted until 10 p.m. Thursday night, the Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend suspending six of the nine members of the DeKalb County school board.
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Who can stay, who might go
The six DeKalb County school board members recommended for suspension:
- Eugene Walker
- Nancy Jester
- Jesse “Jay” Cunningham
- Sarah Copelin-Wood
- Pam Speaks
- Donna Edler
The three new board members recommended to remain:
- Marshall Orson
- Melvin Johnson
- Jim McMahan
The story so far
It’s been a tumultuous week for DeKalb County’s school board.
Monday, Eugene Walker announced he would give up the board chairmanship, and the board voted to hire a law firm at $150,000 to review the school board’s “governance” and recommend changes.
Tuesday, the board filed a suit to prevent Thursday’s hearing by the Georgia Board of Education. A 2011 state law allows the governor to remove boards in school systems on probation, if the state board recommends it. The suit challenges that law.
Wednesday, a judge denied the request for a restraining order to block the state board hearing, but scheduled a hearing on DeKalb’s challenge to the state law. The board selected a new chairman, Melvin Johnson, by a 7-2 vote.
Thursday, board members and their attorney, Bob Wilson, made their case to the state board of education as to why they should not be removed from office.
The state board of education will make a recommendation to Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal will decide whether to remove current board members and appoint new ones.
Thursday, Feb. 28, a hearing is scheduled in Fulton Superior Court. The DeKalb school district will ask a judge to consider a restraining order against the state to prevent members’ removal.
Quotes from the hearing
“Let’s end the madness. Let me do the work and get the job done. … I’m there to clear the deck to deal with some of the issues that have festered for decades.”
— Michael Thurmond,DeKalb County school superintendent.
“We will show that good cause exists for the state board to move forward with a recommendation to the governor to suspend.”
— Jennifer Hackemeyer,lawyer for the state Department of Education
“You are going to find there is a new day. … What that group has addressed is exactly what SACS has asked them to address.”
— Bob Wilson,attorney representing DeKalb’s school board
“They’re treating it like a political matter, not a performance issue. … The majority of their debates have little or nothing to do with student achievement.”
— Mark Elgart, head of AdvancEd, parent company of SACS, the accrediting agency that placed DeKalb on probation.