The DeKalb County School Board, in its first meeting staffed by six new members, voted unanimously Wednesday night to remove the district as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the state by six board members ousted by the governor.
District 2 board member Marshall Orson, one of three established board members not removed by Gov. Nathan Deal, made the motion to terminate the district’s status as a plaintiff. The motion passed without fireworks after new board member Thaddeus Mayfield asked whether the district could be subject to legal repercussions, such as breaching its contract with removed members. He was told no by an attorney representing the district.
The six newcomers were appointed by Deal on March 13 after the governor suspended six board members in late February on the recommendation of the Georgia Board of Education, which acted on evidence collected by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting agency.
Former board chairman Eugene Walker, who was ousted by Deal, is also named as a plaintiff, so the lawsuit will continue, Orson said before the meeting. The Georgia Supreme Court indicated this week it will hear the case on appeal. The lawsuit argues the governor violated the state constitution by removing the board members.
Board Chairman Melvin Johnson said after the meeting, “I do not know what direction the suspended board members will take” now that the district has dropped out of the suit.
Interim DeKalb schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond said the district will put the matter behind it so that it can “focus its resources on educating children.”
According to the motion, Thurmond is “requested within 24 hours to instruct outside counsel to take appropriate steps to seek termination of further status as plaintiff in (the lawsuit) or any related litigation.”
It is not clear whether the district will no longer have to pay legal fees related to the suit. Walker could not be reached for comment late Wednesday evening.
Before the 6 p.m. meeting, a district employee gave two new members, Karen Carter and Joyce Morley, instructions on which buttons to hit to vote “yes” or “no” to motions. In addition to Carter, Morley and Mayfield, the other new board members are David Campbell, John Coleman and Michael Erwin.
There were no dissenting votes as the newly configured group went through a list of 13 action items — ranging from approving the purchase of district vehicles with special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funds, to a spirited discussion about the extension of a $1.25 million contract to a copier company.
Carter, Morley and Erwin all urged the county to monitor the performance of the company, indicating that they have heard from staff and teachers dissatisfied with service.
About 200 people attended the meeting to see firsthand how the new board will function, as the district is under scrutiny by the SACS accrediting agency that put it on probation in December for numerous alleged shortcomings, including a malfunctioning board.