Not sure anyone is surprised at the announcement today that DeKalb County Schools are on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
I am a bit surprised at school board Chairman Gene Walker’s dismissal of Gov. Deal stepping in and removing board members — a power Deal now has under a sweeping school board reform law.
Here is a suggestion: Save the governor the trouble. Quit.
The DeKalb board members who are guilty of the mismanagement outlined by SACS — including missing money, school board nepotism and board influence on which schools students — should resign and save the governor the need to formally oust them.
I don’t understand why elected officials who have failed at their jobs and left their constituents worse off don’t just do the right thing and go. If I served multiple terms on a school board and created more problems than I solved, I would let someone else try.
DeKalb has many elements in place to be a far more successful district than it has been, including taxpayers willing to take on new taxes for the sake of their schools. Some of the blame for DeKalb’s current financial problems falls on the school board for its poor management.
At some point, fresh outlooks and new ideas are vital to an organization’s health and future. I think that time has come in DeKalb.
An accrediting agency is accusing the DeKalb County School District of a decade of “poor, ineffective governance,” announcing Monday that it’s placing the district on probation, leading to possible removal of the school board. After a six-month investigation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools found evidence of missing money, school board nepotism and board member influence on which schools students, particularly athletes, attend.
Despite exerting influence in areas where they had no formal role, members of the school board failed to oversee their primary responsibility: the money. DeKalb is “perilously close” to running out of cash, said Mark Elgart, the president and chief executive officer of SACS parent company AdvancED. Despite annual revenues approaching $1 billion, some students don’t have textbooks and most have no access to computers or the Internet. This is because the school board, administrators and others in decision-making positions put the interests of adults before those of children, he said. Meanwhile, academic performance has been sliding.
The findings prompted SACS to bring the ultimate threat: loss of accreditation. It could happen a year from now. Until then, DeKalb is on probation, Elgart said. School officials have the interim to address the concerns. SACS will be sending teams to monitor the response in the spring and fall.
School board chairman Eugene Walker said he was disappointed by the decision. “Nobody wants to be on probation,” he said. He also said he understands why SACS reached its judgment. The school board will take the message seriously and respond to restore its accreditation, he said. “I’m also optimistic that we’re going to rise to the occasion.”
Walker said he’s not concerned that Gov. Nathan Deal will remove the school board, which is possible under a new state law that covers districts on probation. “We’ve not done anything egregious,” Walker said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog