State board hearing on DeKalb under way. Newly elected board members off the hook. Board attorney says SACS got wrong info

Updating State Board of Education hearing on whether to suspend DeKalb County school board:

The state Board of Education hearing on DeKalb opened this morning shortly after 8 with a statement from the DeKalb school board attorney Bob Wilson that his clients are challenging the constitutionality of the statue and objecting to the evidence on hearsay and relevance issues.

Wilson is the former DeKalb DA. He was one of the two people appointed by Gov. Perdue to investigate CRCT cheating. He is a noted attorney on education issues.

With DOE lawyer Jennifer Hackemeyer and Wilson making opening statements, the proceeding has the feel of a trial.

Before the formal start, a lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office takes up the issue of the lawsuits that DeKalb school board filed this week in both state and federal court.

She explains to the state board that the DeKalb Board of Education has filed lawsuits in both state and federal court. “The DeKalb Board believes the statute is unconstitutional. In the meantime, they have asked a state and federal judge to enjoin today’s proceedings. Two courts declined to halt today’s proceeding. We believe it is appropriate to go ahead as those lawsuits are happening.”

Now, Hackemeyer is laying out the state’s case against the DeKalb board, saying that the board has earned a failing grade on its report card for school board governance.

Hackemeyer says he DeKalb board violates policies with regard to staff and board communications. It fails to foster a culture consistent with the school system’s purpose and direction.

“Have your ears open to when the  students are the primary focus of the DeKalb Board of Education. When student achievement primary  focus of this board. At conclusion of this hearing, we will show that good cause exists for the state board to move forward with a recommendation to the governor to suspend,” she advises board.

In a surprise statement and one contrary to the position that the state board took  at its January meeting, Hackemeyer says she is not recommending that the state seek the removal of the three newly elected DeKalb board members as they are not eligible under the statute to be suspended since they only joined the board last month.

In January, the state board said it could not worry about when DeKalb members were elected, that it had to treat the board as a whole. But based on Hackemeyer’s statements this morning, those three new members would remain on the DeKalb board if the state board votes to suspend. So, only six board members are now in danger of losing their seats.

Now, it’s Bob Wilson’s turn: He says significant progress has been made by the DeKalb board. He intends to show the majority of the board has changed over two years. “Ballot box is ahead of SACS.”

Citizens elected new members, who are not the source of many of the issues raised by SACS in its critical report of how DeKalb board operates, he says.

Wilson: “Much of the SACS report is about governance and leadership issues. You are going to find a new superintendent appointed whose background is in governance and leadership.”

Wilson notes that, “The school board, has, in fact, elected a new chair, The school board has, in fact, elected a new vice chair. ” Wilson notes that both the new chair and vice chair are newly elected members. “Neither of those gentleman was even on the board when the board was placed on probation.” They have put new leaders in place over that board. They have put new leadership over the administration.

“Those moves are clearly being done because SACS said you have a governance and leadership issue.” Wilson says some of the facts laid out in SACS report reflect misinformation.  “Things that look very disturbing dealing with money and textbooks are wrong.”

Wilson is not saying that SACS got it wrong in its report but that SACS  was given wrong and incorrect information.

He tells the state board, “You are going to find there is a new day…What that group has addressed is exactly what SACS has asked them to address.”

Wilson will show that some of the failings highlight by SACS predates the majority of the current school board. He tells the state board, “Keep an open mind. Listen to what is presented here. Believe in the good nature, the good faith of people. Make judgements based on what you see and hear in this hearing today.”

Now, Mark Elgart of SACS is detailing how a system is evaluated and reviewed. He says of 1,000 school systems, only one was placed on probation last year for governance. “That was DeKalb County.”

But in what might boost Wilson’s point that these problems predate this board, Elgart is outlining a decade-long pattern of poor governance.  He says the problems have never really gone away. “The concerns of 2004 are replicated today around govnemance and leadership of this school system,” he said.

Question from Hackemeyer: Do you believe this school district can get off probation in a year:  “The concerns here are not a political matter. It is a performance issue.  What we witnessed thus far in the response over two months, they are treating it like a political matter, not a performance issue.  If they are to be successful in the next 12 months, they must treat this as a performance issue. ”

Bob Wilson is challenging Elgart about the information-gathering process. Elgart says the interviews are the not sole source of information.

It is clear that Wilson is trying to create doubts about the validity of how information was gathered, the lack of names in the reports of those interviewed. He also is asking how much of the problem rests with the board.

“Some of the things in your report are administrative in nature and not necessarily under the board. Some of the problems were identified in this report really are not directed at the board,” Wilson said.

Wilson also says micromanaging issues are not uncommon to local school boards.

“It is uncommon when it is debilitating,”  said Elgart.

Wilson: Do you recognize that that the report is “blind upon whom we can rely on for proven information?”

Elgart countered that the school system was fully aware of who SACS interviewed. SACS interviewed 36 staff members and six community members, along with the board. SACS reviewed all board documents, meeting agendas, videos of meetings, board minutes, emails, forensic audits, legal fees, annual audits, hiring policies.

“Then, we asked these people where  we weren’t clear,” he said.

Why aren’t the names of interviewees in the report, asks Wilson.

Elgart says the report is meant for school system. He says  the school system knows who “we interviewed, who conducted the interview. This is a report from us to the system. There is nothing hidden in that exchange. We don’t write the reports for the public. We are writing the report for this system. And we meet with system if they have questions to give them additional information.”

Wilson says the report contains “group innuendo…how do you give that reliability?”

Elgart denies hearsay is in the report. “There is no hearsay in this report,” says Elgart.

“What does SACS keep in terms of audio interview, notes of interview, summations? What do you have that backs that up?” said Wilson.

“We don’t take videos and transcription. We take notes,” said Elgart.

Wilson: Where would those notes be found?

“Those are work products of the reviewers. We don’t maintain those,” said Elgart.

“We have all this evidence we asked of them. No one is a sole determinant. The body of evidence that we depend upon is what is documented by the system,” said Elgart. “It has to be backed up by documented evidence, produced by the system for this review.”

Regarding what people said in the interviews, “SACS doesn’t have anything except what is in the report itself.  You don’t have any records at SACS. You don’t have interview notes at SACS to back up this report?” Wilson said.

No, said Elgart. Notes are kept by interviewers but the notes are not maintained at SACS.

Wilson has struck a chord with the board with his hammering on how long DeKalb has had problems. A board member  is now questioning whether the DeKalb board, some of whom were elected in the last two years, can be held accountable for all the governance issues?

Elgart says that SACS has seen an acceleration of problems in these last two years, not an improvement of problems.

Elgart says the district is clearly developing a plan to move forward.

Now, the state board is asking about when board members came aboard and length of service, reflecting Wilson’s contention that the current board can’t be blamed for some of the problems outlined in the SACS report. (Building on Elgart’s own point that DeKalb has been struggling with governance for a decade.)

Board is told that three joined last month. In January 2011, two new  members joined the board. That means the other four have been on the board for four years or more — seems to satisfy some board members that most of the DeKalb board has served long enough to have some culpability for the current crisis.

Break at 10:18.

Break over.

DOE official Louis Byars is now on the stand. A United States Military Academy at West Point graduate, Byars heads the DOE financial review division, which reviews financial records and accounting of local governing school boards and assists systems in training personnel in financial and budgetary accounting.
Byars is explaining DOE’s review findings on DeKalb. He said he reviewed the audits for the district. What are his concerns about DeKalb? He said his reviews show a history of concerns as reflected in letters in the DeKalb review files.

Specific concerns: “One of the things I look for is accounting controls, systems you have in place to prevent fraud..prevent mistakes from happening whatever the cause might be,” says Byars.

DeKalb does not have adequate controls, according to his office’s findings. Byars is going into deep detail on the flaws in how DeKalb reports and records its finances and financial data.

Now, Hackemeyer is talking about DeKalb’s deficit, a situation that is not allowed under the law and that the county has to submit a plan of correction to DOE.

Has DeKalb submitted its deficit reduction plan to you?  Byars says it is due next week. He says that his office has told DeKalb that it must submit a plan.

How serious is DeKalb’s situation? “It is very serious. It is against the law. You are not supposed to be in deficit.”

Attorney: Would you be concerned if a system routinely underestimated its fixed costs?

“Yes, because if you continuously do that and you don’t anticipate, you can get surprised,” says Byars.

Wilson is cross examining Byars. Wilson notes that DeKalb has a new CFO who is working on the deficit elimination plan. “You know he is on it because you have communicated with him,” says Wilson.

Yes, said Byars, although he says that a DeKalb employee told him on the phone that it may be late. “But you know they are working on it?” asked Wilson. “Yes,” said Byars.In response to board questioning, Byars says DeKalb is one of 15 systems in the state on “high risk.” Byars said he has visited DeKalb and its new CFO Michael Perrone. (Perrone was chief financial officer for Duval County Public Schools before he took the DeKalb job last year.)

Pressed for his view of DeKalb, Byars said the system did not anticipate the drop in revenue and did not cut its expenditures. He would not agree that DeKalb has an “archaic” accounting system, as one board suggested, but it has one that makes more work.

Does DeKalb stand out for its troubles: It has more than 10 management letter comments, which means it has more issues than almost every other district in the state.

“This is a large system to have a deficit. Most of them are small, less than 5,000 students,” said Byars.

DeKalb has a budget of $800 million, not counting its federal funds, said Byars.

Back to issue of DeKalb being on high risk for two years or so.

Have you seen any urgency from DeKalb to come off of high risk and deal with the issues at hand? Byars mused aloud a second or two on this question and finally said, “no.”

Next up on the witness stand is supposed to be board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, but she can’t be found. Her coat is in room, but she is not. She may be in cafeteria, so recess is called for her to be collected. Hackemeyer says she does not want to call  next witness, she wants to call Copelin-Wood as longest serving DeKalb board member.

She is found. Asked how long she has served. Since 2000. Asked to comment on board ethics policy. She is getting her glasses to read it, per lawyer’s request. (Getting her a seat to testify. Earlier,  it was reported she wasn’t feeling well today. She confirms that from stand. She is not well today but showed up anyway. )

Have you ever been reprimanded for your conduct?

Hackemeyer: You were reprimanded in September 2010 for an insulting comment about superintendent and another employee.

“Yes,” she said.

Did she ever ask board to reprimand another member?

“Yes.” Who was it? Copelin-Wood doesn’t answer DOE attorney as the reprimand discussion occurred in executive session. Hackemeyer keeps pressing on this, although Copelin-Wood can’t provide details as to when it happened.

Wilson objects to Hackemeyer’s line of questioning, saying if the reprimand occurred in executive session Copelin-Wood cannot testify about it. He is protecting the “privilege as the law allows.” Hackemeyer agrees to abandon this line of questions and move on, and her next question is about adoption of code of ethics  in 2010 and amendments made in 2012.

She is asking Copelin-Wood about indicted Superintendent Crawford Lewis and under what circumstances he left his job. Copelin-Wood tells Hackemeyer that the Attorney General would be better able to answer those questions. But Hackemeyer says that, as the longest serving board member, she thought Copelin-Wood could respond.

Hackemeyer is recounting DeKalb’s last three superintendents, including the fractious and controversial search and hiring of Cheryl Atkinson. Wilson is objecting to Hackemeyer’s questions, including one on “confidential leaks” about the other candidates in that search. Wilson says there was never any proof of “confidential leaks,” not does he see the relevance of Dr. Atkinson’s hiring. Hackemeyer is rephrasing her questions.

Hackemeyer gave Copelin-Wood an email from May 15, 2012, and asked her to identify it. “It is information from the Greystone Park Community Association that officially partnered with McNair High School…I sent it as president of the Greystone Park Community Association.”

The email was sent to the high school principal about a scholarship ceremony. The Greystone Park Community Association wanted to present its annual scholarship to students at the ceremony. “It had nothing to do with the school system, other than it was a school,” said Copelin-Wood.

Hackemeyer contends that this email was a violation of the board communication policy.  Wilson objects, saying Hackemeyer is misstating the policy as this email did not deal with school district policy.

Copelin-Wood said she disagreed. In sending the email, she was not acting on district business, but as a community member asked by her association to contact the principal about giving students scholarships.

Break for lunch and I am creating new blog as this one is too long.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled

118 comments Add your comment

Private Citizen

February 21st, 2013
9:03 am

To see the hearing that is being streamed this morning, install Real Player software, go to “open location” and paste in this url: http://real.doe.k12.ga.us:8080/ramgen/encoder/gadoewebcast.rm

Private Citizen

February 21st, 2013
9:05 am

Referring page, “Basic Webcast” link: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/Live-Webcasts.aspx

Note: requires “Real Player” software to access streaming. Real Player is available no fee, do a Google search, etc.

FedUp

February 21st, 2013
9:08 am

I am praying that the state will remove this inept and corrupt board. My question is, if they do get removed, what happens to their lawsuits? If they are removed from office, would the county have to continue to pay their legal fees or would they have to pay them out of their own pockets?

Eugene Walker Must Go

February 21st, 2013
9:18 am

I think the Board should tell the State to go take a hike and sue if necessary. They are elected officials. The lazy DeKalb voters want the State to do their work for them. If you don’t like your Board member recall them. Get off your rear ends and do something. Don’t let bureaucrats who don’t live in our community correct your mistake as voters.

AP Teacher

February 21st, 2013
9:22 am

throw. all. the. bums. out.

The only real winners here are lawyers while parents, teachers, and students are shafted once again.

Parents, why the heck are you not pounding the pavement at the board office?

skipper

February 21st, 2013
9:27 am

Fed Up,
Classic case of incompetents election incompetence. In a largely minority (inner city, anyway) system history has shown that for better or worse folks often elect “their own” with NO THOUGHT towards ability. Activism supercedes ability, and kids suffer. This, combined with a prevailing culture (not in all, but in many cases) that is not conducive towards education to start with is a recipe for disaster. Nobody will truly discuss this. This is not to say that there are not competent folks….there are. But in may cases they are not the ones who run. This is a hard line, and will offend some folks. But lets tune back in in 10 years or so and see where this cluster is. Folks talk about “white flight.” I assume you think folks are gonna move bak in and put their kids in an inner city school? Fact of life, but the answeer is a resounding “no!” Ugly, but truthful. So, the poor inner city kids are left with what they have. It is up to the residents, (and there are those who do, but not nearly enough) to do the following:
1. forget the demographics….put an emphasis on education, starting at home.
2. Raise (and train) kids to be respectful, so that the schools do not have to become a warehouse for mis-behaviour problems.
3. realize that just because an area is poor, this does not mean that the culture cannot change!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Concerned DeKalb Mom

February 21st, 2013
9:31 am

That’s interesting…recently elected board members were clearly referred to in the SACS report as having already started meddling…but it is the state statute…

dekalbite

February 21st, 2013
9:44 am

This sounds like an Orson move to ensure the three new members are safe. It appears that Orson has been driving this train from the beginning (he picked Thurmond didn’t he according to Thurmond’s own words)? Orson is very smart and very politically active. He worked to make sure Fernbank was virtually untouched by redistricting and that they will get a new $19,000,000 school (top of the SPLOST list). The Fernbank Elementary School Council Open Letter to the Board sent by Orson in 2010 wanted to:
1. Keep Fernbank Science Center ($7,000,000 a year) intact
2. Keep magnets and special programs as it (including costly transportation to them)
3. Redistrict and close small neighborhood schools
3. Raise property taxes.

That’s EXACTLY what the Board did in 2010 -2011.

Quirk

February 21st, 2013
9:46 am

If the boards defense was “you are right, we have been political and selfish, greedy and incompetent”, at least the truth would be on their side.

dekalbite

February 21st, 2013
9:47 am

Orson’s letter. Full of concern for special interest groups and raising taxes (DeKalb is sitting right under 25 mil – the highest that can be raised in the state):
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/letter-from-fernbank-elementary-school.html

Stn Mtn/Lithonia Mom

February 21st, 2013
9:49 am

@Concerned Dekalb Mom.. If the meddling by the new board members has occurred, clearly it is due to the culture that was already present. Unless there is hard evidence, they should be allowed to stay. The rest should definitely go.

I am not moved at all by the Board attorney’s argument that progress w has been made by the this Board. The elected a new chair 2 or 3 days ago. Seriously!! The superintendent resigned within the month. That’s not progress. It is FORCE to preserve their jobs.

DeKalb Inside Out

February 21st, 2013
9:49 am

Ga DOE webcast. Use Internet Explorer. Lots of problems with Firefox.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

February 21st, 2013
9:51 am

Maureen-Yesterday’s Excellence & Equity Commission report http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/eec/equity-excellence-commission-report.pdf envisions under accountability having states have precisely the kind of control provisions Dekalb is suing over.

It also envisions combining school districts, especially dysfunctional ones. Which raises the question I have been concerned with. Is the answer to the dysfunction in APS and Dekalb to combine them with other school districts? Especially school districts that are not or are barely majority minority. That is certainly what that report pushes the federal govt to push.

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
9:53 am

once upon a time I would have been amazed that people could and would so blantly lie, obfuscate, and screw anyone and everyone in a naked power grab.

after the Tricoli years at GPC, little suprises me anymore. but DCSS is trying hard.

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
9:55 am

of course the board attorney said SACS got bad info. it wasn’t the carefully sanitized pack of lies the board had ready to spin.

if SACS got bad info, its becasue the info on the ground is just that bad.

Eugene Walker Must Go

February 21st, 2013
10:01 am

The solution to DeKalb’s school problems is not combining with other districts but breaking the districts up. The reason for all these school failures is they have become too big to manage. Communities have become comfortable punting their responsibilities for someone else to handle.

Each community needs to control their feeder system up to their high school. We need less Central Planning and more Community. The politicians are calling for more control, they have proven to be incompetent. Take all control away from the state and county and return and restore to the communities where is rightfully belongs.

Dr. John Trotter

February 21st, 2013
10:03 am

“Ballot box ahead of SACS.” This is essentially what I have been saying for the last five years (since 2008). Let the voters settle the issues. This is how a republic works. Mark Elgart and SACS are unelected, unaccountable, and never answer to the People of Georgia. SACS is at best a gnostic oligarchy. The “reports” that it issued against Clayton County and DeKalb County are laughable, skewed, biased, and chock full of hearsay (there is a reason that hearsay is not admissible in court), innuendo, and unnamed sources. The voters should be allowed to decide who serves on the school boards. We don’t need the self-perceived elite and effete “knowing ones” to decide for “the serfs” (yes, this is what the former seem to think the voters in Clayton and DeKalb are) who their representatives will be. This is not the days of the “Bourbon Triumvirate” (of the Governor, the State Board, and SACS) in Georgia. This is another banal and hackneyed attempt to circumvent democracy and, in my opinion, is unconscionable. Let the voters who eat at Houston’s across from Lenox Mall and at Piccadilly in South DeKalb Mall decide who will be their representatives on the DeKalb Board of Education, not those insipid little twerps who tip toe around with great affectation and pretension in the halls of the Capitol without any ability to get elected themselves and who are dying to be able to dine on seared salmon and asparagus at the Piedmont Dining Club while denigrating with other gnostics elected officials like Eugene Walker and Nancy Jester. I prefer the rather dominant Senator Walker and the ever-questioning Ms. Jester any day over some kiss-up political wannabe who will carry out the rather dubious goals of Mark Elgart who apparently is the self-appointed Zeus of Public Education in Georgia.

bootney farnsworth

February 21st, 2013
10:13 am

@ Dr John,

in this case I disagree, and here’s why:

in any other business, failure/refusal to do the job results in removal from said job. even in education.
faculty who will not come to work, or refuse to work, even tenured, can be removed if the proper steps are taken.

and the failure/refusal must be near epic to get the system to move.

if it was just a matter of DeKalb sending itself to hell, fine. If the citizens of DeKalb wish to make themselves into a third world entity- party on.

what tips the scales in favor or removal is the multiple allegations of violations of the law.

DeKalb has the right to send itself to hell, but DCSS doesn’t have the right to do so with the rest of the state’s money.

And yes, SACS is a corrupt entity, but its what we’ve got at the moment. consider just how bad things in DCSS must be if the good ole boy network will turn on itself. when a criminal says another criminals behavor is over the line, its really bad.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
10:17 am

“Folks talk about “white flight.” I assume you think folks are gonna move bak in and put their kids in an inner city school? ”

H*ll, even the BLACKS won’t send their kids to these schools (see Thurmond explanation for why his daughter was sent to a private school).

Atlanta Media Guy

February 21st, 2013
10:19 am

Elgart talks about 10 years, Well in those 10, over 11 billion taxpayer dollars have been spent and what do we have to show for it!!!!!! How much of that has gone to lawyers, friends and family, while teachers get paid less and are expected to do more.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
10:23 am

“SACS is at best a gnostic oligarchy. ”

Why is everyone downing SACS? They are HIRED to do a job – to see if the schools are doing what they are supposed to do. If SACS were not functioning the way they were supposed to, then why do colleges and financial aid take their accreditation as gospel? I haven’t heard anything to compare this agency, for example, to the Bond Rating agencies that gave AAA status to junk housing bonds. SACS has identified REAL problems that we all (pretty much) agree are problems. The school district IS hiring “friends and family” (see Atkinson and her plaigarist friend). The budget IS in shambles, money can’t be accounted for, and where ARE the school books? Instead of blasting SACS, we should be praising them as the ONLY ONES with the power to actually get wrongs righted.

I hope SACS strips Dekalb county of their accreditation. They deserve it just because of the lawsuit the Board filed just to keep their jobs. If they had an ounce of public-spiritedness, they would have resigned by now.

Diane

February 21st, 2013
10:26 am

When did the board elect a new chairman and vice chairman? I don’t agree about the corruptness of SACS. They have done what no one else has been able to do, hold the board responsible. If some of the anonymous allegations are untrue, it should be easy to disprove. But you must protect whistleblowers. These are not jobs to which any of these board membes are entitled as some sort of birthright. They serve the public, and the public, as near as I can tell, wants them gone.

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 21st, 2013
10:26 am

What’s it that Winston Churchill once said about democracy being the worst possible system of government … except for all the others?

DeKalb has, through incompetence, venality and a wondrous dearth of public-mindedness, positioned itself as the ideal candidate—for a forced conversion to charter school status.

Just as there are nations of the world unripe for democratic self-rule, the DeKalb School District will only find its true direction through individual choices made by parents entirely dependent upon the local public schools.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
10:27 am

If you don’t like SACS, then start a rival accrediting agency, or maybe there already is a competing agency that can accredit your schools. But don’t blame the messenger for bringing bad news when everyone knew the news was going to be bad. If you don’t want to hear about bad things, then do the right things and you won’t have to worry about it.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
10:30 am

“the DeKalb School District will only find its true direction through individual choices made by parents entirely dependent upon the local public schools.”

If all those parents want is a school board that is the same color as them and don’t care about the education of their children, then let them have it. Just let the other parents and children OUT of the system. “Let my people go!”

living in an outdated ed system

February 21st, 2013
10:31 am

This is an embarrassment. This is a trial, not a hearing, and it will be an abomination if the state board of ed does not move to remove all of the board members who are NOT new to the board.

You can’t just elect a new Chair and Vice Chair, with all of the accused still serving on the board, and expect governance to change. It’s insulting to governance experts if the status quo is allowed to be maintained.

As a citizen of the state of Georgia, I am mortified with the conduct of these selfish board members. The people want change, and the fact that they are suing the state to challenge the law in place to protect their power is downright disgusting.

FedUp

February 21st, 2013
10:45 am

I agree that the county has gotten what they have elected with this mess of a board. How in the world can Copelin-Wood have been re-elected so many times? Her district should be ashamed of themselves. She has been a party to the ten years of decline the lawyers are talking about. I honestly don’t think the woman has the brain power to know when to come in out of the rain. If the state won’t get rid of these bozos, the voters need to start recalling them immediately.

Decaturite

February 21st, 2013
10:47 am

I haven’t trusted Bob Wilson since he supported City Schools of Decatur in closing Westchester Elementary despite a huge community petition to keep it open, then worked to keep the school leadership teams under CSD’s system charter as bureaucratic, not functional bodies. I liked his work in investigating ACS cheating, but that’s it. Usually, he’s on the side of the school system that pays him, not the students or families.

tired

February 21st, 2013
10:48 am

Do any of these people have children in DeKalb County schools? It seems to me that if they did they would have a better desire to see success. Are these Board Members elected for life or when can we get rid of ALL of them if this attempt to get rid of them fails? SHAMEFUL.

Maude

February 21st, 2013
10:55 am

Pray for the children who have no choice but attend a DeKalb County school!! They are innocent and the ONLY ONES HURTING by this mess!!

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:00 am

“Are these Board Members elected for life or when can we get rid of ALL of them if this attempt to get rid of them fails? SHAMEFUL.”

YOU can recall your local Board member. But if you are part of the 49% who care, living in the north part of the county, there is NOTHING you can do to remove the 51% who live in districts where the people only care about skin color, not ability (funny to be writing these words about people who would be FURIOUS if the tables were turned and WHITE people were elected solely based on skin color).

Returning DCSS Parent

February 21st, 2013
11:00 am

Seems like a lot of the responses on this blog are making this about race when it is about an inept board that happens to be predominantly black. Being incompentent is not based on color which many of you seem to equate with being black, it is a personal response to how a person does their job, no matter their race. There are many inept people of all races, so give me a break with the comments about what black people want, etc., especially since the comments are not coming from people of color.

Additionally, as a person of color, I want most of the board gone as well. I kept my son in private school most of his life and now he attends public school. The reason for sending him to private school was all the foolishness and nepotism, going on with the board and as a result my taxes kept going up but the school system was not improving in my community ( I live in an upscale area)so I made the choice to cut back and send my son to private school. I had that option and many people (black and white)cannot afford to send their children to private school. The board should be held accountable for the issues and problems they are now facing and it ticks me off that they filed a lawsuit to keep their jobs while teachers have not received a raise in 5-6 years.

This is not about race but how do we move forward with a board that clearly is not responsive to the needs of the community and the children they are supposed to serve? I say get rid of them and start fresh with the hope that the new board members learn from all this drama and do what they were elected to do.

Ray

February 21st, 2013
11:01 am

So the 3 newly elected board members will not be removed. Well, that’s at least one sane thing that’s happened so far.

Eugene Walker Must Go

February 21st, 2013
11:01 am

“How in the world can Copelin-Wood have been re-elected so many times?”….FedUp, what you are possibly not considering is that Copelin-Wood may accurately and effectively represents the people in her district. By their standard, she is doing a great job. Although I love the recall process, you may find that none of the Board members get recalled. Why? They represent the citizenry of their district. If you are in a bad relationship what do you do, get a divorce!!! Break-up!!!

I propose we change the laws, split the districts up and let those who can sustain their schools through property taxes alone do so and those who need some or all State/QBE funds apply for them accordingly.

Marriage counseling is no longer working, its time for the lawyers.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:02 am

“Pray for the children who have no choice but attend a DeKalb County school!! They are innocent and the ONLY ONES HURTING by this mess!!”

If their parent(s) voted for the incumbent Board members, then they are only getting exactly what they deserved. Children ALWAYS suffer from their parent’s mistakes.

chillywilly

February 21st, 2013
11:02 am

I agree with Dr. Trotter. In my opinion, Mark Elgart & SACS ain’t $hi+!! Elgart lost all credibility when he mishandled the APS cheating tragedy. Let the voters decide who should represent them on the board. However, I do wish that some of the board members would voluntarily step down.

DeKalb Educated

February 21st, 2013
11:03 am

Obviously there is a problem with how many of these big school boards are run. Anyone out there remembering Clayton County Scchools and Atlanta Public Schools? Now DeKalb is on the hot seat and I am sure others in the state will follow too.
It would seem rather obvious these school board positions are purely political and the board members seem to have little interest or inclination in doing anything to improve the education the students receive. Yes DeKalb voters, elections do have consequences! If you have not seen this manifested in your own back yard, you are worse than blind. The school board is very important. They can increase your taxes, affect your property value and may in the end damage the entire state’s economic growth. Repeat after me please: “Elections do have consequences. Do some research and get to know the candidates before you make your selections.”

Ray

February 21st, 2013
11:05 am

dekalbite: It sounds like Orson (one of the 3 newly elected board members) is smart and effective based on what you are saying. Sounds like a keeper and an asset for DCCS and the board.

sliderule

February 21st, 2013
11:12 am

I see board members fighting to keep their positions. I have 2 questions that perhaps someone can answer.
1. What are board members paid by the taxpayers?
2. Are there any minimum qualifications to run? If so what are they.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:14 am

“There are many inept people of all races, so give me a break with the comments about what black people want, etc., especially since the comments are not coming from people of color.”

I agree that there are inept people of all races – we had to deal with one in Cherokee County in 1999.

I have seen a lot of black people speaking out against the current Board. So why have these people been consistently re-elected? Are there not better BLACK candidates out there? My issue is that if a district elects a less-qualified BLACK candidate over a more-qualified WHITE candidate, that is racism just as much as if the roles were reversed. I don’t understand why BLACKS, since they are the majority, are not POUNDING DOWN the doors wanting changes in the schools. This affects them most of all. But they keep electing the SAME PEOPLE. WHY?

For the record, I have no idea who on the Dekalb Board is what color. (I do know Dr. Walker is black). I think they ALL need to go.

FedUp

February 21st, 2013
11:17 am

EWMG
I realize Copelin-Wood may represent that district, but I would hope there might be someone else in the district better qualified and who might do a better job as a board member. Surely, there is someone. Perhaps, board members should be required to have a child in the system so they have a vested interest in what is going on rather than a purely political one.
This school system needs to get over the whole racial thing and start acting in the best interest of all the kids and all the schools. Get rid of the entitlements and work to improve every last school for every last student.

Ray

February 21st, 2013
11:17 am

Those of you talking about “meddling” at schools by the newly elected board members, what exactly are you talking about? What exactly did they do to “meddle”? Or did they just visit some of the schools in their area, and discuss and listen to the questions and concerns of the teachers, admin., and parents at those schools? Isn’t that what a good member should do? Visit schools and be accessible and available to their constituents for comments and concerns? I am an APS parent, and we love it when our school board member occasionally drops by for a meeting or whatever and discusses issues and concerns. That’s what good schools board members should do.

I know the SACS reports mentions school visits by some of the newly elected board members, but does not at all say what, if anything, any new board member did wrong in any of these visits (which is part of the whole problem with the anonymous, conclusory nature of the SACS report, as it sounds like is being pointed out at today’s hearing). It would appear that SACS realized as it was putting together its report that it really had no case against the 3 newly elected board members, and felt it had to say something, so just said “new board members visited schools”, with zero specifics as to what was wrong with any of those visits — a rather ridiculous and flimsy allegation against the new board members.

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:18 am

“give me a break with the comments about what black people want”

I asume that black parents want exactly what I want for my children: a school system that cares and does its best to give my children the best possible education. Obviously, that is not what they are getting.

Had It Up to Here

February 21st, 2013
11:20 am

I am not watching the live feed. Have Walker and Copeline Wood at least stayed awake this time?

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:22 am

“Those of you talking about “meddling” at schools by the newly elected board members, what exactly are you talking about? What exactly did they do to “meddle”?”

In 1999, in Cherokee County we had a Board member who stopped a school bus and demanded to know who had thrown a can out of it. He threatened a Coach with the loss of his job. That is the sort of “meddling” that caused SACS to put the County on probation. We were threatening him witha recall when he resigned. Now why would that not work in Dekalb?

Returning DCSS Parent

February 21st, 2013
11:23 am

@Mountain Man, how do you know that black people are not pounding down the doors wnating change?

You cannot speak for anyone other than yourself. My community is not happy with the current board and we are making our frustration known to the board and our representatives. If a qualified white person decided to run for the school board, I seriously doubt Black people would not vote for him/her based on skin color, I find that happens more often in the white communities.

Chamblee Dad

February 21st, 2013
11:23 am

The board is obviously channeling Bart Simpson: ” I Didn’t Do It, Nobody Saw Me Do It, There’s No Way You Can Prove Anything!”

Mountain Man

February 21st, 2013
11:25 am

Ray – the Board of Education is not supposed to be running or “meddling” in everyday operations at schools – that is the job of the Superintendent and Principals and other administration. The Board makes policies and establishes a budget and hires the Superintendent. They need to concentrate on that, especially since they can’t seem to even hire a competent Superintendent.

Ray

February 21st, 2013
11:27 am

Yes, Mountain Man, that is an example of inappropriate meddling for which a board member should probably be removed. But there is no allegation that any of the 3 newly elected DeKalb board members did anything of the sort. They simply dropped by schools, which is what good board members should do from time to time — right?

Is Race an Issue?

February 21st, 2013
11:29 am

It should not be about race, but you can’t ignore the fact that 3 large schools systems have been in trouble in the last 3 years and all have predominantly black students and are run by black boards. I suspect that the biggest complainers are the Whites on the North side. The blacks seem to be ok with Status Quo and are voting in the same people. Now granted I don’t think there are a lot of competent people that are actually running for office. but i bet most people voting vote for the incumbent or the person they like. they have no idea where the candidate stands on the issue.