Any suggestions for new DeKalb school board? Should Georgia consider appointed boards?

Let’s suggest some folks who might be possible school board candidates in DeKalb now that the state Board of Education has recommended the ouster of six veteran members. I expect the governor to move quickly on approving that recommendation and naming the replacements.

I also wonder if Nathan Deal would reappoint any of the vanquished board members, including those who have only served two years at this point.  He apparently has that prerogative.

Any names come to mind?

In the meantime, here is an interesting suggestion from retired educator John Davis that Georgia move to appointed school boards. Typically, the mayor appoints the boards. (Here’s a list of places with appointed boards.)

By John Davis

During 40 plus years in education, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of school organizations. One of the most noteworthy was where the mayor appointed the five-member school board.

Each member had some business background or educational experience. None received a salary, secretarial assistance or expense accounts.

They were responsible for hiring a superintendent and developing and following school policy. If the public did not like the way the schools were being handled, they needed to look no further than the mayor’s office. It was a very efficient and effective operation.

It has been my experience that school systems experiencing organizational/leadership problems usually have dysfunctional school boards. When examining the causes of dysfunction, several factors seem to repeatedly occur.

The first problem is the size of school boards. When boards exceed seven members, it becomes more difficult to reach consensus and more likely members will fragment into political/district diversions. In other words, members focus more on the local district they represent rather than on what is best for the entire school system.

The second problem is offering salaries and benefits to elected school board members. This tempts some individuals to seek the elected position to bring in some extra money and, in some cases, their entire income, even though they have little or no understanding of multi-million-dollar budgets and how to make complicated business decisions. There is also the problem of individuals running for elected positions with ulterior motives that are narrowly focused and counterproductive to serving as a team player.

The third problem is the way school board members are elected. School board elections take place at the same time as county, state and/or federal elections. This places the school board nominees’ names toward the end of the ballot. Most board members do not seek or cannot afford large campaign organizations; thus, the public has very little exposure to the background or experience of those seeking a board position.

By the time most voters get to the school board portion of the ballot, they select a name that either sounds familiar or just make a wild guess. Unless the media has gotten involved with school board coverage, the general public is left pretty much in the dark about qualifications.

What I liked about the school system where the mayor appointed the school board was that it was important for the mayor, an elected official, to appoint highly qualified individuals and then make sure a highly qualified superintendent would be hired who could work with the board and the community.

The dysfunctional DeKalb County Board of Education offers a golden opportunity for the state Board of Education and the governor to address organizational/structural problems that exist in many school districts. Instead of replacing board members with another group of nine individuals representing nine mini school districts, think outside the box and select representatives whose interests reflect the greater district needs.

While the DeKalb board will shrink to seven members next year as a result of state legislation, consider a five-member board. Instead of another election for the members, have the board composed of one representative from the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, one from the DeKalb PTA, one from the Organization of DeKalb Educators, one from among retired educators and one at-large member.

Of course, there are numerous combinations of groups that could represent the DeKalb County schools, and this is offered as one example.

My plea is to address the root problem, which is the current organizational structure of selecting school board members. Let us be honest: Any change to the structure cannot be any worse than what we now have.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

202 comments Add your comment

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
9:49 am

He should reappoint Jester and Speaks, but then, everyone would be screaming raycess, so he probably won’t.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
9:51 am

No to appointed boards. Local boards need to be elected locally.

That and we absurdly have nearly 180 public school systems in the state. Appointing board members would be a full time job.

Mr. Thomas Anthony Jones, SR.

February 22nd, 2013
9:52 am

We do not want either Jester or Speaks and you are a racist. This is a predominantly African-American-Democratic County and don’t you forget. Ever. We won that Civil War.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
9:54 am

“We”? Suddenly you’re Ulysses S. Grant and Abe Lincoln?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
9:57 am

@Thomas Anthony Jones, SR. I stand by my comment and please explain what was racist about it? I believe Pam Speaks is an African-American. IMO your comment is small-minded and symptomatic of the greater problems in Dekalb.

Also, thanks to Maureen for staying til the bitter end last night. A marathon meeting to say the least. I wonder if there’s a way to determine how much yesterday’s meeting cost both state & Dekalb taxpayers.

Dr. John Trotter

February 22nd, 2013
9:58 am

Maureen: This is exactly what the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Pearson Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and all of the other non-educators educational foundations which stand to profit big time from Common Core, etc., want. They want to try to portray the elected school boards as being so incompetent that the gnostics who meet in secret have to appoint the school board members. You guys are like wrestling fans who believe the hype and drama that the bookers create. You are marks.

Mike

February 22nd, 2013
9:59 am

Yes T.A.D., we realize exactly what you are. That,s part of the problem.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
10:00 am

Public Unions should be illegal. It’s is not the Union’s money to bargain with. It belongs to the taxpayers.

Dekalbite

February 22nd, 2013
10:03 am

Appointed Boards that receive no pay are a good idea. The key is to make sure the appointee represents ALL students, not just a particular area and that they are focused on fiscal responsibility and academic improvement.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:04 am

I like a mix of elected and appointed members, so both sides are represented.

but only after the establishment of sane criteria for eligibility.

my dream canidiates would include:

Zell Miller- obvious reasons
Richard Lenz – local busnessman and dekalb and education advocate
Natasha Trethewey – poet lariuate (sp) and emory faculty
Dr. John Trotter (yes, our very own) – gadfly who will take opposing POV
Denise Majette – was able to build coalitions (sorta) in the post McKinney cleanup
somebody, anybody representing the Coke, Delta, or UPS board of directors – real life business

they all have flaws, some major. but Pol Pot would be an improvement over the last decade

I couldn’t care less right now if they live in the system, have kids in the system, or are members of the communist branch of the tea party.

DCSS needs more right now than the usual suspects can provide.

Mom of 3

February 22nd, 2013
10:07 am

I’m confused Speaks is African-American. How would reappointing her be racist? Is it because she did not vote in line with the other African- Americans on the board? All of the sudden we forgot her race because she had a mind of her own?

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:07 am

a special thanks to mr thomas anthony jones sr for illustrating so clearly why DeKalb is doomed to fail.

black, white, green, crosseyed, whatever – if you love your kids, get the hell out.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
10:08 am

@Dekalbite, who would do the appointing? The blog says something about a mayor. We don’t have many city school systems here.

Also, it is impossible to represent the interest of “all” of anything. As with most things, the interests of many people contradict the interest of others.

Dr. John Trotter

February 22nd, 2013
10:08 am

@ Jarvis: Why don’t you actually learn the issues? No teacher unions in Georgia bargain for any money. Collective bargaining contracts do not exist in Georgia.

Hey, why don’t we just let Queen Elizabeth appoint the governors…like the kings and queens of England did in the past? I’m just asking…since so many boobs on here believe the non-sensical hype put forth by the tool of the establishment, viz., SACS and want to go backwards? Yes, let’s just let the General Assembly appoint our next U. S. Senator…like it used to do in the past? This would be an ideal time because Saxby is retiring. Yes, just take away the People’s right to elect all of its officials.

Hey, I have a better idea. Let’s just let the German-led Gridiron Society get together over there on Old Campus in Athens and appoint all elected officials in Georgia…especially since so many puffed-up members believe their own hype about Gridiron running the State anyway. Yes, indeed.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:09 am

@ maureen

God bless you for what you endured yesterday. hope the AJC gives you combat pay.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
10:11 am

John, why don’t you learn to read. I didn’t mention Georgia.

bbb1357

February 22nd, 2013
10:12 am

Appointment seems like a good idea, but certainly not if done by local leaders. The city governemtn in Dunwoody is certainly dysfunctional and seems not to consider the will of the people in decisions while pushing the agenda of the “insiders”, and we all know what a shambles DeKalb County government is. The problem with elected school boards is the same as with Congress…we all know the group as a whole is incompetent but we keep re-electing our own local members because it must be the “other guys” that are the problem. Of course Democratic districts will scream bloody murder about Republican appointees in thier distrcits, and vice versa when/if the Democrats resume their traditional straglehold on state givernment. (OK, so that last word contained a typo, and whether it was Freudian or not I decided I liked it so I will leave it as I typed it! If that term has not been previously attributed/copyrighted, I hereby lay claim to it!)

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:12 am

seems we should appoint thomas anthony jones sr to replace Gene the machine Walker.

at first glance the same level of integrity exists. and he’ll make an excellent poster child for white flight.
Sudan and Jesse Jackson for “mr jones”

Digger

February 22nd, 2013
10:16 am

My advice? Lighten up.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:16 am

so what happens when “african-american”, whatever the hell that is, DeKalb swings to a hispanic majority? based on the demographics, its coming (gwinnett too, for that matter).

they may have not won the civil war, but they are winning the war of the crib
don’t forget that. EVER.

Ap teacher

February 22nd, 2013
10:17 am

My suggestions,
1 gut central office.
2. New textbooks that are up to date.
3. Step increases for teachers
4. Restore TSA funding and health benefits.
5. Term limits for BOE members

southern opinion

February 22nd, 2013
10:20 am

First, someone who can do math!
Second, someone with academic success (at least a college degree from a brick/mortar university)
Third, s retired educator, a CEO of a local Fortune 500 business, someone from an insurance background, someone from the zoo (kid friendly), local athletic representative (someone kids will respect). See if it makes a difference! Include honesty, integrity, intelligence, respectfulness, and good work ethic. That’s a start!

Dunwoody Mom

February 22nd, 2013
10:22 am

I am assuming these BOE members must live in DeKalb and in the respective districts that they will represent?

bbb1357

February 22nd, 2013
10:22 am

Dr. John: Check your facts. Where I work there are at least four different collective bargaining union contracts. And is this still WWII with the German reference?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
10:23 am

@D mom I don’t think that was the case in Clayton Co. but that was after they’d lost accreditation.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:24 am

@ap

like your suggestions, but need gentle modification.

-instead of up to date textbooks, move to accurate and affordable ones. just because a new edition is out with a new paragraph doesn’t merit the expense and headaches of wholesale changes. additions and updates can be done on line.

-while faculty are the most important cog in the education wheel, there are a whole lot of non teaching staff who have been screwed just as badly as faculty. if you don’t include secretaries, custodial, ect you’ll have a major problem on your hands.

-not crazy about term limits, I’d be more supportive of stricter qualification requirements.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:26 am

@ bbb

can you say where you work? I know at GPC there were none, or the school would have been in lawsuits and labor stoppages for at least a decade.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
10:26 am

I might be wrong, but I feel like Deal can appoint whoever he thinks will get the system back on track & in SACS’ good graces. Anyone?

Eric Johnson

February 22nd, 2013
10:27 am

Melanie Stockwell would be an awesome pick!

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
10:29 am

@ bill & ed

I suspect your right. one of the sad truths in all this is DeKalb is having to turn to the least ethical governor in my lifetime to deal with a BOE run amok with ethics issues.

Might

February 22nd, 2013
10:35 am

35% of Dekalb is white. If the opposite demographic where true would we accept mr thomas anthony jones’s comments (and others)? Is there a double standard on race within this state?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
10:35 am

I’m sure he’ll at least entertain the recommendations of Dekalb’s delegation, for better/for worse. It’s funny because I’m not hearing much from the folks who have been calling for Walker & Co’s heads. Where do we go from here folks?

DeKalb Home Owner

February 22nd, 2013
10:37 am

Back to the original question:
Not that I support it, but I would not be the least bit surprised to see Brad Bryant emerge in the mix somewhere. He did enough damage with his own agenda while he was around.

Comment in Moderation

February 22nd, 2013
10:37 am

Trotter up to same old same old….trying to drum up some money for his coffers…Maybe instead of Dr. we should to refer to him as “Reverend”. Of course lest not forget he could have a doctorate in theology…..

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
10:37 am

Yep…Melanie will just fire everyone. There’s a good strategy.

Dunwoody Mom

February 22nd, 2013
10:38 am

A name to ponder: Kim Gocke of Brookhaven – certainly an advocate for students.

South Dekalb

February 22nd, 2013
10:39 am

I say it should be Vernon Jones on the board

William

February 22nd, 2013
10:42 am

So glad the Dunwoody schools will soon be leaving the Dekalb cesspool..

Lynn43

February 22nd, 2013
10:45 am

After all these negative comments, I must brag on my school board. The list of “brags”: Totally diverse, all have college degrees, representatives of different careers, receive NO salary and could but do not submit expense reports. We are there for one reason-the students and a great school system.

bu2

February 22nd, 2013
10:46 am

In general, I would like to see:
Someone with a local college or university that sees the graduates strengths and weaknesses.
A CPA so they can understand the finances and whether our finance department is doing its job.
A small businessman who hires local graduates and understands their strengths and weaknesses.
A teacher or former teacher who understands what goes on in the classroom.
2 others who are financially literate.

All should have college degrees. We shouldn’t have a school board filled with people who have less education than is required to be a teacher. And all need to be able to talk to each other, respect differing opinions and focus first on the student.

living in an outdated ed system

February 22nd, 2013
10:46 am

I couldn’t agree more that the traditional organizational structure of public schools and governance is outdated and requires reform. I encourage all of you to read “Cheating our Kids: How Politics & Greed Ruin Public Education” – by Joe Williams. I chronicles what led up to the decision by Mayor Bloomberg to take over the NYC Public Schools. In urban districts, I wholeheartedly support structures where the Mayor appoints the Superintendent as well as controls the makeup of the school board. Part of the problem with public education lies in the fact that no one person is held accountable, but all of the backlash will be attributed to the Mayor.

At least in this new scenario, everyone knows that if the schools fail, the accountability lies in the Mayor and you get a chance to vote on his performance at the polls. But in the status quo, you have no such power. In Dekalb, you have nine “fiefdoms” and no ability to truly organize advocacy efforts to affect change.

Part of the problem here is that you now have an interim Superintendent who was approved by a board that will likely not exist much longer. Will Thurmond be able to work with a board appointed by the Governor? While the decision to remove the six board members was appropriate, this chaos is far from over, I’m afraid.

bbb1357

February 22nd, 2013
10:48 am

bootney: You must be VERY young to be able to claim that corruption and ethical “lapses” worse now than at any other time in your lifetime. During the century long era of absolute unchallenged one party rule in state govenment right up through the reign of King Rat Roy Barnes things happened under the golden dome that would make Nathan Deal and his cronies look like rank ameteurs in the corruption game. Think Talmadge, Vandiver, Carter et al never did anyhting underhanded? There was NO media oversight back then, so the dirty lundry never got aired out.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 22nd, 2013
10:52 am

@bu2 you mean you don’t think managing a McDonald’s provides enough experience to manage an $800 million budget?

DeKalb Inside Out

February 22nd, 2013
10:52 am

Mr Trotter’s Points

Appointed People
I recall A LOT of people complaining about the legitimacy of an “appointed” state charter board. To John’s point, if we start appointing BOE’s, why don’t we have the Governor appoint the Senators. While we’re at it, why not have POTUS appoint the Governors? Let’s take this thing to its logical conclusion.

Rule Of Law
Let’s assume our government is not a banana republic. We therefore have laws and constitutions to follow. John’s point is that we should follow them whether we like them or not. If we don’t like the law or constitution, then change them. Until then, perhaps we should follow the laws and the constitution. Otherwise, we do live in a banana republic.

jarvis

February 22nd, 2013
10:52 am

Trotter warns you that his is the “Kick-Ass” union. I love that. Takes me back to my days in petroleum when I’d read the USW-Petroleum Workers website. Hilarious!!! Union posturing is the same everywhere.

Ultimately it comes down to as Seinfeld would put it “who has hand”. If Management is prepared for a strike “they have hand”, if they aren’t the union “has hand”.

Nothing more beautiful than sitting at the negotiating table and telling a union to go ahead and strike, and then pull out a map of your propety and let them know where the picket line must end. The look on their faces is priceless.

Congratulations….you’ve just been collecting dues from all of these people in order to keep them from being able to pay their mortgages. We’ll see you in two weeks. Be sure to remember your concession list.

Dr. John Trotter

February 22nd, 2013
10:53 am

@ Jarvis: Oh, I am sorry, Jarvis. I thought that this thread was discussing DeKalb County. Sorry. You apparently were waxing eloquently on global issues. Again, I tender my sincerest apologies.

Now, let me get back to the National Championship Wrestling (NCW). It appears that the DeKalb Team has been thrown over the ring ropes and Homer O’Dell will be leading Buddy Colt and Billy Spier in the next grudge match against Mark Elgart and SACS which are being led by the Tag Team Managing Team of Bill and Melinda Gates.

Eugene Walker, morphing the illustrious Dusty Rhodes, has been targeted as the bad guy personified. But the real bad guy in this episode is Dusty’s former partner with the Texas Outlaws, Dick Murdoch, who is being morphed by Mark Elgart who has monies galore behind his team. Ole Gene (aka Dusty) will be the Champion of the People again. I don’t think that you’ve seen the last of Dusty Walker…even in the DeKalb School Board races. I think that Dusty Walker’s Team will control the next school board elections in DeKalb School. The Big Man from Upson County was made to look like a real Heel, but deep down the voters of DeKalb see him as their adorable Baby Face.

I remember seeing a wrestling magazine in the Summer of 1976. The headline was this: “The Question Terrifying the Wrestling World: Will Dusty Rhodes Turn Bad Again?” Ha! I love watching the American Dream do interviews on TV. No one could talk more smack than the Dream. Ole Gene Walker is the Dusty Rhodes in this wrestling scenario in DeKalb County. Do people forget that Ole Gene has been elected many times to different offices in DeKalb? This is the problem. The powers lurking behind the SACS’s imbroglio with the DeKalb Board of Education know that they cannot control or influence Ole Gene Walker. This is why, in their small minds, he had to go. School systems are about money these days. We’re not talking about small money. We’re talking about the big money that the Gates Foundation, the Pearson Group (the largest educational company in the world, including McGraw Hill and many other publishing companies), the Broad Foundation, et al., apparently want. Yes, before it is over, Bill Gates will probably have “donated” (really “invested”) close to one billion dollars, but some estimate that his return with Microsoft apps in all of the schools could be as high as 100 billion dollars. Cantankerous school boards like Clayton’s and DeKalb’s were in the way. Only pliable and kiss-up school boards are wanted.

Actually, these groups don’t even want local school boards. Really. They want at best Regional School Boards and would really like to nationalize the schools. The several thousands of local school boards are too hard to manage. (See Clayton and DeKalb.) Therefore, the accreditors (e. g., AdvanED and its SACS) are so very important for this new national and global enterprise. Ivan Koloff (aka the Russian Bear) Elgart is really the true Heel. He is the Bad Guy (Heel) who, in my opinion, is out to destroy local control of the school boards. I think that he is just a willing pawn of the monied class. SACS, in the old days, was a harmless good house-keeping seal of approval. Today, SACS is being positioned as the ultimate totalitarian ruler which controls Public Education from pre-K through Graduate School.

The other day I was reading where the Board of Regents in Georgia merged several colleges and universities at its January meeting this year. North Georgia College and State University and Gainesville State College merged to become the University of North Georgia. In the publications explaining the merger, the folks declared that “SACS approved of the merger.” What? Is SACS Frederick the Great or Ivan the Terrible or King George III of Public Education? Yes, the real Heel is Mark Elgart and AdvanED. We need more Dusty Walkers to buck up to SACS. I think that the People of North Carolina essentially told SACS to kiss its collective A$s. We need more of this. We need a complete revolution against SACS and this nefarious scheme of muting local school boards and eventually eradicating local school boards. This is where it is heading folks, and you can remember that “crazy” John Trotter told you so – just like I have told you many things in the past which have occurred.

Obviously

February 22nd, 2013
10:54 am

Obviously the ‘esteemed’ voters of DeKalb County elected the school board members that they deserved. Hopefully they will completely lose accreditation and then they can live with the consequences of their incompetent choices.

Actually the complete loss of school accreditation is a very real possibility. You earned DeKalb County voters!

Peter Smagorinsky

February 22nd, 2013
10:55 am

I’m just a bystander here, so will simply observe that Maureen made a sensible inquiry about possible board members replacing those who were outsted, and for the most part, commenters have responded by insulting each other. So, from my disinterested perspective, I’m wondering if the Dekalb BOE is simply representative of the county’s population in its dysfunction.

Aquagirl

February 22nd, 2013
10:56 am

Trotter up to same old same old….trying to drum up some money for his coffers…

Oh, I thought he was quite generous to offer a completely free refresher course on the politics of 1598.

I agree with bootney (for once) Denise Majette would be a good pick for Deal, though I have no idea where she is now. Finding people who can drop whatever they’re doing might be a problem.

BehindEnemyLines

February 22nd, 2013
10:57 am

Of all the places that I thought I might see a Buddy Colt reference today, this wasn’t on the list. I don’t have much use for your theories Mr. Trotter, but you earned some points with that analogy. Well done sir.