As we all expected, the DeKalb school board situation is getting messier. A federal judge is now saying that Gov. Deal can remove the six board members, but cannot replace them for the present.
It seems unlikely all the school members recommended for removal are going to drop their legal challenge to the state law allowing the governor to oust them over accreditation concerns.
If the DeKalb legal challenge follows the pace of a similar one filed by school board members in Sumter County, this could take months to resolve. Six Sumter school board members filed in December to halt state removal, but a court hearing has yet to be scheduled and they retain their seats.
DeKalb school board member Eugine Walker made it clear to the state Board of Education at its 14-hour hearing Thursday that he was not going to surrender his constitutional rights to seek redress in the courts if he was suspended from his elected post.
The AJC’s Ty Tagami reports that Walker said Sunday, ““I was elected by the people, but I work for God. I’m not going to surrender to a political lynching by a kangaroo court.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Story scheduled the federal hearing for 2:30 p.m. Friday. The Fulton Superior Court hearing before Judge Lee is 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
So, this situation now leaves DeKalb in limbo and prevents any real change to get under way.
A federal judge has issued an order that temporarily prevents Gov. Nathan Deal from replacing the DeKalb County school board members who were recommended for suspension by a state panel.
Judge Richard Story’s order refuses to restrain Deal from suspending the DeKalb board members, but enjoins implementation of any decision by the governor pending the outcome of a hearing Friday.
Deal previously called a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday to announce his response to a Georgia Board of Education recommendation Thursday to suspend six of nine DeKalb board members. That prompted DeKalb to file a last minute plea Friday for an order restraining the governor.
The judge’s order didn’t side clearly with either DeKalb or the governor, but it does give DeKalb some breathing room.
“If Governor Deal decides to appoint any new member to the board, that proposed member shall not be permitted to take office at this time,” said Story’s order, which was signed Friday and obtained Sunday by Channel 2 Action News. “Similarly, if Governor Deal decides to remove any current member of the board, that member will remain in office, but shall not be permitted to act on behalf of the board or take any other official action in his or her capacity as board member.”
The temporary order is in connection with a lawsuit DeKalb filed to stop the removal process. The suit, filed by the school district and former board chairman Eugene Walker against the Georgia Department of Education and Deal, contends that a 2011 state law allowing the ouster of elected local school boards is unconstitutional.
The law says the governor can suspend and ultimately remove any local school board that is recommended for suspension by the state education board because of risk to the local school district’s accreditation. The law authorizes the state to act only in districts that have been placed on “probation” by an accreditation authority.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation in December, alleging a host of governance problems.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog