House Minority Leader: Gov. Deal was right to suspend DeKalb board members for sake of children.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams on why she supported Gov. Deal in his removal of DeKalb school board members.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams on why she supported Gov. Deal in his removal of DeKalb school board members.

In a pro/con today, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, explains why she stood behind Gov. Nathan Deal Monday as he suspended six members of the DeKalb Board of Education. Taking the opposite position is suspended DeKalb Board of Education member Eugene Walker  Please read his piece as well.

Here is Rep. Abrams’ view.

By Stacey Abrams

On Monday, Gov.  Nathan Deal suspended six members of the DeKalb County School Board, in accordance with the unanimous recommendation of the State School Board. I stood with Governor Deal and a number of colleagues in the General Assembly, supporting his action.

In 2010, I also supported SB 84, which provided the mechanism for suspension and removal that Gov. Deal used. Ceding the authority to suspend elected officials is a grave and dramatic step, one that should not be taken lightly. However, when the consequences of inaction result in harm to our children, we must do all that is necessary to protect their present and their future.

The actions by the DeKalb County School Board have been widely documented and soundly blamed for the current probation imposed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. I hold the unique position of being the only legislator to have served as SACS liaison for a school system in jeopardy.

When the Atlanta Public School System faced probation in 2011, I spoke with distraught students, met with anxious parents, attended community meetings, conferred with school board members, worked with educators and fought hard to preserve the academic integrity of the diplomas those students would receive. Likewise, I am working equally hard to support and protect the nearly 13,000 seniors and juniors in DeKalb who face the specter of having their diplomas devalued by the actions of men and women sworn to serve their interests.

SACS has denounced the governance of the school board, and only dramatic reversals of poor performance are likely to change their opinions. And in the universe of accreditation, theirs is the only opinion that matters.

Several have decried the decision to suspend the board members, urging instead recall of those board members as the appropriate remedy. In another state, that would be the proper course. Georgia, though, has among the strictest standards for recall of public officers in the nation. An official must commit an act of malfeasance, violate the oath of office, commit an act of misconduct, fail to abide by the law or misappropriate public property or funds. Failure to do the job – or to do it so poorly that the system is in jeopardy – does not constitute grounds for recall.

As a legislator, I am called upon to do a balancing test: one that weighs the needs of our children against the integrity of our electoral system. Certainly, we citizens of DeKalb can solve the problem of our defective school board in July, 2014, by voting out those who have failed our students.

But neither SACS nor national colleges care for our timetable. We must act now, on behalf of those who have no voice in our system beyond our own. We should and must investigate the role of our accrediting agencies to ensure that their role is properly managed and has due oversight. The Legislature should also consider a revision of our recall statutes to offer citizens a chance to react to exigent circumstances through petition and electoral redress in between elections.

These are solutions for another day, and I stand ready to act to solve these legitimate concerns. Yet, today demands swift action. Gov. Deal made the tough choice to speak up for our children, and I am not willing to do less.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

94 comments Add your comment

[...] In a pro/con today, suspended DeKalb Board of Education member Eugene Walker explains why the governor was wrong to suspend him and five other board members Monday. Taking the other side is state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta. Please read her piece here. [...]

living in an outdated ed system

February 26th, 2013
3:39 pm

The fact that we are seeing bi-partisanship here should hopefully continue the advocacy push to get the six board members to stand down. They must defer to the will of the people.

10:10 am

February 26th, 2013
3:41 pm

I’m tempted to point out the rarity of Stacey Abrams’ honest approach within her own community—but instead congratulate her public-spiritedness

Hamilton

February 26th, 2013
3:42 pm

Very well put by Rep. Abrams: “Certainly, we citizens of DeKalb can solve the problem of our defective school board in July, 2014, by voting out those who have failed our students… But neither SACS nor national colleges care for our timetable.” And that’s what matters right now.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
3:46 pm

Incredibly well written summary of a complex situation.

support public schools

February 26th, 2013
4:06 pm

not much more you can say to that. Well said Rep Abrams! Please keep these articles alive with leaders who care.

Concernedmom30329

February 26th, 2013
4:19 pm

Thank you Rep Abrams. I appreciate your willingness to stand up for the students and the teachers of DeKalb.

Private school future

February 26th, 2013
4:33 pm

Lets get this passed: House Resolution 286

Why does no one have an issue with this statement?
SACS has denounced the governance of the school board, and only dramatic reversals of poor performance are likely to change their opinions. And in the universe of accreditation, theirs is the only opinion that matters.

Mountain Man

February 26th, 2013
4:36 pm

Sorry, Rep. Abrams, we ask that you no longer consider yourself a Democrat and no longer consider yourself black – you don’t support the DCSS BOE.

howdy1942

February 26th, 2013
4:42 pm

I also thank you Rep. Abrams for your courageous stance. You and I both live in Dekalb County and care about the futures of our children – especially those juniors and seniors who will shortly graduate. You also stated very well that neither colleges nor SACS cares about our legal timelines. This school board – each member – had his/her rights. Sarah Copelin-Wood had her “rights” for 13 years, Jay Cunningham has had his for seven years, Dr. Walker has had his “rights” for 6 years. This issue is not about their rights – it is about about failure to perform to the extent that the rights of others, innocent students and their parents, are threatened. You and Governor Deal got it right – let’s hope the courts agree.

Bernie Matt

February 26th, 2013
5:00 pm

Stacy Abrams and all those that stood with Deal are jokes. Haven’t heard one of these principled individuals speak on Deals sweetheart deals with friends and cronies in Gainesville, not the mention his family business dealings or his ethics charges in Congress. Some one needs to stand up to these phony politicians. Caution to SACS and the governor, don’t come to Fulton county with this bull or I’m personally suing both entities as a private citizen. Jim Crow laws revisited! Usurping the power of the people and Negro politicians applauding!

Disappointed DeKalbite

February 26th, 2013
5:00 pm

Thank you, Rep. Abrams.

We will see

February 26th, 2013
5:05 pm

It will be interesting to see how Stacy balances her re-election efforts. Members of the school board have thousands more constituents than this member of the house.

Rachelle

February 26th, 2013
5:09 pm

Voters put them in, and only voters should be allowed to take them out (expand the recall statue, now, Rep. Abrams). This country stands for democracy, making arbitrary decisions for expediency sake is just plain lazy. The problems have existed for decades, anyone who thinks the removal of elected officials is going to reverse the problem quick enough to help children the next few elections cycles, are kidding themselves. These actions Governor Deal as taken are setting bad precedent.

Bernie Matt

February 26th, 2013
5:10 pm

Would also mention that Ms. Abrams is elected in Cobb county, where she knows good and well SACS won’t try this bull. At least not while Cobb is still majority “white”.

Maureen Downey

February 26th, 2013
5:12 pm

@Bernie, Are you confusing Rep. Abrams with Rep. Alisha Morgan? Morgan is from Cobb. Abrams is from DeKalb.
Abrams represents House District 89. The district includes the communities of Candler Park, Columbia, Druid Hills, Gresham Park, Highland Park, Kelley Lake, Kirkwood, Lake Claire, South DeKalb, Toney Valley and Tilson.
Maureen

Bernie Matt

February 26th, 2013
5:15 pm

Your right, but their politics are the same, which is why I confuse them. I won’t ever confuse them with Senator Vincent Fort! So you get the point.

GrD

February 26th, 2013
5:24 pm

I dont trust that woman! They have her twisted around their finger. She can only see “surface” and cannot go beyond that or look steps ahead in this chess game of republican politics.

Meli

February 26th, 2013
5:33 pm

To me this is an extention of the law passed several years ago in Georgia that allows the Governor to remove from office someoone who has engaged in criminal behavior while in office. I supported that law then and I support this law now. The consequences for Dekalb County are dire if allowed or forced to wait 18 months to get rid of the 6 board members who are under suspension by the state. Companies will not want to locate in Dekalb, and taxypaying citizens with children will leave the county in mass exodus if the spectre of Dekalb losing SACS accreditation continues to grow. Considering Dekalb’s current financial state, they can hardly afford to lose more tax dollars. And it isn’t just Georgia colleges and universities who will refuse to accept students from a non-accredited school–most of the major colleges and universities in the United States will not willingly accept students from a school system whose accreditation has been pulled. So it’s not just Juniors and Seniors potentially affected, it affects freshmen and sophomores as well as some are beginning their college search.

Road Scholar

February 26th, 2013
5:43 pm

Mountain Man and GrD: WHAT????

Rep Abrams, thank you for your well written response. Most above see that you are a person of character. Keep up the good work.

bu2

February 26th, 2013
6:03 pm

I don’t agree with Rep. Abrams and believe Democracy should be given a chance (and there is still 3 months until the next SACS visit), especially since the people have been kicking the bums out. Yet Deal kicked out Jester and Edler who were elected in response to the problems.

But I don’t see anything sinister or crooked in Rep. Abrams response. Its simple her honest opinion of the best way forward.

Spartacus

February 26th, 2013
6:13 pm

DCSS is beyond repair. I say let them crumble. Just more opportunity for private schools inside the Perimeter to flourish. The best and brightest of teachers and students will migrate to private schools. Then DeKalb will be a “Southern Detroit”…..fine by me

Bernie

February 26th, 2013
6:16 pm

Ms.Abrams, Governor Deal is NO friend or supporter of the children of Georgia! This Governor is even less of a friend to the Thousands of children of Dekalb County. Unfortunately, you have been BAMBOOZLED by his wiley smile and those deep blue eyes. Any Man that would deny Healthcare
for millions of Georgia Citizens, whom are mostly Children,Women,Seniors, and the Disabled cannot be trusted at All!

I encourage you to prepare your resume for a New Job search prior to the next election. Your presence is no longer wanted or desired to represent the thousands of Democratic Voters of Dekalb County.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

Point/Counterpoint

February 26th, 2013
6:35 pm

I’m sorry, this has nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican and all about living in a democracy. I think we are on a very slippery slope when an elected official suspends other elected officials. The citizens who voted for these people can recall them, but that should be the only way they leave office before the next election.
Where would you draw the line for removing elected officals. Would it just be locally elected or statewide elected? What if poor people band together and demand that Governor Deal be suspended for refusing Federal Medicaid money and thereby limiting medical treatment for their children?
For a state that doesn’t want anyone telling them what to do, we seem to be pretty passive about the state encroaching on local ground.

The Other Bernie

February 26th, 2013
6:43 pm

For all of you who are vehemently opposed to the governor’s suspensions, please then encourage your friends Walker, Cunningham and Copelin-Wood to resign and we wouldn’t have this issue. Nearly 100,000 children are being negatively affected in an area that will impact the rest of their lives due to the buffoonery of these people.

concernedmom30329

February 26th, 2013
7:01 pm

bu2

But Donna and Nancy haven’t gotten much done. Donna has been totally unable to get traction to even begin to make a difference and frankly, she has chosen to vote with Walker most of the time. She may know the right thing to do, but it is hard to tell by her voting record.

Most notably she supported the hiring of Atkinson who turned out to be an utter disaster. Edler has had two years to find her own voice, and I am afraid it isn’t there.

Yesterday, I met with a group of parents from a S. DeKalb elementary school. Their school has their second weak principal in 3 years. Think that could happen at Fernbank?

If we say we can wait two years for the opportunity for a new board, we are arguing that it is ok to trap students for more years.

Is this an ideal solution? No, but it is probably our only option.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:03 pm

What if poor people band together and demand that Governor Deal be suspended for refusing Federal Medicaid money and thereby limiting medical treatment for their children?

That’s the problem. On the Georgia plantation, poor people are busy being poor.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:06 pm

concernedmom, just for the sake of philosophy, so that I can learn something from you, what are the qualities of strong / weak principal(s)?

Bernie

February 26th, 2013
7:09 pm

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?
Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
Expediency asks the question – is it political?
But conscience asks the question – is it right?

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political; but because it is right. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:09 pm

Mountain Man, You need to bring it back into focus and not toy with someone who is supporting your view.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:16 pm

Bernie, I can’t believe you to speak so racist. Good Lord, where do you folk come from? I’m not black and I’ve seen black crooks and snakes and I’ve also worked for at least three black bosses who were the finest and most enjoyable folk on earth, In fact, I miss them today and would work for any of them in a heartbeat. I’ve also seen many a whitey creep and crook and I mean people who drive around and rob houses and steal AC units to sell the metal. Making a snide remark and peppering it with race generalisation is just totally so 1950’s. It is not acceptable.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:18 pm

Pardon. I’m confused. My post is addressed to Bernie Matt, not Bernie.

Bernie Matt, We need to step outside and have a little conversation.

Shrek

February 26th, 2013
7:29 pm

Wow – I agree with Ms. Abrams! While she & I are opposites on a political level, I’ve always thought highly of her & respect her. I believe her law degree is from Yale, magna cum laude spellman, LBJ Univ of TX public affairs masters. I believe she is one of the smartest people in GA politics.

Mr. Georgia

February 26th, 2013
7:35 pm

Witha all due respect Rep. Abrams, you are as phoney as a three dollar bill and should go ahead and change your political affiliation. You supported a Charter School Bill that you know is dead set on destroying the public school system in the state of GA . I often wonder who you are funded by? You know if this law was applied in the State House of any other body, like City Councils no one’s job would be safe, including yours!! Mr. Walker is being attacked because son people don’t like the way they are spoken to, not for anything else. This is just plain wrong and YOU should be ashamed of yourself!!! Your time is coming, you will have to answer for all of your votes and positions and these things can not be retracted or easily explained away, don’t get too comfortable in your seat, the people of your district are going to see that your interest are not theirs!!!

theworldcries

February 26th, 2013
7:44 pm

And, as the adults bicker amongst themselves, the children they raise and love suffer.

Concerned taxpayer

February 26th, 2013
8:02 pm

To Bernie Matt you are very arrogant to think you speak for blacks in DeKalb County. I am black and I am in 100 percent agreement with Stacey Abrams. That does not make me a sellout, whatever that means. Stop making every thing about race. The DeKalb board is incompetent and have proven they don’t have the best interest of the children in mind. I know a number of blacks in south DeKalb that want this board gone. Contrary to what some believe, many blacks can look past race and want what is best for the children.

RCB

February 26th, 2013
8:09 pm

…..”Mr. Walker is being attacked because son people don’t like the way they are spoken to, not for anything else.”

@Mr. Georgia, I think you just want to believe this. He is being attacked because he was a lousy board member and an especially bad chairman, nothing else.

Greg in Duluth

February 26th, 2013
8:38 pm

Deal was right in this case. There, I said it, now I need to go gage myself with a spoon

mountain man

February 26th, 2013
8:45 pm

where she knows good and well SACS won’t try this bull. At least not while Cobb is still majority “white”.”

I want to point out that SACS put all-white Cherokee County on probation in 1999 – for the same sort of things – meddling.

mountain man

February 26th, 2013
8:47 pm

“Mountain Man, You need to bring it back into focus and not toy with someone who is supporting your view. ”

Sorry, just couldn’t help it. Tongue in cheek, you know. According to the Dekalb BOE, this is all a conspiracy by whites and Republicans.

Charles Douglas Edwards

February 26th, 2013
8:52 pm

I respectfully dis-agree with House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams view on the Governor actions to suspend members of the Dekalb County Board of Education !!!

We are setting a very bad precedent in giving someone the right and authority to suspend elected officials. This sensitive issue makes the will and votes of citizens null and void.

I believe that the suspended board members have the constitutional right to pursue legal remedy in the courts systems.

We urge parents, teachers and staff to re-focus on the most important job of educating the nearly 100,000 students in the Dekalb County School System.

Maureen Downey

February 26th, 2013
9:02 pm

@To all, The DeKalb board has withdrawn its lawsuit in Superior Court to focus its efforts in federal court. That hearing is Friday.
Maureen

DW

February 26th, 2013
9:14 pm

Thank you, Rep. Abrams, for your courageous stand! This isn’t about race, personalities, or politics. This is about the students of DeKalb County. I wish the majority of the Board of Education felt the same way.

Shrek

February 26th, 2013
9:21 pm

Look, as much to my chagrin, she easily wrestles with our good ol boy Republicans down there under the gold dome with that tiny group of democrats! she is the best thing democrats have in GA & ill bet she one day holds a state wide office in GA.

Point/Counterpoint

February 26th, 2013
9:29 pm

Good point, Shrek. I believe the Democrats just found their candidate for Saxby Chambliss’s job!

Scooby

February 26th, 2013
10:01 pm

Stacie, you and E. Jones have sold out. Nathan Deal doesn’t care about poor black children in DeKalb County any more that he cares about their “Ghetto Grand Mothers” (as he called them during his campaign). The difference between them and us is that they stand together, we can’t seem to get that done. Deal and other Republicans will never stand beside President Obama in anything he does, yet we go along to get along.

Jules

February 26th, 2013
10:12 pm

Thank you Governor Deal and thank you Stacey Abrams. For those of you who think it’s all about black and white, it’s all about green… as in dollars, scholarship money for our kids. My son is a student in Dekalb and we NEED him to qualify for any and all scholarship money available to him. Don’t talk to me about black and white – it’s about what’s right.

Scooby

February 26th, 2013
10:32 pm

@Jules,

No it is about our constifution and democracy. We send our troops around the globe to fight for democracy, yet the State of Ga has denied a certain portion of it’s citizens the very thing that this stands for, democracy. One man, one vote, that is the way it reads, doesn’t it?

kaitmsom

February 26th, 2013
10:53 pm

@Scooby
Unfortunately the children can’t vote Responsible adults like Gov Deal and Stacey Abrams must take action. And what has Stacey and Emanuel sold out to? Why must all blacks stand together behind mediocrity? Thank God those 2 are capable of independent thought.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
11:26 pm

Mr. Georgia, don’t get too comfortable in your seat

Maybe she will run for congress or governor.