Suspended DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker: ‘I will not quit or step aside.’

Suspended DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker says his removal by Gov. Deal violates the constitution.

Suspended DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker says his removal by Gov. Deal violates the constitution.

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.

Here is Dr. Walker’s piece. Please focus on his arguments, which are the same ones that the lawyer for the deposed school board will put forth in court later this week. It is important to understand that under challenge is not just the removal of the DeKalb board, but the constitutionality of the state law that permits the governor to step in and yank school board members.

By Dr. Eugene Walker

The governor is wrong in his decision to suspend members of the DeKalb County Board of Education.

The DeKalb School District has been placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a private accrediting institution with considerable sway in the education community. SACS has made a multitude of allegations, some of which I agree with, but all of them were developed unilaterally in a shrouded process.

The leadership of SACS is not elected by the public, does not have to conform to open meetings and open records laws, and is not subject to constitutional due process as SACS sits in judgment of public institutions and elected officials.

The DeKalb Board of Education, like all school boards, is a public institution. We have open meetings, open records, due process, and we are accountable to the people who elect us into office. If there is cause to remove a member, such as an indictment or if a member resigns or passes away in office, the voters return to the ballot box to name the successor.

It is the democratic process: the electorate chooses its representative leadership. My constituents elected me, my colleagues’ constituents elected them and Gov. Deal’s elected him. It’s the model our founding fathers took great pains to create. It’s the way it should be.

What we have here is the state of Georgia once again meddling in local affairs. Rather than funding local school systems properly, the General Assembly chose to write Senate Bill 84, a popular but undemocratic law to impose state will on local politics. The governor has been hamstrung by an onerous law that gives an inordinate amount of power to a private company, SACS, and an appointed state Board of Education. One member of this board was appointed only last week and home schooled her children to boot.

This law, which requires the state Board of Education to recommend the removal of all or none of the school board members, if it were constitutional to begin with, replaces the legitimate will of the voters with that of an appointed group. This process is a clear attempt to circumvent or get around the democratic process — citizens electing and holding accountable their elected officials.

We have had problems on the DeKalb Board of Education. The DeKalb Board of Education is composed of Democrats, Republicans, black, white, men, women, liberal, conservatives and tea partiers.

By virtue of the electoral process, all are represented and have a seat at the table. The wisdom of the voters created the diversity, which is good and healthy for a representative democracy.

These problems of communication and respect for each other have been brought to our attention, and we are working on them. We have hired a new interim superintendent, we have passed a responsible budget, we have identified resolutions to many of the issues raised by the mighty SACS and I have resigned my chairmanship to effectuate the additional changes that are needed as we move forward.

It is against this backdrop that I take a stand to fight for and preserve the democratic process and remain hopeful that those who believe in and support the U.S. and state Constitution will join. I will not quit or step aside. Gov. Deal is wrong to thumb his nose at the U.S. and Georgia constitutions, and he knows he is wrong.

I place my faith in God and the voters of DeKalb County, not elitists under the Gold Dome who never set foot east of Moreland Avenue.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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[...] 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. [...]

Beverly Fraud

February 26th, 2013
3:38 pm

In sum: Boss Hogg opposes being deposed by Darth Vader.

living in an outdated ed system

February 26th, 2013
3:42 pm

Walker is in denial. He is a joke. He states: “This process is a clear attempt to circumvent or get around the democratic process — citizens electing and holding accountable their elected officials. ”

Is he serious? If he read the statute, the removal is not a “permanent” measure. It is an interim step until the seat is up for re-election, and then the electoral process kicks in again. The guy is in way over his head, and is not qualified to be on a board. There was a past commenter who said that Walker was removed from another board. Can someone verify this and let us know which one?

Hamilton

February 26th, 2013
3:44 pm

@living, I think he had to resign from the DeKalb Development Authority – involved some kind of conflict of interest with Sembler Cos. Anybody have a better memory?

Beverly Fraud

February 26th, 2013
3:47 pm

Re: Walker is in denial. He is a joke.

True; but Mark Elgart and SACS and what they have wrought is no joke. And if we don’t recognize the absolute harm that are capable of on the macro level, because we are just that disgusted with Boss Hogg, then it is we who are in denial.

FM Fats

February 26th, 2013
3:54 pm

He’s got a problem matching singular subjects to singular predicates.

Hamilton

February 26th, 2013
3:54 pm

bootney farnsworth

February 26th, 2013
4:02 pm

fight the power, Gene, fight the power. stick it to the man!
get Jesse, Al, Louis, and the usual cast of race baiters down here to help ya!

fight for your right to do God’s work by: rampant nepotism, cronyism, fiscal mismanagement, destroying the educational opportunities of poor black kids (and some white ones too if yer lucky), and to cozy up to the Fernbank crowd.

fight on brother, fight on! damn the man!

just one teeny, tiny thing. where was this level of outrage and determination when the county was going under.

bootney farnsworth

February 26th, 2013
4:04 pm

my favorite part is the line about passing a “responsible” budget.

Father of 5

February 26th, 2013
4:16 pm

Sickening arrogance. He hides behind the constitution to save his job, but his responsibility to “the voters” don’t matter at all when his total incompetence leads to loss of accredidation (reportedly the only county in the nation in such jeopardy). My oldest graduated from a top Dekalb County HS last May with a 3.6, but she could not pass a remedial reading class at Gwinnett Tech. That has to change. I also have a junior and a freshman at the same school, and their PSAT scores qualify for Nat’l Merit Scholarships. Will the diploma from a DCS mean anything when they graduate, or do I have to move to Gwinett before Dekalb implodes?

Those issues should concern you Mr. Walker — not whether or not you keep your job. Most “voters” who “supported” you don’t even know who you are. Come down off that horse and do the right thing. Get out of the way.

Chamblee Dad

February 26th, 2013
4:17 pm

Most dangerous guy in the room? The one who proclaims God is on his side.
The people to watch the closest? The ones who believe he’s right.

I dropped my fried twinkie

February 26th, 2013
4:21 pm

Make the State spend money on Trial.

Billy Ray

February 26th, 2013
4:22 pm

Just go away, Mr. Walker. Just go away.

GuestStarr

February 26th, 2013
4:28 pm

Unfortunately, Mr. Walker is correct in many of the things he has pointed out regarding SACS. However, it is more unfortunate that his leadership skills were not proactive enough to get ahead of many of these problems that have existed in this system for quite some time. I do think that SACS is very arbitrary and subjective when it come to applying their “rules” to systems. Dekalb makes Clayton look like a Sunday school and it took them this long to get action on it from SACS. Only for the sake of the children do I suggest Mr. Walker step aside. Argue the due process and representative democracy at a different place.

Mountain Man

February 26th, 2013
4:30 pm

“we have passed a responsible budget,”

When did that happen? When they knowingly used underestimated costs? When they ran an illegal deficit? When they then decided to pay for that illegal deficit over four years, essentially have four MORE years of illegal deficits?

skipper

February 26th, 2013
4:32 pm

That is the most full of sh*t thing I’ve heard…..incompetency gone to seed!

Mike Geigerman

February 26th, 2013
4:36 pm

Mr. Walker you have failed the kids and citizens you have been paid to serve. Time to find a lawyer.

DunMoody

February 26th, 2013
4:37 pm

If Mr. Walker truly cared about the students he’d resign, along with Cunningham and Copelin-Wood, and relieve this county of the onerous legal fees they are creating – on top of the millions already misspent. Their resignations would end the legal battle, set up the school system for some breathing room, and allow the democratic process to proceed in 2014.

But it really isn’t about the students, is it?

Concerned Parent

February 26th, 2013
4:38 pm

Since one issue seems to be democracy and the voting process here is an idea. The suspended 6 step down, hold a special election and let the people of Dekalb county speak. Let’s see what the people of Dekalb county have to say about who remains in their position and who goes.

Beverly Fraud

February 26th, 2013
4:47 pm

Pretty sure it was a typo; think it was supposed to read, “reprehensible budget.”

Melanie

February 26th, 2013
4:47 pm

DunMoody, why not ask all six to resign? That is the right thing to do.

northern neighbor

February 26th, 2013
4:48 pm

I agree with Dr. Walker that the process stinks, but the citizens of Atlanta have repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot elect capable school leaders. I suppose an alternative would be for the State of Georgia to withhold school funding. Let the elected Atlanta school board then figure out how fund their schools.
As much as I agree with Dr. Walker about the process, the only other alternative is let the schools fail/fall further. Unfortunately it is only a short term fix. Who is to say the same people won’t be reelected?

Concerned Parent

February 26th, 2013
4:51 pm

Since democracy is a key point that is being stressed, here is an idea…..suspended 6 step down, have a special election and let the people of Dekalb speak. If any are re-elected then so be it but if not then the people have spoken and let’s move forward.

RAMZAD

February 26th, 2013
4:52 pm

The people who elected Eugene Walker also agreed that SACS is the outfit that is going to supervise school systems. So, this is, in effect, another vote by the electorate of DeKalb County and school districts all over Georgia. SACS is not on trial. There is no dispute that the DeKalb County school system is on probation.

Are we to assume that the election of the school Board is valid but the selection of SACS is not? Or is one decision of the electorate convenient for Walker- the one to put him on the school Board- and the one to have SACS do its work inconvenient?

Walker is a DeKalb County travesty.

living in an outdated ed system

February 26th, 2013
4:53 pm

Wow. Thanks @Hamilton.

@Beverly, I suspect your POV is in the vast minority. There is nothing wrong with the state and removing board members and inserting placeholders until the next election. We can debate SACS another day. I confess some of their methods are suspect, but there is NO denying the governance violations incurred by this board. And again, SACS only placed one school system out of 1,000 on probation! There is no argument that supports Walker here, and there is no reason why DCSS should foot the legal bill for his refusal to comply with an executive order.

B.F. Pierce

February 26th, 2013
4:56 pm

He’s a doctor. Why doesn’t he just resign and go back to his practice?

Contractor

February 26th, 2013
4:57 pm

Just looking at the guy and hearing what he has to say you can easily tell he is a black man that is simply taking advantage of his position and his people by screwing them over in the end. No telling how much money he has embezzled and wasted on personal use outside of his high income. Everyone involved in this is a joke, and shouldn’t even be considered as relevant in the county ever again.

I hate to tell ole boy, but it doesn’t really matter if he “will not quit or step aside”, because luckily there are others that will make the decision for him. He simply knows he has done wrong, and now he does not want to give up the lavish job and income he once had for failing the citizens and children of his county. It’ll be nice if DeKalb and Clayton counties ever get their act together and those citizens learn to vote for representatives that will do a good job instead of only pandering to them during election time.

skipper

February 26th, 2013
4:57 pm

It is a direct indication of the level of incompetency of the voters. As long as the administraion is one of “us”, not another dad-gum thing matters!

Regina C.

February 26th, 2013
4:59 pm

All I know is my son is a 7th grader in a Dekalb school that had no paper for several weeks. I also know that the teachers have not had raises for several years and that the ‘current’ board is /was responsible for hiring superintendents that they are so quick to relieve of their duties. They pay these people HUGE sums of money to move to the area and THEN pay them to leave. I’m sure Micheal Thurmond’s salary is NICE. Where are the funds coming from for that? The deficit comes from years of misuse and any BOD that have been there for more than 2-3 years is a part of the problem.

Mom of 3

February 26th, 2013
5:16 pm

Mr. Walker- I respect that you want to hold onto your job. But you need to face reality that you did a poor job as a board of education member and leader. I could get past the not getting along with other board members. But you didn’t take care of the basics. (budget, teachers, books) Instead you chose to focus on the peripheral stuff that had no impact on most of the students in the county. The board accomplished more on Monday (1 Day) than they have in years. Can you truly look in the mirror and think that you are a good board member? I think you need to have that conversation with god.

Dekalb Parent

February 26th, 2013
5:16 pm

Eugene Walker: The State, the Governor, SACS, they are not the problem; you and the other selfish members of the Dekalb Board of Education are the problem. Educating the children should be the one and only focus. Frivolous lawsuits, nepotism, meddling in the schools are all by products of your bad leadership. You and all of the board are more concerned about keeping your seats and doing God’s will than you are about the success and welfare of the children of Dekalb county.

Pompano

February 26th, 2013
5:17 pm

Not sure why the state is bothering with all of this as it will only provide a temporary fix. As soon as the elections roll around again, the citizens of Dekalb will insert a group of individuals no more competant than the current crop.

cgregister

February 26th, 2013
5:23 pm

Dr. Walker is an arrogant fool. He thinks his word is “law” and that is one of the reasons Dekalb is in the mess(es) they are in. He would, once again, waste taxpayers money to fight what the citizens of Dekalb want. If he had to use his money to fight, would he?

DunMoody

February 26th, 2013
5:23 pm

Why not all 6? Absolutely. Then let the voters decide in 2014. Though I fear that the three long-timers who have been part of the problem for far too long may return.

Booger Fling

February 26th, 2013
5:28 pm

Walker- you suck. You will get out… or be thrown out. You choose!

sliderule

February 26th, 2013
5:31 pm

Can the state not make a candidate for a school board have some minimum qualifications? Perhaps a bachelors degree or make 100 on an IQ test.

I realize Dr. Walker has a PhD in history. It makes me concerned for the quality of Duke graduates.

Beverly Fraud

February 26th, 2013
5:32 pm

Re: @Beverly, I suspect your POV is in the vast minority.

I’m not surprised. There is a good deal of ignorance concerning just how insidious SACS is.

Sure there probably isn’t anyone they’ve gone after that isn’t Clown Central, but those they haven’t gone after have committed sins every bit as egregious as Boss Hogg.

Actively conspiring with Beverly Hall to delete emails and cover up evidence of widespread, systemic cheating and Markie Mark not only says nothing he tries to (according to this very paper, correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) maneuver you into becoming head of the school board? I would suggest a much stronger word than that to describe that action.

Re: but there is NO denying the governance violations incurred by this board.

Hence the moniker Boss Hogg…

Re: And again, SACS only placed one school system out of 1,000 on probation!

Given what else has gone on in Georgia (Macon for the latest) isn’t that just as damning an indictment of SACS as it is of Boss Hogg?

Re: There is nothing wrong with the state and removing board members and inserting placeholders until the next election.

Where does the slippery slope stop @living? When an effective, ethical board gets removed than for no other reason than SACS screams “poor governance” because they dare to get rid of a SACS approved superintendent? We might have found the answer to that question in APS if Hall hadn’t been at the end of her contract, and we might not have liked the answer anymore than we like Boss Hogg.

skipper

February 26th, 2013
5:33 pm

Look at Bibb County, Albany, Sumter, Dekalb, Chatham…..see any connection?????

sliderule

February 26th, 2013
5:36 pm

Hmmm, on second thought perhaps publishing the IQ of ALL candidates might be of benefit to the voters. Maybe I’m on to something.

Probably wouldn’t be of interest to DeKalb voters though.

Road Scholar

February 26th, 2013
5:37 pm

“…some of which I agree with, but all of them were developed unilaterally in a shrouded process.”

No, your and the boards actions were out there to be seen! What responsible budget? When? Isn’t the school system short millions again? Why are you using taxpayer monies to defend the boards’ actions. As individuals (you haven’t acted as a coherent Board yet) YOU screwed the system with YOUR politics! Pay for your own defense or resign.

JBoswell

February 26th, 2013
5:40 pm

This sort of special pleading is nauseating. Walker is and has been a big part of DeKalb’s problem, from his cronyism to his laxness in financial oversight. If he cared about kids and their education — which seems an afterthought in everything he says and does — he would step down. His concerned over constitutionality is only a smokescreen for an arrogant attitude. Please go away!! I dislike the governor, but his actions are correct and I hope they are affirmed.

Andy Steinhauser, Ed.D.

February 26th, 2013
5:40 pm

As inconvenient as it is to admit, Mr. Walker is 100% correct. The Constitution of Georgia has a remedy to deal with a rouge board of elected official(s). It is called a recall. No where does the Georgia constitution or U.S. Constitution recognize a private company or a Governor, as a legitimate tool by which the will of the people may be separated from their ballot box choice.

Instead of giving the Governor the ability to “fire” other duly elected official(s), Governor Deal should have taken the more difficult path of reforming the Recall Laws. However, Governor Deal (and his legislative friends) chose to take the easier path of pushing for legislation which blatantly flies in the face of our republic form of government,

The slippery slope of legitimizing this type of actions could potentially lead a “less stellar type of accreditation agency” to require local elected boards to purchase certain services or use their preferred vendors in the future to avoid possible sanctions.

Furthermore, the property rights of the constituents in the affected districts are also put at great risk with this knee jerk type of legislation. In other words, to allow a private company or even an elected governor to declare that a school system is incompetent has a direct negative impact on the value of homes and property in the district.

I say, train your eyes on any illegal acts or acts of gross negligence which would be cause to support a recall. Governor Deal, admit you may have over-reached your grasp and allow the will our government to work as our founding fathers had envisioned.

The simpler solution, being implemented, is fraught with problems; which eventually will end up on attack on all of us.

Dr. John Trotter

February 26th, 2013
5:47 pm

I just got in and read all of the comments but did not read one diatribe against Dr. Walker which cogently ripped apart his arguments. I think that his arguments are sound and solid. I have never met Dr. Walker, but I too think that the Governor has flaunted the U. S. Constitution and the Georgia Constitution. It is never right for appointed people to sit in judgment on elected people. It is certainly not right — in fact, it is unconscionable — to allow a private, operate-in-the-dark company which answers to no one to be allowed to have this kind of influence over our public schools. Let the voters decide on the fate of the school board members. If you don’t like whom the voters choose, like I said before…you can (1) get heavily involved in the political process, (2) home school or put your kids in private schools, or (3) move out of DeKalb. But, getting the Governor to circumvent the democratic process for you is simply not right. In fact, it is wrong.

How about laying off the ad hominem attacks and engaging in a dialectical discussion of the issues point by point? I am sure that Dr. Walker is quite adept at taking on any of you on that level. But, name calling is so immature and small-minded too.

Bernie

February 26th, 2013
5:57 pm

Jeremiah 1:17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.

Beverly Fraud

February 26th, 2013
6:04 pm

How about laying off the ad hominem attacks and engaging in a dialectical discussion of the issues point by point?

I guess some of us did both in regard to Boss Hogg. And Darth Vader. Ha! (Hate to steal a tagline, but it just fits here)

And talking about not being able to rebut an argument: No matter what one says about nepotism or other ethical shortcomings I have yet to hear anyone adequately explain why Markie Mark’s action of strong arming the APS board to name as board chair a woman who actively conspired to cover up cheating isn’t every bit as unethical as anything Boss Hogg has done.

And we want to trust this guy, who has demonstrated such ethical missteps, to tell us who Deal should and should not remove? What’s the term we are looking for? Ah yes; slippery slope.

hoopcoch

February 26th, 2013
6:08 pm

Does NO one mention the $$$$ the state sends to Dekalb when Mr.Walker speaks of “local control.” IF you do NOT want to be subject to State Laws, then accept NO STATE $$$$. Fund Dekalb schools solely though “local funds” and do NOT worry about CERTIFICATION. Imagine that (if you can)!!! Yes, the STATE has a vested interest because there is MORE STATE $$$$ in Dekalb than LOCAL $$$$.

Dr. John Trotter

February 26th, 2013
6:08 pm

Bev, you hit the nail on the head when discussing the disingenuousness of Markie Mark, especially relative to his reprehensible actions in Atlanta.

bu2

February 26th, 2013
6:10 pm

@Mom of 3
Nice post. But I don’t think he will listen to your listings of his failings. Nor will Mr. Cunningham. Maybe Ms. Copelin-Woods would.

Real Doctor

February 26th, 2013
6:11 pm

Sit down Mr. Walker, you’re fired. Don’t worry the idiots that elected you haven’t learned and will likely reelect you. Dunwoody needs its own school system.

Jeff Kellar

February 26th, 2013
6:16 pm

Mr. Walker mentions a need for more state funding in DeKalb for education. Let’s look at how he and other board members currently spend tax dollars.

In addition to an overly bloated central administration budget, below are Maintenance Costs per Student (benefits calculated at 20%) for several metro Atlanta county school systems. Mr. Walker and the DeKalb BOE spend MORE THAN TWICE the amount per student of Cobb and Gwinnett counties, and over 40% MORE than Fulton county (see below for details).

Governor Deal, Rep. Stacey Abrams and others from both political parties made the right choice!

DeKalb County Schools – $137 with 95,481 students
Fulton County Schools – $90 with 89,920 students
Rockdale County Schools – $89 with 15,582 students
Cobb County Schools – $63 with 106,619 students
Gwinnett County Schools –$60 with 159,814 students

Source: http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/dcss-spending/the-cost-of-maintenance