Here are the legal arguments for why govenor can’t oust DeKalb school board. Are you swayed?

I attended the three-hour federal court hearing Friday in which the attorney for the DeKalb school board challenged the constitutionality of the state law that Gov. Deal used to suspend six school board members this week.

DeKalb County schools were placed on probation by the accreditation agency SACS in December. In response to that probation and because of cited problems with how the school board operates,  Gov. Nathan Deal moved to suspend six of the nine members, as the State Board of Education had recommended after a grueling 14-hour hearing on  Feb.  21. He relied on a law that went into effect in the spring of 2011.

The DeKalb board filed suit to block the removals, arguing that the law is illegal and full of inconsistencies. Former DA Bob Wilson contended that the law was contradictory, flawed and unfair to those snagged by it. “You have a sense people are flying by the seat of their pants to figure this out,” said Wilson.

The question is whether those flaws are lethal or whether an appeals process built into the law mitigates some of them.

The law is already under siege by six suspended Sumter County school board members, who retain their seats while their court case awaits a hearing.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story — impressive in his comments about how seriously he takes this case and how he spent eight hours the night before reading documents submitted by Wilson — is attempting to move decisively so DeKalb schools are not stuck in limbo. But Story said he wants to be thorough.

Story said he will decide this case on the legal merits of the law rather than on the accusations against the DeKalb school board by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“I don’t expect this to be a terribly exciting hearing. My responsibility is to determine whether the constitution of the United States or the state of Georgia is being violated,”  he said. “I understand the impact my decision can have on a multitude of children. Let me assure you that I am going to give this the time it needs.”

The hearing was a battle of Decatur legal titans as both Wilson and the attorney representing the state, assistant attorney general Stefan Ritter, live within blocks of each other.

Wilson argued that the board members were treated as a group under the law and there was no clear sense of what they had done wrong, no access to the unnamed sources quoted in the SACs report and no identified standards under which the State Board of Education judged them as wanting.

Ritter countered that the law offers due process to the six suspended board members becasue there is an appeals process under which they can ask the governor for their jobs back.  He also argued that there has been no irreparable harm to the six, who, under the law, continue to be paid.

The audience for the hearing was mostly press and attorneys, including three lawyers from DeKalb’s general counsel and two from the state Department of Education. But there was one blast from the past, former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, who sat behind me.

I heard Jones debate the lawsuit with two DeKalb mothers sitting next to him. He told the women that the law “overturned the will of the people.”

The only testimony came from Bonnie Holliday, who now heads the Charter Schools Commission but testified in her prior capacity as the head of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

She gave a basic primer on accreditation and why it is important, explaining that a loss of accreditation undermines the ability of high school students to get into colleges and earn scholarships.

(My view: It doesn’t make sense for college admissions and scholarships to be casualties of an accreditation loss since accreditation status in Georgia has little to do with a system’s academic performance. It focuses solely on how smoothly and effectively the school board operates.)

Wilson noted that SACS didn’t even consider academics when it reviewed DeKalb’s status. He cited the standards in the SACS report.

“None of those standards addresses academic achievement,” Wilson told Holliday. In fact, Wilson, one of  two investigators appointed by Gov. Perdue  to lead the statewide probe of CRCT cheating, pointed out that DeKalb saw greater gains last year on the CRCT than the state average and showed improvement in 24 of 30 areas.

That may be, said Holliday, but her own quick review of DeKalb’s data showed neither significant improvements nor decline in scores over the last five years.

Here is a summation of the problems that Wilson and his associate Stephen G. Quinn cited in the law. Please note that these are not my contentions. This is a summary of the attorney presentations:

Under the constitution, it’s the citizens who live in a county who have the right to choose who is going to represent them on the school board. Local control is a paramount principle in k-12 education.

Board members have constitutional status. The state constitution guarantees an elected local school board. There are three ways a school board member can be removed under the constitution.

1. Recall for malfeasance,  which is an ethical or legal violation. 2. A felony indictment for a malfeasance related to their office. 3. Conviction of any felony.

While the constitution allows the state to provide for additional qualifications for office, it does not allow for additional causes to remove school board members. And those qualifications are usually practical matters of residency, citizenship, age and education.

The legislative branch, the General Assembly, cannot hand a power, removing the school board, over to the executive branch, the governor.

The six members suspended were elected by margins of 51 to 74 percent by DeKalb voters.

It is a privilege of citizenship to be able to vote, run for office and hold office. Taking any of those privileges away requires due process, which was denied to the DeKalb board.

By using SACS probation as a trigger under which the governor can then oust a school board, the state has given a private, unregulated and unelected agency great power. “There is no oversight except their own,” said Wilson. “They make the rules of their game. I am not sure anywhere else in the law — federal or state — so much power is delegated to an unregulated private agency outside government.”

The state Board of Education, in its 14 hour hearing on whether to recommend suspension, had no clear standards by which to decide whether the DeKalb board had, in fact, done something wrong. Each state board member applied her or his own standards. And they debated for only a few minutes before they voted. Only four board members spoke about why they wanted to suspend and each offered a different rationale.

“The hearing officer never gave any instructions on the standard that had to be met,” said Wilson. “What are the rules? Nobody told me.”

The burden was supposed to be on the state to show why the six members ought to be suspended, but Wilson said, “With all due respect to the state, it’s hogwash.”

One of the inconsistencies in the law that Wilson cited is one we’ve discussed here: The law calls for the removal of all board members, which the state stressed at a hearing in January. The governor must remove all the DeKalb board  members or none,  stressed the state attorney at the January state board meeting.

Yet, the state opened the Feb, 21 hearing by announcing that the three newly elected members were off the hook. In its rebuttal to Wilson, Ritter did not get into the sudden reversal on that point, only saying it was “a gift to their side” that the three newly elected members were not losing their seats.

“All this is saying is that something is getting lost in the process and it’s due process,” said Wilson.

Wilson also hammered the lack of details in the SACS report, noting that allegations against the board came from unnamed sources and that SACS does not keep the notes from its review team interviews. “We did not get a chance to confront witnesses,” said Wilson.

Anticipating the state’s rejoinder that DeKalb board members had 14 hours before the state board to make their case, Wilson said, “Just because you were there for a long time doesn’t mean it was done right.”

Wilson also blasted SACS for the misinformation in its report, including the contention that DeKalb could not account for $12 million in textbooks and that many schools lacked Internet. DeKalb, he said, “has been beat up pretty badly on wrong facts from SACS.”

He criticized the head of SACS, Mark Elgart, for denying that the SACS review relied on hearsay. “He’s too smart to say that, but he did,” said Wilson. He noted that he got Elgart to admit during the Feb. 21 hearing that SACS had no records, tapes or videos of the interviews of witnesses who made allegations against the board, thus denying Wilson the opportunity to question the statements.

“He has no records. There is no way we could do it,” said Wilson.

And he questioned the “en masse” approach of the law, which he charges paints the entire board with the same brush. He noted that the state board didn’t even ask three of the six members about any wrongdoing.

But Ritter countered that it was appropriate to treat the board as a group in assessing their governance record because “the actions of the board reach all.”

Through the appeals process, Ritter said, “They will have another day in court. They got a process and they are going to get more if they want it.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

155 comments Add your comment

Lee

March 2nd, 2013
12:42 pm

I’ve long held the belief that the law violates the constitution and will be overturned.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
1:03 pm

Swaying has not been activated. I would probably approach it differently if I was on either side of the fence. Point is, whether they like it or not. SACS is the accrediting authority, and whether they like it or not, there is a law on the books that says when there is a threat of loss of accreditation from the accrediting authority, the state may step in and suspend a county board of education.

O.C.G.A. 20-2-73 (2010), there is no mention of SACS, the terminology used is “accreditation,” therefore, faulting the specific accreditor ignores the fact that they are the entity assigned to perform accreditation, a concept that supercedes being faulty of their methods. Point is, the accreditor, whoever they are, has the authority to make this determination. This is not done as an end is itself, as the state Board of Education has the authority to review their recommendation and accept or deny the decision of the accreditor and to do so by vote, which shows the conditions of either agreement or dissent within the state board of education. Their vote and review of the accreditors work is unanimous. Where attorney Mr. Wilson is questioning the methods of the accreditor, the state board of education is unanimous in accepting the methods and. or conclusion of the accreditor. This much is clear. This process has been met. The governor then has the authority to suspend the county board of education receiving this review. Due process has been met.

Regarding the protection and safeguarding of Democracy, It is a simple matter, as both the legislature that made the law, and the Governor, are duly elected officials with regulatory duty in this matter. The accreditation of schools is a state-level matter and the Governor is perfectly within his duties to safeguard the condition of a school district and county as both a humane and an economic matter for the state, for the which the citizens of the state elected him.

worried about the numbers

March 2nd, 2013
1:06 pm

The situation is bad all around. The board is doing a poor job, that’s for sure. They deserve to be kicked out. But the law is terrible, SACS is highly questionable, and this whole thing is a giant mess that doesn’t help anything at all.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
1:16 pm

In Britain, three times in the last century, they have entirely wiped out the school board system and re-assigned authority over schools to other entities due to the previous method (school board) being over-burdensome and expensive? This is a different issue, a macro issue, but why is it in Georgia that school boards are considering to be so holy? If someone was regulating the water authority or DNR, or highway dept, it would not be a “threat to democracy.” Why are school boards in Georgia a fetish for all of this holy nonsense? It sure does no favor for schools. School boards are maliscious self-serving extremely corrupted locally deeply rooted entities run like a private business for the few and the teachers and students and fairness be damned! is what I have seen from local school boards. I wish all of them were vacuumed up and replaced, just they’ve done in Britain. No one there thinks a “school board” has a wit to do with freedom and democracy. That’s what their Parliament is for.

Centrist

March 2nd, 2013
1:23 pm

The State countered that the law is constitutional with due process via the SACS study and precedent, Hearing, and the process allows the unseated board members to petition the governor for reinstatement. The legal argument appears to hinge on whether the SACS study can be successfully challenged.

It doesn’t matter whether citizens and posters here are swayed one way or the other. It is first up to this judge, then whether the losing side appeals (and further appeals). Meanwhile the issue of paying for this litigation will also be fought.

Tucker Mom

March 2nd, 2013
1:41 pm

Three of the elected school board members in DeKalb have no college degree. Surely that should be a minimum requirement for eligibility.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2013
1:44 pm

“bigbill” laid out the issues very well too, Maureen, in your last thread. Here was my response:

@ bigbill: You laid out the issues very well. I believe that there is a high threshold for taking away the will of the people. I don’t believe that the kangaroo-type group “hearing” constitutes a substantive due process hearing for each school board member whom the Governor is attempting to remove. Each member should have a right to confront the witnesses making allegations against him or her and to cross examine these witnesses. The Georgia Supreme Court allows for a thorough and sifting cross examination. Property interests are definitely at stake.

SACS’s conclusions and report about this school board have caused the chain of events to occur. Yet, SACS, in an incredible display of hubris, does not provide for any documents or testimony from which SACS allegedly drew its report, many conclusions of which are easily proven to be false. The same thing occurred in Clayton County. For example, I believe that Elgart & Gang wrote that the Kaplan Program (which the Clayton School Board had abandoned) had been working very well in the elementary school, but the program was not even used in the elementary school (or vice versa). Many of the conclusions that SACS reports are simply skewed and biased or downright and explicitly wrong. SACS shrouds its “investigations” in secret. SACS is about as transparent as a 100 year old Chero Cola bottle. Trying to “see through [this] glass darkly” is frustrating to all who have a stake in the matter. SACS needs to come out of the catacombs and into the sunshine. After all, it appears to “blackmail” the school systems into to giving it upwards to $25,000,000 or more each year. Something about its cloak of darkness is just unseemly and wrong. I have been railing against SACS for over five years now. The people need to be freed up from the threatening and menacing edicts of SACS which appears to be guided by a capricious and arbitrary leader.

I think that it is very dangerous for a democratic society to start allowing the government to circumvent the will of the people, despite how bad the people’s choices may seem to be or how emotionally charged the opponents’ arguments are about allegedly “protecting the children.” It is especially dangerous to allow an unelected and unaccountable private company to set the chains in motion for this removal.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2013
1:49 pm

@ Private Citizen: We are not Brits. We are Americans, and we declared our independence from England in 1776. The People of Great Britain don’t enjoy the same rights that Americans are guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution. This is what makes our country so unique.

I, quite frankly, don’t care what the Brits or the French think or do, especially as it relates to schools. Let’s throw in the Finns too, for that matter.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
1:50 pm

Here’s the difference in attorneys Ritter (representing the state) and Wilson (representing Dr. Walker). Wilson is a member of a private law firm and is paid by the billable hour, and Ritter gets an annual government service salary, just like a school teacher. Ritter’s boss’s salary is $137,791, therefore, Ritter is not paid more than this per year.

According to a letter at DeKalb School Watch, Wilson’s firm is billing the DeKalb County Schools for services in this case at the rate of $250./hr. for attorney time and $110./hr. for paralegal hourly rate.

Point is, just on the fiscal conservation, sequestration, government structure and all of that, how is the state being represented by a staff paid attorney, and the school board, or Mr. Walker, is represented by a private law firm with prices for services that are very different than using salaried counsel under the government system? As a cost measure, does not DeKalb County Schools have staff attorney in the same manner that the state does? Mr. Ritter’s boss’s salary for a year is about $138,000. 1 year = 50 weeks x 40 hours = 2000 hours. Sure Mr. Ritter’s salary does not exceed his boss at $138k per year, per 2000 hours of service.

Do citizens have a running total of the billable hours so far accrued by Mr. Willson’s firm in this case, to be paid by DeKalb County schools?

For example,
500 hours attorney time @ $250./hour = $125,000.
250 hours paralegal @ $110./hour = @27,500.

Is there more than one attorney in Mr. Wilson’s firm working on this case?

Attorney’s fees seem unusual in that they are open-ended. If you build a building, you know how much it costs. If you buy 1k lunches, or 1k books, or a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, you know how much is costs. This is not the same with private firm attorney fees, at there is no “known” to the number of hours consumed and billed. It is a highly unusual situation, whereas there is much control over legal cost by using salaried government staff attorney. Purely for reasons of fiscal prudence, should not the DeKalb school board concern be using government staff attorney?

Cindy Lutenbacher

March 2nd, 2013
1:52 pm

@worried about the numbers:

I heartily agree.

What's Best for Kids?

March 2nd, 2013
1:54 pm

If local control is so paramount, why are we still cow towing to the feds with RT3, CCC, and the funds that they provide.
Can’t have it both ways, folks. Either the schools and school systems don’t take the money and do things their own way, or they feed from the federal trough and dance on the strings that are tied to them.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
1:57 pm

I, quite frankly, don’t care what the Brits or the French think or do, especially as it relates to schools. Let’s throw in the Finns too, for that matter.

There is a term for your perspective. “Xenophobia is a dislike or fear of people from other countries”
I am a little confused Dr. Trotter, in that you appear to have a British bearing. It is perfectly legitimate, just like with any subject of engineering or politics, to consider the production and methods on a world level.

Centrist

March 2nd, 2013
1:58 pm

Just to put in perspective his arguments, this is how Maureen Downey described the poster above in her 2/21/2013 blog: “longtime and vocal critic John Trotter, head of MACE and a frequent commenter on this blog where he has been quite open in his disdain for SACS”.

jd

March 2nd, 2013
1:59 pm

Constitution trumps state law — the constitution is specific regarding how school boards are elected and how they can be removed. You have to amend the constitution to change the process. Due process does not matter when the law giving the Governor the power to remove is not constitutional.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
2:01 pm

Dr. Trotter, I guess you forgot the part about the French sending their Navy to save you from the British. Without them, you’d be paying taxes to the Queen today. The French also gave you the Statue of Liberty as a present. The built it and shipped to you over the ocean for you to assemble. The French also built your electric rail cars in Atlanta, called “Marta.”

Ah, but the Brits gave you Tony Blair. “England prevails!” All of that. That place is dirty, the people rude, the beds are short, and they’ve got no food.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2013
2:02 pm

Although I been railing against this law and the previous Georgia law that was used to remove board members in Clayton County and Warren County (though the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Warren County case, stating that the law was unconstitutional in, I believe, May of 2011), just reading some of the comments made by Ritter, the attorney for the State, makes me wonder even more why the State would continue to push this matter. Ritter’s arguments appear to be very weak. I know that many on the political right seem to be emotionally caught up in having the school board members removed using this dubious state law; however, these same people, I think, would raise holy h%ll if the Democrats ushered through Congress and the President signed a bill which would abridge their rights to bear arms under the Second Amendment. I’m just thinking…

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
2:04 pm

Smart comment JD, on point. Thank you. But I thought the 2010 law is now a part of the state constitution.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2013
2:06 pm

Tucker, Some states require degrees. Some do not. Georgia debated adding that to its law. I don’t believe it was put in the law, however, since many board members throughout the state do not have a degree.
Maureen

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
2:11 pm

If three of the members have no college degree, and Dr. Walker has a .phd from Duke, imagine the power he has over these other members?

Atlanta Mom

March 2nd, 2013
2:13 pm

Incompetence is not a legal basis for the governor to override the will of the people.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
2:13 pm

I probably have it mixed up. The 2010 law is part of the Georgia Code, state law, but not a part of the state constitution.
Therefore, the hierarchy is
1. constitution
2. state law
3. governor
4. school board
?

Atlanta Mom

March 2nd, 2013
2:17 pm

Here’s what I think is scary. If a special election was held tomorrow, I bet all nine members would be re-elected.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2013
2:18 pm

@ Private: No, I didn’t forget any of this. I know my history pretty well. But, what does this have to do with the price of rice in Bangkok? I am not British. I like the Brits. They have become our major ally, especially since we threw off the yoke of tyranny from the likes of King George III. I appreciate the French finally (yes, finally) showing up at Yorktown and helping us corner Cornwallis. I also appreciate the beautiful statute that they gave us. I think that we have more than paid them back for this.

My father, who, by the way, died and was buried this week, had a best friend growing up, and his best friend joined the U. S. Army. My father joined the U. S. Navy, and his ship was blown up by a Japanese Kamikaze plane, although he survived. (By the way, he requested only the American flag over his casket and taps to be played at the grave site.) But, his best friend, Private Johnny Rhodes, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in January of 1945. He named me after Johnny Rhodes, and I have the flag that was draped over his grave as well has his Bible and other things.

My father and Johnny Rhodes and the rest of the Greatest Generation did not fight their hearts out and many give their lives so that SACS and other oligarchical groups could supplant the will of the People of the United States. Oligarchs and gnostic-types love to take away the People’s right to vote. You might note, Private Citizen, that our way of governing also does not permit titles of nobility. Even on our voting ballots, everyone is equal. You cannot put “Dr.” or “Rev.” or “Col.” in front of your name on the ballot. Yes, we are not Brits. And, we certainly are not French. We are Americans, and we are guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution, as interpreted by the U. S. Supreme Court, “one man, one vote.”

What's Best for Kids?

March 2nd, 2013
2:20 pm

If we are going straight constitution, then we need to completely eliminate the Federal part of education.

bu2

March 2nd, 2013
2:23 pm

1. I think the argument against SACS is specious. The SBOE doesn’t have to recommend removal. SACS is merely a trigger for the review.
2. The state is responsible for education and provides most of the funding. They clearly have an interest in seeing the districts stay accredited.

But where I think this law falls is on the due process. And the “process” they used reminded me of the way the Dekalb board works. They keep changing the meeting time and rules after already having made the decision and then have a hearing for show. The law really has very little process or specificity. Even though the board members can re-apply, there’s no criteria. Its all in the hands of the governor. And the accusations have no backup. SACS doesn’t even keep interview notes. There’s no names.

I don’t like the reference as a “gift” to Dekalb on the new board members. Its a “gift” that our right to vote isn’t taken away on people who weren’t even responsible. It also goes to the integrity of the process and the law if they are giving “gifts” in interpreting it.

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2013
2:24 pm

@Dr. Trotter, Very sorry to hear about your dad. Just read the obituary. He was quite a man. Condolences to your family.
Maureen

What's Best for Kids?

March 2nd, 2013
2:27 pm

I mean, seriously; we are arguing about the constitutionality of removing the board, then we need to consider the constitution, which is tiny. I would be willing to bet that the new car bill on how to pay tax for a car is bigger than the constitution. Again: either we untether ourselves from all of the nonsense and go straight constitution, or we dance…

Centrist

March 2nd, 2013
2:29 pm

I view comments from the head of a teachers’ union with a grain of salt. This is on John Trotter’s MACE website: “Yes, MACE is a Teacher’s Union!”

And this article written by him:

“Too Many Pimps, Sluts, & Bitches Running Our Public Schools!”

Credibility dismissed.

Centrist

March 2nd, 2013
2:31 pm

I view comments from the head of a teachers’ union with a grain of salt. This is on John Trotter’s MACE website: “Yes, MACE is a Teacher’s Union!”

And this article written by him:

“Too Many Pimps, Sluts, & B*itches Running Our Public Schools!”

Credibility dismissed.

Flabberghastedforsure

March 2nd, 2013
2:43 pm

@ private citizen: yes the school system has a legal dept. and the head of it is Ron Ramsey (interestingly also a state legislator) who makes more at DCSD than Stephan Ritter’s boss! He should be arguing this case for DCSD since the suit is filed by DCSD and Dr. Walker. Anyone want to guess why he isn’t? Perhaps not “good enough” for this but “good enough” to oversee all other school system legal issues on behalf of the kids and taxpayers?

Bernie

March 2nd, 2013
2:52 pm

If this Law and its action taken by this Governor is justified, then what is to prohibit the support and repeal of the second Amendment of Gun owners, which allow for the MURDER of Millions of Americans every year. Then why not have the Governor to outlaw gun ownership of its citizens because so many thousands of Georgians and her children are killed by them year in and year out.

I can hear the HOWLS now! that is an different issue many would say. But its okay for the Governor to nullify my vote of a school board member that I and my community voted for.

What is GOOD for the GOOSE, is not good for the GANDER, it seems!

concerned citizen

March 2nd, 2013
2:53 pm

Would like to see the article by Dr. Trotter, Can anyone provide a link? Is it really “Too Many Pimps, Sluts, ad Bitchs Running Our Public Schools”? I would like to see a biography of Dr. Trotter.

Decatur Dad

March 2nd, 2013
3:00 pm

These board members were elected by the voters of Dekalb County. Governor Deal has absolutely no right to remove them. In my opinion, SACS is operating in the dark, is a bully and applies double standards to majority black school systems. I think that some of these board members should voluntarily step down, INCLUDIND NANCY JESTER, but the governor has no right to violate the constitutional rights of Dekalb County voters by removing them.

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
3:02 pm

This is an overwhelming conversation. what does this have to do with the price of rice in Bangkok

I’d like to be buying some rice in Bangkok right about now.

Dr. Trotter, Condolences on your dad. You must have pretty big shoes to be so calm about the loss of your dad, although we all have the circle of like, and I have heard it said, if nothing else can be said, “He must have lived a good long life!” And how fortunate you are to know where you can from and obviously have a good relationship. I know a local guy, not really know him, but anyway his dad was a successful local business person and it was said that since the son was a teen, “they didn’t get along.” What a tragic thing. Obviously, we with parents are thankful.

Centrist, Maybe with the title, Dr. John is meaning to be “down with the people.” Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy some rice in Bangkok. But first, a song, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqZCGTe5ISQ

Centrist

March 2nd, 2013
3:06 pm

concerned citizen posted “Would like to see the article by Dr. Trotter, Can anyone provide a link?”

That article is about 2/3rds the way down his basic website.

http://www.theteachersadvocate.com/

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
3:06 pm

PS One of my colleagues, science teacher, resigned after last year to go to a teaching job… in Bangkok. For real. I said, “That’s kind of a rough town, isn’t it?” He had no problem with it. I said, “How did how arrange that” He quickly mentioned some conference mid-year in Colorado or something, were they coordinate that stuff, get it all put together. He’s a real teacher. A te

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
3:07 pm

-A teacher with a backpack.

Dekalbite

March 2nd, 2013
3:07 pm

Schools must maintain some standards. After all the state funds the school systems and has a Constitutional responsibility to provide a decent education it’s students. The Legislature has set SACS accreditation as the standard. Is there no penalty when a school system is mismanaged so badly that it can’t meet the minimum standards set by SACS?

What about students’ rights to have the tax money the state collects to be used for educational experiences that result in academic improvement? Does a Board that misspent the money that was supposed to be used for students’ academic improvement have more rights because they were elected locally than the state’s interest in ensuring ALL students in the state have a basic level of competence? Can a Locally elected Board be allowed to make decisions regarding students that result in students achieving less and less and their academic achievement degrading?

These Board members have hundreds of millions a year in state funding. Why shouldn’t the state have a say when these elected individuals take state taxpayer money and spend it in ways that not only do not result in academic improvement, but also spend it in ways that ensure students will NOT improve academically. Students are not just citizens of DeKalb County. They are also Georgians and Georgia taxpYers are funing their education just as the Georgia Consitution mandates (an adequate education for all). A ruling for this dysfunctional Board that has impeded the academic progress of the students placed in its charge will strike a blow against the basic rights of students in Georgia to receive a decent education. Abandoning students who are being denied an adequate education by the actions of a locally elected Board seems to run counter to the Constitution of Georgia.

From the Georgia Constitution:
“Art. VIII
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ARTICLE VIII.
EDUCATION

SECTION I.
PUBLIC EDUCATION
Paragraph I. Public education; free public education prior to college or postsecondary level; support by taxation. The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation”

Private Citizen

March 2nd, 2013
3:11 pm

Dr. Trotter has done some schooling, now…

Based on his nutty books, I used to think John Taylor Gatto was some weird out-there basic guy, and then I saw his YouTube video and he treats his subject matter in the same way as a Yale full professor (same accent), and he knows more about the history of U. S. education than anyone I have ever seen or read anywhere. By a distance.

paulo977

March 2nd, 2013
3:16 pm

Enter your comments here

Dekalbite

March 2nd, 2013
3:16 pm

“Wilson also blasted SACS for the misinformation in its report, including the contention that DeKalb could not account for $12 million in textbooks and that many schools lacked Internet. DeKalb, he said, “has been beat up pretty badly on wrong facts from SACS.”

Were these facts brought before the SBOE or are we to take the word of a DeKalb administrator that the textbook funds are just fine? Was any concrete proof offered by DeKalb County administrators beyond saying we have the facts to prove their case. Taxpayers and parents certainly have no access to see how money is spent.

I question the wireless connectivity statement Ms. Tyson made because BOE members have been saying openly in BOE meetings that all schools do not have wireless access and therefore they need to put these cell towers on school property. You can’t have it both ways – is there access or not? Ms. Tyson said SACS was wrong, but the BOE members defending their cellphone tower leases have been saying no.

paulo977

March 2nd, 2013
3:20 pm

Dr. John Trotter…” think that it is very dangerous for a democratic society to start allowing the government to circumvent the will of the people, despite how bad the people’s choices may seem to be or how emotionally charged the opponents’ arguments are about allegedly “protecting the children.” It is especially dangerous to allow an unelected and unaccountable private company to set the chains in motion for this removal”
___________________________________________________________________

All those who naively follow the governor do read this over and over again !!!!

LarryMajor

March 2nd, 2013
3:21 pm

Mr. Wilson hit the nail directly on the head.

Local school boards are indeed constitutional entities whose members serve at the will of the local electorate. The authority to remove elected officials over performance issues lies with voters, not the General Assembly.

I expect the Court will strike down this entire code section.

Dr. John Trotter

March 2nd, 2013
3:29 pm

Thanks, Maureen and Private Citizen. Maureen, my father’s former students and teachers and parents adored him. I noticed on the funeral home’s site where people could leave comments, there were comments coming in from all over the country — and from some people who have seen him in 50 years. The former superintendent of Muscogee County, James (Scrap) Buntin, was one of the speakers at my father’s funeral. Daddy taught and coached Scrap. Mr. Buntin said that although my father encouraged him to call him “Dennie,” he never could do this because he had so much respect for my father. I saw Dan Kirkland at the funeral (before it started). Kirkland was the most highly recruited basketball player coming out of Columbus in 1969. All American and voted Best High School Player in Georgia. Recently at the Chattahoochee Valley Athletic Hall of Fame banquet, he told the crowd that my father was his best coach ever. Daddy had coached Kirkland and my brother, me, my nephew many years at the Y. Kirkland averaged 33 point per game his senior year – with no three-point play. In the 1-AAA (highest classification in the State at the time) Region Tournament at the old City Auditorium in Macon, he scored 61 against Carver High of Columbus and 51 against Spencer High of Columbus in very heated games two nights in a row – again, without a three-point play. Gary Colson, former head coach at Pepperdine University and the University of New Mexico (among other universities) and Vice President of the Memphis Grizzlies under Jerry West texted my nephew who worked for him with the Grizzlies, saying that my father was his first coach and his best coach. He also stated that in his book, “California Basketball.” It wasn’t just my father’s Xs and Os that made an impression on these people. It was his character and the way he dealt with people. He was strong, gracious, and humble. But, he was not weak. You ought to have heard the stories told fondly about being paddled by Mr. Trotter. People were proud to regale in those stories. One good friend who went Daddy’s school wrote on Facebook that “a Legend” had died. He went on about how he loved and respected my father so much and how “Mr. Trotter took liberty on my rear end!” But, he said that he was going in wrong direction in his life and my father straightened him out. Superintendent Buntin said that in today’s culture, there is no rights or wrongs and we worry about hurting people’s feelings, but at Jordan (where Mr. Buntin was a student and my father was the only assistant principal in a school that at one time was the largest high school in the State of Georgia), there was a right way and a wrong way, and if you went the wrong way, your feelings were touched on the backside!

Yes, Centrist, I am not anti-union like you apparently are. The unions helped build the middle class in America. Most of my people were never members of a union, but I know the role that unions have played in America. The unions helped build the incredible middle class in the United States. So, accusing me for being in favor of unions certainly doesn’t hurt my feelings. I am no Sean Hannity acolyte. I tend to vote Republican on the national level, but not always. And I certainly don’t drink the Fox News Kool-Aid nor the MSNBC Kool-Aid. Both shows are pretty much like professional wrestling. They are more entertainment than news. I am reading a good biography of Teddy Roosevelt now. He tried and did bring the Republican moorings back to that of his hero, Abraham Lincoln. Yes, this good Republican put in place child labor laws and other measures that protect workers. Now do some unions today abuse their power? No doubt…iust as do many large corporations. But, I don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

Yes, Mr. Centrist (you really sound more like Mr. Rightest), I do indeed believe that we have too many pimps (school board attorneys and “search firms”), educational sluts (you know the gypsy superintendents like Romain Dallemand who just left Bibb County with a huge pay-out after only a couple of years), and b*tches (and I am just talking about the male b*tches who are principals) who run our schools and seem to delight in inflicting pain on other adults. I said these things, and I stick with them. Obviously, if I were worried about saying these things, I would take them off of the MACE website or my blogs. In fact, there will even be a chapter in our upcoming book devoted to this.

Dekalbite

March 2nd, 2013
3:39 pm

So the state does not have a Constitutional obligation to provide every student with an adequate education? The Constitution says otherwise. The question becomes what is an adequate education? How does the state define that word adequate so that it is fair and equal for ALL students? The Constitution does not define what is “adequate”. Therefore it would be left up to the state to set that definition for this is a state Consitution, not a local one. IMO – the state defined an an inadequate education for students as one where the school system that oversees and directly responsible for that education must satisfy certain criteria. That criteria is defined by the state to be accreditation by SACS. Does anyone argue that there should be NO definition of what constitutes an adequate education in Georgia? It appears that many who post on this blog do not think there should be criteria met for students that ensure an adequate education. The only body that can decide what constitutes an adequate education in Georgia for ALL children in the state is the Legislature.

Having no standards for the state educational system that states “The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia” would seem to be an affront the the Georgia Constitution.

big picture

March 2nd, 2013
3:40 pm

just a quick question. is the NAACP involves because they think this is racially based? Are there any women left on the board? Are women and girls now represented? Or does this not matter because there is no perception is sexton discrimination ever occurring in GA?

As a follow up, does the school system celebrate women’s history month as much as they emphasize Black history month? I haven’t seen this in any of the schools my kids have attended, and I’m pretty sure that no women were voting before all, including Black, men. Let me guess. not the same.

Rick L in ATL

March 2nd, 2013
3:49 pm

Vernon Jones understands all too well the phenomenon of black voters choosing an unqualified, easily corruptible race-baiting fool for office. Was he there, I wonder, as an expert consultant?

Maureen Downey

March 2nd, 2013
3:57 pm

@To all, I am not sure why race continues to be a factor. Any suspended school board would challenge this law. One issue that I wish we could discuss is whether SACS has its priorities straight. Why is there so much more focus on the school board than on the district performance? As I reported earlier, this is an increasing concern with some legislators.
I have yet to see any real research that school boards are critical factors — either helping or hindering — academics. I am sure school boards play a role, but I wonder about the extent of that role. I have had school chiefs tell me that part of their jobs is to “contain” the board and keep its impact minimal. We spend a lot of time on school boards when the evidence seems stronger that school-based leadership is the pivotal factor. School boards are the public face of a district and their meetings attract media coverage. Frankly, it is easier to cover a single school board in a district than the dozens of schools.
But I believe we ought to focus more on what happens in the schoolhouse in trying to understand why a system is underperforming.
Maureen

living in an outdated ed system

March 2nd, 2013
4:11 pm

The board members should have resigned. This situation is a calamity and now the blame is going to shift to a bi-partisan group of legislators who tried to hold school systems accountable. This is not a democrat or republican issue now – we saw a bi-partisan group support the governor’s decision. I hope that the national ed reform think tanks shine a BRIGHT light on DCSS and use it as an example of how outdated our public education system truly is.

I still don’t believe the arguments have merit. How many lawsuits are in the public domain challenging SACS? Why did it happen AFTER a failing school district faces the extraordinary step of having its board members removed? Where have voters been wronged? These “replacements” would only be temporary until the next board election. Why is the NAACP using the race card when both black and white board members were suspended, and no replacements have even been named yet? Why is the blame being shifted from the school system to the state, when the school system is failing the children under nearly every quantifiable measure?

If the judge rules for Walker & Co., this will be yet another example of how monopoly power continues to destroy public education.

I find this entire situation nauseating and disgusting. The children of Dekalb, and across the state of Georgia for that matter, deserve far better than the learning they’re currently getting. Keep voting for the status quo, because that’s what all of you are advocating. Look yourself in the mirror instead of deflecting blame on folks who are trying build more accountability into the system. Without accountability, there will be no mechanism for change. Remember that.

Google "NEA" and "union"

March 2nd, 2013
4:14 pm

When taxpayers have demanded the right to choose their children’s schools … this will seem so other-worldly.