Remember those pledges DeKalb board members made to resign? Why haven’t any of them done so yet?

The Concerned Citizens for a Unified DeKalb, a coalition of parent leaders from schools across the county, is calling for the six suspended DeKalb board members to throw in the towel and resign.

(For a good place to find an aggregation of all the news about the DeKalb school drama, go to the Parents for DeKalb Schools Facebook page.

The statement calls for the six to resign and drop the legal challenges. They lost a key legal battle yesterday in front of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story, which ought to give them more impetus to get this drama over with and step down.

But they may be waiting for the state Supreme Court to take up their plight.

As the AJC reported:  The judge’s decision does not end the litigation. Story indicated he was dubious about the likelihood that DeKalb would win under their U.S. Constitution argument, but he signaled that the Georgia Supreme Court could soon consider questions in the case. He asked the two sides to agree on which questions, and gave them 10 days to submit them. “The case as a whole is not going to dry up and blow away at this point, but it will be able to be studied under a less urgent situation, ” said Ronald Carlson, an emeritus law professor at the University of Georgia.

While board member Eugene Walker has made his desire known to continue the legal battle, most of  his colleagues promised to step down at the 14-hour state Board of Education hearing if rulings went against them.

Why haven’t they done so? What is stopping them from turning in their resignations?

If they continue to procrastinate, they will lose whatever good will toward them remains in their communities. Many posters on this blog are fans of Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks, believing that the two are the most selfless DeKalb board members.

So, why haven’t they resigned?

Here is the statement from the Concerned Citizens for a Unified DeKalb:

We’re grateful that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story gave swift and careful consideration to the case and chose not to leave conditions in a long state of uncertainty. Our group takes no position on the legal merits of the law of removal in question, nor of the federal court decision itself. However, we welcomed a fast decision.

The moral question remains. How can the suspended members of the DeKalb County Board of Education think they are serving the needs of the children of DeKalb while destroying the finances and reputation of the school system with continued legal warfare over their jobs?

The suspended board members should not continue to fight for board positions in the light of their failures with the school system, not with the continued threat of loss of accreditation should they prevail in their legal quest. As long as they’re waiting in the wings, they stain the credibility of the board moving forward. Our interest is in a functional board serving the interests of the children of DeKalb.

If the suspended board members have the true interests of the children of DeKalb County at heart, they’ll simply resign. It’s the right thing to do.

Similarly, we’re asking Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia legislature to call for special elections to replace interim appointed board members in a reasonable time frame, regardless of how the governor uses his appointment power to replace suspended board members. We believe this would show respect for the voting rights of DeKalb County citizens and acknowledge the extraordinary nature of the moment. It’s the right thing to do.

Concerned Citizens for a Unified DeKalb is a diverse group of concerned community members, representative of all school regions within DeKalb County, working to encourage people to communicate their opinions to the DeKalb Board of Education.

We believe these three things to be true:

The majority of DeKalb County parents perceive that the Board of Education has been dysfunctional and ineffective. It is in the best interests of all stakeholders that the six  board members recommended for removal be replaced by the electorate.

The citizens of DeKalb are the ones who should decide who is on the board of education.

Money is being spent on litigation initiated by board members to save their jobs that could be spent on educating our children

Our mission is to unite DeKalb and move forward to ensure that every child in DeKalb is afforded the opportunity and access to a quality education. We are attempting to resolve the issue with the DeKalb BOE with as little collateral damage as possible.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

129 comments Add your comment

Dekalbite@Maureen

March 5th, 2013
11:17 am

I think you are missing part of their statement in paragraph 1.

Georgia

March 5th, 2013
11:22 am

Do human being have the “resign” gene? I don’t think so. The saints do, like the pope. Royalty does, like Edward VIII. and Beatles. the beatles resigned. But us average schmoe-hawks would never resign. (it’s all because of tom petty’s “i wont back down” song.)

Another gene we’ve lost is the “Shame” gene. Nobody feels constrained by shame anymore. ( nobody plays the song, “Harper Valley PTA” anymore. It’s become a good thing to be a Harper Valley hypocrite. Jeanie C Riley can go soak her head.)

concernedmom30329

March 5th, 2013
11:25 am

It is actually more complicated than just resigning. If some leave and some and the court rules in Walker’s favor, the remaining Board would replace those who are gone. The odds are far better that the Governor’s committee will pick better replacements than the Board.

Marney

March 5th, 2013
11:27 am

At this point, resignations would add to the confusion. They would amount to giving up the right to petition for reinstatement…which is one of the provisions that seeks to give INDIVIDUAL due process.

The board policy on resignations allows the rest of the board members to appoint a replacement(so much for the sanctity of the vote)…so for as long as the legal cloud exists, it would probably be better to see whether you like or could influence what the choice of the governor for your seat. Otherwise, you are throwing your vote to the “other side” of the riff…which would replace you with someone that would vote their way. I think that this has been the sticking point to this point for some.

There is also the matter of pay. I expect some of the board members need that $18K per year, so you will never see them resign. Also, if you resign, in effect you are giving up your legal claim on the office…so I would anticipate that the “principled” logical position of some of the board would be to keep the salary and put it toward legal expenses to continue the case.

Dekalbite

March 5th, 2013
11:33 am

If the Board had not voted in secret, we would see who voted for attorneys (and tax dollars) to fight this. It has been speculated that Jester and Speaks voted against funding the lawsuit while Orson and McMahan abstained. That would leave five voting in favor of funding the lawsuit including one recently elected member. Why can’t taxpayers see the vote that committed so many of our educational dollars to attorneys instead of students? The vote was taken in secret? What is the legal rationale for that? Can this information be uncovered with an Open Records request? DeKalb taxpayers deserve to see the results of this “secret” vote.

Chamblee Dad

March 5th, 2013
11:35 am

@concerned At least for now I think that’s what’s going on: a classic “prisoner’s dilemma.”

“You hang up first” “No, you hang up first.” “OK . . . on count of 3 let’s hang up together – 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . ” . . . silence. “Hey you’re still there . . . so are you!”

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
11:37 am

@DeKalb, Thanks. The blog tool has a weird quirk where it jumps down and deletes text when I am writing the headline.
Maureen

bu2

March 5th, 2013
11:40 am

What I’ve read is that if they resign, the remaining board appoints the replacements. In that case, a special election would not be in accordance with the law. Its understandable that some would not resign in that case, without others also resigning.

Are they negotiating for input into their replacements? Other than Walker, the other 5 have been awfully silent. What’s up with that, Nancy?

The other 5 should put pressure on Walker by announcing they are not a party to the lawsuit and will not contest their removal or ask for reinstatement. That will serve the same purpose without the complications of officially resigning.

Anonymous in DeKalb

March 5th, 2013
11:40 am

Because in too many urban zip codes governance resembles that in third world tribal societies?

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
11:42 am

@Marney, I understand that the possibility of certain scenarios, however slim, might motivate a board member to stay but believe that the price would be public confidence and good will. I think that DeKalb citizens are ready for a new slate.
Maureen

Chamblee Dad

March 5th, 2013
11:45 am

Walker in particular is channeling Monty Python’s Holy Grail “I’m not dead yet . . . I’m getting better.” Followed by being put out of his misery. We can only hope.

Also: Black Knight after he’s had 3 of his 4 limbs severed & hopping on 1 leg: “It’s merely a flesh wound.” Followed by his remaining leg being cut off. Come-back “I’ll bite your legs off.” Of course finally left there to die – no need for further argument. Again, we can only hope.

RexDogma

March 5th, 2013
11:54 am

I agree. They should just step down & have new elections. I hope Gov deal just does not appoint his cronies. Tell folks in Dunwoody that living in S. DeKalb is no joy where property values are really down. Also there is a jail near McNair High School. Let’s see how a jail would be in Dunwoody!

spaceman109

March 5th, 2013
11:58 am

maureen….correct me if i am wrong, but my reading of judge story’s decision is that the dekalb school system does not have standing in this suit, but eugene walker does.

would not logic thus dictate that should dr. walker want to pursue further legal action, the school system would not have to pay for it since the court has said they do not have standing?

Centrist

March 5th, 2013
12:03 pm

Sometimes I agree with Ms. Downey – like this blog.

We know the reasons why they won’t resign, and most of them are greedy chutzpah.

Rick

March 5th, 2013
12:03 pm

If Walker wins in court, then Walker and the Board fill any positions vacated by a resignation. That is why Jester and Speaks have not resigned.

http://dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com/2013/03/why-jester-and-speaks-have-not-resigned.html

George

March 5th, 2013
12:05 pm

We need a new start please a new dam start teacher moral is at a all time low no raises in 6 years change ,change,change please go Walker and take the rest with you.

DecaturMom

March 5th, 2013
12:08 pm

It’s about time Dekalb County got off the front page of the AJC for having idiots at the helm, whether the school board or county officials. I can’t remember the last time there wasn’t some headline on the front page pointing out how idiotic, self-serving and dishonest our elected officials were.

Wondering

March 5th, 2013
12:13 pm

I have to believe that Judge Story’s ruling was anticipated by all. The legal point being tried is based on the Georgia constitution and Story has not ruled on that point. There is value to knowing if the Georgia law is constitutional. Story is pushing that process about as quickly as we can hope for.

Most people appear to believe the law will fall. If it does, what happens next? It would appear those suing would still be on the Board, and we are back to square one with SACS threatening the board. Would DeKalb sue SACS?

As for the question of who pays. Walker is claiming that the school system should pay for his legal fees as he is suing as a board member wrongly removed from office. If he is correct on the legal issue, then who should pay?

Sally

March 5th, 2013
12:20 pm

If the law says the governor can fire them and a federal court judge says he will allow it, why have they not been escorted out of the building?

Sally

March 5th, 2013
12:22 pm

BTW, I have no good will for any of them any more. When they filed this lawsuit, that was gone. Since that decision was held in privacy we don’t know who all voted to spend our tax dollars on that. So, I can only assume they all did. Even the new ones who aren’t being fired. Kind of makes me want them gone too.

JD in Tucker

March 5th, 2013
12:22 pm

Anybody with half a brain can determine that the six board members need to step down for the sake of the students, SACS, and the County. Those who don’t step down are essentially revealing their own priority, ie., me, myself and I. It’s really that simple.

Sher

March 5th, 2013
12:23 pm

What is lost in all this is the improvements the board need to make to keep accreditation of Dekalb County. How does this fighting look to SACS? Have the board forgotten the reason they are here? My concerns lie with the accreditation of the school district. I believe with all the fighting Dekalb County will lose their accreditation. What will the suspended board member do then?

Concerned DeKalb Mom

March 5th, 2013
12:25 pm

I would like for someone to answer Sally’s question…there is no injunction barring their dismissal, so WHY aren’t they dismissed???

Concerned DeKalb Mom

March 5th, 2013
12:29 pm

Dear Board Members–
Would one of you–ANY of you–please explain how your continued presence on the board will help the county retain accreditation? Or how the litigation is, in any way, helpful for the students of DeKalb? I’d like to hear the reasoning.

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
12:34 pm

@concerned, They are now suspended with little to no chance of reinstatement by the governor, which is why the governor’s commission will start interviews early next week to find replacements.
But, at the same time that Judge Story allowed the process to commence, he also noted that the Supreme Court could rule in favor of the six and reinstate them. He expressed his own doubts that the court would do so, but is going to submit the issue of the state law to the court.
However, if they all resign in the meantime, I think that would end the legal process
Here is what school board member Marshall Orson posted yesterday:

Yesterday, Federal Judge Richard Story gave the go ahead for Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint six replacement members of the DeKalb BOE. Without these six members, the three of us not subject to the State removal process have been unable to form a quorum to meet. We now can get back to the business of DeKalb’s schools–focusing on improving outcomes for children, restoring full accreditation, and implementing a budget that invests more in the schoolhouse and classroom.

Maureen

dekalbite

March 5th, 2013
12:35 pm

It makes sense that Pam Speaks and Nancy Jester may have voted against funding the lawsuit (with Orson and McMahan abstaining) hoping to cut the funding off so that Walker and Co. would not have the money to pursue it. However, if newly elected Board Chair Melvin Johnson voted to keep fighting for Walker and the rest of the board, then he would be the deciding vote.

If there was no taxpayer dollars for the lawsuit, then it would be difficult for the lawsuit to move forward.

This vote should not have been done in secret. Taxpayers deserve to know what members of the BOE (old or new) voted FOR tax dollars to go for this lawsuit. If they weren’t worried what taxpayers would think they would not be hiding their votes.

O'Hara

March 5th, 2013
12:38 pm

Maureen, you don’t need to put your name at the end of your comments. We can see that they’re from you. Thanks.

O’Hara

fedup

March 5th, 2013
12:38 pm

Reminds me of a bunch of hogs at the (empty) feeding trough, refusing to leave in hopes that some more slop will be coming their way soon. Soooooooeeeeeeee

catlady

March 5th, 2013
12:40 pm

The new law did not provide for a special election, which costs significant money.

Yea RIGHT!

March 5th, 2013
12:40 pm

They also promised to do a good job, work hard for the children of DeKalb County, provide insightful thinking, and a host of other things I could go on and on about! How did that work out?

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
12:41 pm

@O’Hara, Has to do with remote users. Also why we put our names at ends of actual entries even though there is a big banner headline above the blog.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
12:44 pm

@To all, This are questions I put to Marshall Orson just now:

Me: Why is DeKalb still paying {attorney} Wilson? What are the terms of that agreement for the citizens to pay for the legal challenge? Since the six now are no longer members of the board after Story’s ruling, are taxpayers still on the hook?

His reply: We cannot do anything until we have a quorum.

Maureen

Disgusted in Dekalb

March 5th, 2013
12:50 pm

Maureen, are they “dismissed” or suspended? And are they allowed to petition the governor for reinstatement in 30 days in either case or just in the case of suspension? I am confused.

Disgusted in Dekalb

March 5th, 2013
12:53 pm

Why does Orson need a quorum in order to answer Maureen’s questions?

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
12:56 pm

@Disgusted, The law describes their condition as suspended with pay. It becomes “permanent removal” after the governor hears their appeal, if they make one, and reinstates them. I think there is zero chance that the governor will reinstate any of these board members.I am not sure why any of them would seek reinstatement as Deal would never put them back on the board.
But technically they are now suspended.

Here is the actual law:
Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (6.1)(A) of Code Section 20-3-519, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.

(b) Any local board of education member suspended under this Code section may petition the Governor for reinstatement no earlier than 30 days following suspension and no later than 60 days following suspension. In the event that a suspended member does not petition for reinstatement within the allotted time period, his or her suspension shall be converted into permanent removal, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member.

(c) Upon petition for reinstatement by a suspended local board of education member, the Governor or his or her designated agent shall conduct a hearing for the purpose of receiving evidence relative to whether the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education is more likely than not to improve the ability of the local school system or school to retain its accreditation. The appealing member shall be given at least 30 days’ notice prior to such hearing. Such hearing shall be held not later than 90 days after the petition is filed and in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50, the “Georgia Administrative Procedure Act,” except that the individual conducting the hearing shall have the power to call witnesses and request documents on his or her own initiative. For purposes of said chapter and any hearing conducted pursuant to this Code section, the Governor shall be considered the “agency” and the Attorney General or his or her designee shall represent the interests of the Governor in the hearing. If it is determined that it is more likely than not that the local board of education member’s continued service on the local board of education improves the ability of the local school system or school to retain its accreditation, the member shall be immediately reinstated; otherwise, the member shall be permanently removed, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member or until the next general election which is at least six months after the member was permanently removed, whichever is sooner. Judicial review of any such decision shall be in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50.

TM

March 5th, 2013
1:09 pm

As twisted as this may sound to some here, given the dollars already spent, the rulings thus far, and the inaction on the Sumter County case, in might be more cost effective on a state level for the Georgia School Boards Association and/or other interest group to fund this last leg of litigation to put this to rest. Otherwise, this and the associated expense could restart with another board in the future.

While there is pending legislation to prevent school boards spending funds for future cases (assuming it passes), where is the line between board litigation to protect groups of board members vs litigation to protect the integrity of the board as an integral part of a system?

dekalbite@Maureen

March 5th, 2013
1:09 pm

“What are the terms of that agreement for the citizens to pay for the legal challenge? ”

The vote was done in secret (closed session) so it must not be the taxpayers right to know the terms of the agreement or who voted for it.

Dunwoody Mom

March 5th, 2013
1:12 pm

Why does Orson need a quorum to answer if DCSS is still paying Wilson?

Cautiously Optimistic

March 5th, 2013
1:15 pm

@Disgusted,
The new board will have to vote to cease the agreement/payments to the attorney. They cannot vote on anything without a quorum.

Maureen Downey

March 5th, 2013
1:30 pm

@Dunwoody, I think he meant they were still paying, but could not do anything about that until they have a quorum.
Maureen

dekalbite@Cautiously Optimistic

March 5th, 2013
1:34 pm

But one of Maureen’s questions was regarding the terms of the agreement?

Why shouldn’t we know how much tax dollars they committed and for how long? Why are the terms of the agreement a confidential?

Why are the names of the members (5 of them at least voted for it) confidential when they are voting on the expenditure of tax dollars?

bigbill

March 5th, 2013
1:38 pm

I am trying to determine who founded and who is behind Parents for DeKalb Schools. Does anyone have this information? I did not see names of founders and/or members and/or sources of funding anywhere in the info posted on their Facebook materials when I clicked on their name above in Maureen’s article.

curious

March 5th, 2013
1:47 pm

The letter contract between Wilson, Morton and Downs and the DeKalb County School System is not confidential. It was posted on DeKalb School Watch Two shortly after it was entered. If I recall correctly, no specific monetary amount was negotiated. Instead, the school system agreed to pay the firm at an hourly rate for its work. I believe it was $250 per hour for attorney work and something over $100 per hour for paralegal work.

Aquagirl

March 5th, 2013
1:50 pm

I am trying to determine who founded and who is behind Parents for DeKalb Schools. Does anyone have this information?

There’s no list of founders or funding, but there is a list of supporters willing to have their names listed on the website.
http://www.parentsfordekalbschools.com/about.html

Jimmie

March 5th, 2013
1:52 pm

bigbill, Gil Hearn of Dunwoody is the person Tweeting under the name ParentsForDeKalbSchools. It is a group of one person, but he has Twitter followers and people go to his facebook page. There is no money and no legal entity, just a guy Tweeting using that name. Hope that helps.

curious

March 5th, 2013
1:52 pm

Just looked at DSW2. They write, “Although the official vote at the Board ‘meeting’ where the contract with Wilson, Morton & Downs was approved, had a $50,000 per month budget, the actual contract only states hourly rates – there is NO CAP.” The entry then includes a link to the contract. You can find this in the February 23 entry entitled, “The drama continues… DeKalb Board files a request for an emergency injunction”

Drudge

March 5th, 2013
1:57 pm

Well this is the same thing you see time and time again in my native Chicago – they were elected, it’s THEIRS. A license to demonstrate total disregard for their duty or their constituents. It’s really sad.

If they would have cared HALF as much about your children as they do about their pension/benefits, we wouldn’t be 26th in the world in education.

Dunwoody Mom

March 5th, 2013
1:58 pm

Here is the “contract” with Wilson to represent the BOE at the SBOE hearing. Wasn’t there another contract with Wilson’s law firm?

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=426805&MID=29682

CPA

March 5th, 2013
1:58 pm

There are so many people making $9 per hour for a full time job ($18 thousand per year). Seriously, these Board members should just shut up and go home. They did not take care of business. It is obvious that they don’t care about the kids

catlady

March 5th, 2013
1:59 pm

If they are no longer board members, there is no need for a quorum to vote on stopping payment to the attorney, as they are no longer board members. You would not need a quorum, for instance, to decide not to pay my legal fees, AS I AM NOT A BOARD MEMBER!