Nancy Jester has resigned her seat on the DeKalb Board of Education. She was suspended, along with her five colleagues. so she was on her way out anyway.
But she is no longer a party — unwilling as she says she was — to the court challenge being led by her former board colleague Eugene Walker. So, while Jester’s actions here may be symbolic, they do undermine the legal fight to stop the suspensions and the appointment of replacements by the governor.
Her decision also helps in the public relations department as DeKalb voters are weary of this drama and want to move on. Jester seems to have a lot of good will in DeKalb and this act will only enhance her standing, setting her up for a successful return to the board if she chooses to run in the future. (There is already speculation that she may seek higher office. )
Jester told AJC political reporter Greg Bluestein that she intends to continue her education advocacy and push for broader school change including greater choice.
“We invest in failure all the time. All we do is give more money. All that does, with that extra dollar, is you just bought more failure. I support the portability of state funding to other public options, whether it’s an independent charter or another district,” Jester said.
Echoing her guard rail theme from the state board hearing, Jester said, “How do we put up more guard rails to prevent a county like DeKalb from slipping into the abyss for years? And I think it’s insane that school districts aren’t required to have more reserves and that they’re allowed to build giant deficits.”
Bluestein asked her: Will others follow her lead today and resign? (Speculation is that Pam Speaks may resign today as well.)
“I don’t know what the others will do. I know that some of them feel strongly about the legal issues. … I hope that we don’t have a long protracted fight over the issue, but there might be. And I don’t think that’s very healing for the community. That’s one reason I wanted to resign – it distracts from the focus on kids and taxpayers,” said Jester.
I am getting copied on emails that folks are sending Jester. Here is an excerpt from one:
You are so bright and you wanted to do so much for DeKalb County’s schools. We needed a strong financial leader. I am sorry the majority of the board put their own personal interests ahead of the children. With all the discord, I hope that an ethical code of conduct will be developed for the board. I hope standards are set. We need people on the school board who demonstrate their support of education by their actions and not by rhetoric.
Let us hope that something positive comes from such lessons learned from years of dysfunctional management of our school. You were only there a short time and you tried hard to enact some changes. Thank you for taking the high road and resigning. You are to be commended for your leadership and courage in a difficult situation. The money spent on lawyers would do so much if it was directed towards the classroom. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors. I hope you will run again for office.
I am writing today to express my gratitude and sincere thanks for the opportunity to serve you during the last two years. Please know how much I appreciate your supportive words, calls and prayers. I am proud of the work I did to expose the deceptive budgeting practices and bring a parent’s perspective to the board.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be blogging about various educational issues, legislation and events of importance to DeKalb and our state. We have so much work to do together. As always, I remain steadfastly committed to being an advocate for children and taxpayers.
I look forward to seeing new faces on the DeKalb Board. I hope the new board and administrative team will reflect on what I said at our February board meeting about reforming our district. My remarks are available on my blog.
For clarity, I wanted to resign from the board in advance of the hearing in February, but refrained from doing so because of the pending court case. If the ruling had gone the other way, the remaining board members would have remained on the board and they would select my successor. I wanted to prevent that. I am more comfortable with the Governor and his team selecting my replacement.
Additionally, it is a matter of public record that I voted “no” on February 1st, to the hiring of the attorney to pursue the board’s legal challenges in the first place. I did not support in any way, the filing of legal action and I expressed my opposition in board meetings. Because the court has vacated their previous stay, the board members subject to the Governor’s executive order are now, no longer on the board. Once the Governor appoints new members, the board will have a quorum and be able to meet. At that point, the board will be able to make decisions regarding the use of district resources.
I hope that the next chapter for DeKalb schools brings about a reformation that begins to fulfill our obligation to our children. I hope this next chapter offers the taxpayers a product worthy of their investment. Thank you again for allowing me to serve you. I look forward to working with you to promote ideas and strategies that will empower parents and teachers and improve the educational lives of children.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog