Nancy Jester resigns from DeKalb school board

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.

Here is Jester’s letter to constituents explaining her decision and her timing:

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

233 comments Add your comment

kaitsmom

March 6th, 2013
9:09 am

I am confused here…how do you resign from a board that you have already been removed from?

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
9:11 am

@Kaits: Her status pending the reinstatement period was suspended, not removed. The law allows suspended members to appeal to the governor.
Maureen

kaitsmom

March 6th, 2013
9:15 am

Ah…I see…It will be interesting to see who else follows suit. Maybe Pam Speaks. We most definitely know who it won’t be.

bootney farnsworth

March 6th, 2013
9:18 am

funny how the one person you hope might stay has the dignity to walk away, and the one you just want to go away (Gene) won’t budge

some sense

March 6th, 2013
9:18 am

DeKalb County has become Clayton County and not just in re. the school board.

bootney farnsworth

March 6th, 2013
9:24 am

@ some,

I agree, but think you got the tense wrong.

The Momster

March 6th, 2013
9:25 am

Hats off to Nancy, who has had the best interests of the children at heart all along. She couldn’t stay without tarnishing her personal reputation. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Gov. Deal will find people who are equally qualified and not in it for the personal glory.

Dixie Darling

March 6th, 2013
9:25 am

And I almost bought a home in DeKalb County! Why I wonder do many elected to positions of power begin to empower themselves and their pockets rather than fulfill their promises made to get elected? Why I wonder does it appear that so many of those elected have a racial edge to their empowerment? Power does not have a color but it sure looks like it to me!

kaitsmom

March 6th, 2013
9:28 am

I agree she is displaying dignity..but also eliminating baggage in case there is a Dunwoody School System.

Dekalb Watchdog

March 6th, 2013
9:29 am

I’m not surprised. Jester is a class-act who has the best interest of the children in mind. I’m glad she waited until it was confirmed that the Governor would appoint her replacement. Too bad her ideas were always discounted by the other board members due to her location within the county.

Another Voice

March 6th, 2013
9:30 am

Maureen – what’s the link to the application to nominate someone for the Board? Please let people know how to submit a nomination, since today is the deadline.

Dori Kleber

March 6th, 2013
9:32 am

Nancy’s resignation is exactly what you would expect from her. She has consistently put the interests of the schools and the students ahead of any personal agenda. She has served with distinction and proved that “a mom with a calculator” could find the mismanagement and impropriety that’s been part of DeKalb’s school board politics for way too long. We owe her a debt of gratitude for shining light on the system’s problems, and if she wants to use the accumulated good will to seek another office in the future, I know she will have the support of the Dunwoody community. Even if she never holds public office again, she has played a huge role in starting what we can only hope will be a change for the better in DeKalb.

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
9:33 am

@Another, There are more than 150 applicants at this point for the six seats. If anyone is interested, the deadline is today at 5.
Here are the details.

Who stands for the children?

March 6th, 2013
9:34 am

Good for you, Ms. Jester. You did the right thing for the right reasons. More importantly, thank you for thinking first, of the children, and secondly for the taxpayers who are funding and have funded monstrous legal fees for the criminal acts of a former superintendent, and now, fees for what appears to be “ego trips.” (Your voting no on attorney fees in re the lawsuit). Let’s hope your colleagues follow suit and more to the critical issue here—those tasked to secure replacements to begin to get this mess straightened out. From all (or most) reports you were one of the better ones on this School Board, but alas, your fate was sealed due to the incompetence of a few. Perhaps you can aspire to another office that would benefit our schools.

ross

March 6th, 2013
9:39 am

Nancy Jester and Don McChesney were about the only 2 members looking out for the interest of Dekalb Schools.

Mike

March 6th, 2013
9:40 am

A majority of the new appointments need to come from the Dunwoody or Lenox Square areas if there is to be any hope for this school system.

[...] From the AJC Get Schooled blog: 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. [...]

Ned

March 6th, 2013
9:46 am

If one more member resigns, there may not be a need to replace the other 4: if I understand correctly, 5 will be a legal quorum. Maureen, is that right?

Centrist

March 6th, 2013
9:46 am

Nice symbolic gesture, but would have been more than symbolic had she done it before she was removed from the Board after a Hearing and confirmed by judge.

Yesterday Ms. Downey said an appeal to the Governor for re-instatement was a waste of time – is this a tactic to make that a possibility?

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
9:51 am

@Ned, Not sure what you mean. As of today, there are only three legally recognized board members. Those three are still it until the governor appoints or the state Supreme Court invalidates the law that got the six others kicked off and orders them back on the board. That would create more chaos — more than DeKalb could stand.
If the state Supreme Court did reinstate — a long shot — Jester would now not be among them.
Maureen

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2013
9:51 am

Way to go, Nancy Jester. At least ONE of the Dekalb BOE members has some honor and character. Contrast her with Eugene Walker. He is the bottom of the barrel.

southern opinion

March 6th, 2013
9:53 am

Sounds like Ms. Jester is a good person. Not sure of the area she represented, but good people are in all areas of the county. Color doesn’t matter. Good comes in all colors! Will any of those good people apply? – probably not. Good people don’t necessarily want the spotlight. Good people take care of their own business in stellar fashion. They will not jump in this fray and jeopardize their peace and quiet. Seriously most of those applying don’t care about anyone but themselves. Even a new board will be fussing in a month – then what?

ShooShee

March 6th, 2013
9:55 am

Not sure if anyone’s added this link but DSW has a post that explains the reasons why Nancy didn’t resign earlier:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/why-jester-and-speaks-did-not-resign-from-dekalb-school-board/

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2013
9:55 am

“Nice symbolic gesture, but would have been more than symbolic had she done it before she was removed from the Board after a Hearing and confirmed by judge.”

Centrist – SHE was not removed (suspended) – the ENTIRE BOARD was. SHE was not necessarily the cause of some of the complaints of SACS. Can you blame her for deficit budgets when she consistently voted against them? How many of HER relatives are working at positions she got them within the Dekalb county school system?

Aquagirl

March 6th, 2013
9:56 am

but would have been more than symbolic had she done it before she was removed from the Board after a Hearing and confirmed by judge.

If you’d bothered to actually read the post before rushing into your lofty wisdom, she explains why she didn’t resign earlier.

But thanks for your amazing insight based on open mouth/brain stuck in neutral. We don’t have enough of that in DeKalb already.

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2013
9:57 am

“If one more member resigns, there may not be a need to replace the other 4: if I understand correctly, 5 will be a legal quorum. Maureen, is that right?”

No, Ned, you would not have a quorum to appoint replacements for those who resign. That is how it is done, I am told – not an “election of the people”. Walker only has a problem with appointed school board members when it is not him who does the appointing.

DeKalb Inside Out

March 6th, 2013
9:58 am

speculation that [Nancy] may seek higher office
Word on the street is the Dunwoody Council is privately en masse asking her to run for State Senate.

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
9:59 am

@DeKalb, I saw that posted at DSW, but wonder about whether she can unseat Fran Millar. Also, I asked a friend of Jester’s and was told that she was unsure of what she might do next in terms of elected office.
Maureen

Pat and Mike

March 6th, 2013
10:02 am

@ Centrist
There is a reason for why Nancy decided to NOT resign earlier. She had her constituents in mind, as always. Read the article in DeKalb School Watch blog [dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com] or in Nancy’s own blog, What’s Up With That? [whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com].

Centrist

March 6th, 2013
10:03 am

Yesterday “suspended” was a euphemism for removed since their is simply a 30 day waiting period before it is permanent – pending the Governor reinstating them after he removed them.

Today, we have posters who make this sound like it was just a temporary slap on the wrist. For you liberals who hope this does not stand, please note what Ms. Downey herself posted above: “If the state Supreme Court did reinstate — a long shot”.

Maximus Desimus Aurelius

March 6th, 2013
10:04 am

2 words for you DeKalb county residents who care about your children….PRIVATE SCHOOLS!!!

Dunwoody

March 6th, 2013
10:05 am

If Jester not reappointed to school board she will run against Fran Millar for State Senator

Edugator

March 6th, 2013
10:06 am

Nancy was a stand up board member who did great things, but I’m suspicious of her dedication to school choice. She definitely has an agenda.

tim

March 6th, 2013
10:06 am

Blog all you want Jester

You did a bad job and got fired.

BYE BYE

George

March 6th, 2013
10:07 am

She was no dam angle but good for her .Walker needs to go along with her he is no dam good for Dekalb along with his friends.

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
10:08 am

@Dunwoody, Then, I think she will be running against Millar. The governor would face a lot of criticism if he reappointed one or two of the ousted board members. I can’t imagine him starting that brush fire. I think a new slate of board members is critical now.
Maureen

Midway

March 6th, 2013
10:08 am

“For you liberals who hope this does not stand, please note what Ms. Downey herself posted above:”

All of the many liberals I know do indeed want this to stand, Centrist. Why are you so bitter?

Maureen Downey

March 6th, 2013
10:11 am

@To all, The AJC political writer is on phone with Nancy Jester and I am adding quotes from her as he gets them. Please see updates.
Maureen

Maximus

March 6th, 2013
10:13 am

For all DeKalb county parents who care about your children….I have 2 words for you: Private Schools!!!

Trust me, your kids are worth it…

Centrist

March 6th, 2013
10:16 am

@ Midway – Not bitter at all. Like Ms. Downey just posted “I think a new slate of board members is critical now.” Glad to hear that the liberals you know want this to stand – I was referring to the ones above who do not.

I see Ms. Jester as a political animal obviously using her resignation AFTER being fired as a springboard to some (any) other political office.

Aquagirl

March 6th, 2013
10:16 am

All of the many liberals I know do indeed want this to stand, Centrist. Why are you so bitter?

Embarrassment. A counterattack provides an imagined diversion from the egg on his face.

See also Copelin-Woods, Sarah, et al.

Georgia

March 6th, 2013
10:22 am

,It’s a darn shame that there’s only demand for half a dozen seats when there’s dozens of deserving Dekalb denizens on deck. Jester’s gesture, exploding like a snark grenade in the midst of the unsuspecting suspended, is poetic justice, that is, the right ship is abandoning the rats. Or is that poetic irony? Maybe if I had been educated in Dekalb I would know the difference, eh?

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2013
10:23 am

“I see Ms. Jester as a political animal obviously using her resignation AFTER being fired as a springboard to some (any) other political office.”

Maybe. And I see Walker as a political fat cat just feathering his nest and doing ANYTHING to stay in power so he can protect his kinfolk who are in danger of being RIFed.

Funny

March 6th, 2013
10:24 am

Finally one of the six board members remember the children and decided not to take any more money from them. I can’t praise her for doing the right thing at this point it is a little to late. Now if she had resigned before all the court battles and legal cost yes I would praise her.

Concerned for children

March 6th, 2013
10:32 am

The biggest issues that faces DCSC is not who serves or don’t serve on the board, it is the low performing schools and the failure to address the academic needs of the children in these schools. This is something that SACS repeatedly failed to address, except in the context that good governance and leadership will lead to academic improvement. We currently have two school systems within our county and with the school choice programs another layer of schools within those systems. The children who need the most help are being discussed in this matter. None of the suspended board members managed our schools or taught in the classrooms. The one tool that is required to measure individual school progress, (consolidated school improvement plans) better known as CSIPS are mostly false, misleading and incorrect put together by cutting and paste. During Micheal Thurmond meeting last week at MLK High School, Romona Tyson was asked by a parent if the school system had two different curriculum and she said, no, ” but we do have a lower expectation for the children in south than the ones in the north”. This was witnessed by at least a hundred parents. It appears to me that the powers to be are only concerned about preserving accreditation for our best performing children and could care less about those that are struggling are attending struggling schools.

Pat and Mike

March 6th, 2013
10:35 am

@Funny
There is a reason for why Nancy decided to NOT resign earlier. She had her constituents — and the children of DeKalb — in mind, as always. Read the article in DeKalb School Watch blog [dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com] or in Nancy’s own blog, What’s Up With That? [whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com].

Centrist

March 6th, 2013
10:41 am

The posters who are bitter and embarrassed here are the ones who thought the judge would overrule SACS and the Governor, and keep the board. The rest of us are glad this saga has moved on with applicants being reviewed for their qualifications. There is still the remote possibility that the Georgia Supreme Court will recreate this mess, but for at least the meantime we are rid of the self-serving incompetent Board.

Whatever Ms. Jester’s motivations were to resign – good. Guess better late than never. It will be up to politicians whether she gets appointed to another political office, or voters if she gets elected – but like Karen Handel, no doubt she wants something/anything in the political arena. They obviously have some community and media fawning/backing.

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2013
10:44 am

I know that Dekalb County and parent trigger bills are important subjects, as is the chancellor’s fight to keep guns off campuses. But where is the outrage against the Grady girl who brought a gun to school? Now it is reported that the gun was stolen and may have tried to remove the serial number. Where did she get that gun? Police won’t say. What was she going to do with that gun? Either she won’t tell or the police won’t release the information. I am waiting on her arrest on possession of stolen merchandise and whatever law was broken by possession of a gun with the serial number removed. How many charges can you have and still get out on bail? And police are still trying to decide if there was gang involvement.

kaitsmom

March 6th, 2013
10:44 am

@Centrist…Karen Handel came to mind to me as well. I applaud Ms. Jester but I do think there are other political motivations behind being able to say she resigned. This was not a stretch on her part at this point.

Mr. Georgia

March 6th, 2013
10:45 am

Good she is a joke and was the origin of most of the problems!! She should now concentrate on obtaining a education herself. She will never be the intellectual equal to Dr. Walker and others who are more prepared to lead and she could not stand the fact the because of her complexion she was not granted any favor or special treatment. So she ran to SACS to complain and lie bout her colleagues and the functions of the board. What a phony!! Quick note to the stay at home moms who think they can do a better job than seasoned, qualified, professional, civil servants, STAY HOME and concentrate on your kids education!! This lady is an intellectual lightweight and has nothing to offer the county, what a phony!! don’t believe me check her record and the minutes form the meetings!! Some things she simply could not understand, like budgets and reserve funds.