Deposed DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker continues to challenge his suspension and the reasons for it. The matter has now moved to the state Supreme Court. Walker says the new appointees named this past week deserve support.
However, Walker maintains the decision to suspend him and five other board members was not only illegal but based on distortions by the accrediting agency. Walker says the record needs to be corrected, on both the performance of the school board and the district.
By Eugene Walker
‘The governor made the unilateral decision to replace six duly elected officers of the DeKalb County Board of Education. As our constitutional challenge makes its way through the courts, these appointees, along with the three elected officers allowed to stay, are in charge and everyone should be supportive of these stewards until the matter is resolved. I agree with the governor that there is a lot at stake and I urge the public and the media to stay involved as we move forward.
Going forward, we should all be aware that the SACS/AdvancED analysis and subsequent probation created the perception of many of the problems the system is facing today
SACS and its agents distorted the actions of the school board and intentionally diminished the level of trust and confidence held by the constituents of the board members. This was done through accusations, allegations and innuendos without providing proof or supporting documents. The SACS report was rife with unsubstantiated allegations and general statements with the intent of creating a false negative perception of the school board and facilitating a reason for probation.
For example, SACS accuses the board of fiscal mismanagement, even though board members do not manage finances. Neither the state audit nor the recent forensic audit by KPMG reported any such findings. SACS also alleges rampant nepotism and cronyism without any evidence. School board policy requires monthly personnel reporting of any employee who is related to member of the board.
For the record, no member of my family has been hired during my tenure on the board, and to the best of my knowledge, this is also true for the rest of the board members. On the claim of accusation of infighting among board members, all can rest assured that the DeKalb board always took care of school business and with no more discourse than is considered prudent in the Georgia General Assembly.
Most disturbing and misleading are the false allegations regarding the important work of the system – teaching and learning. SACS reported there has been a decline in student performance. This is factually incorrect. Data shows that student performance has been improving. There is an overall increase in student test scores on the CRCT from 2008-2012.
In fact, in four categories; reading, English, math, and science; CRCT scores are the same or better than they were five years earlier in every grade tested. ACT Composite scores have also improved every year over the past five years. SAT scores also rose to the highest levels they have in three years.
Speaking of SAT scores, the district posted broad gains across the school district, north and south, with a strong performance among African American and Hispanic students in mathematics and writing. DeKalb’s improvements almost doubled the statewide average, which came with nearly the same number of students – 4,099 versus 4,144 – taking the test.
Five DCSD schools exceeded the national and state combined average for critical reading, math and writing: Chamblee High, DeKalb Early College Academy, DeKalb School of the Arts, Dunwoody High and Lakeside High. And six schools doubled the state’s gains: McNair, Redan, Cedar Grove, Tucker, Miller Grove and Stone Mountain.
All of this performance information is in the DeKalb School District annual report which no one apparently read, including SACS, the governor, the State Board of Education, the Georgia General Assembly and the media.
An additional piece of good news about is that of the 60 athletes drafted by the NBA draft last year, four came from DeKalb County Schools. No other location in the world had 4 athletes selected by the NBA last year, or to the best of my knowledge, ever.
The SACS report stated that “the current status of the school system is the result of at least a decade of decline.” If this is true, one must ask what was the level of responsibility and accountability of SACS during this decade of decline, especially since SACS was collecting over $200,000 annually for monitoring? Why now, when all indications show that the quality of education is on the upswing?
In the immediate future, this quagmire will be the bailiwick of the governor’s appointees. Until there is resolution in the court system, it’s the way it is and the community, myself included, should do everything to support our students, our schools, and this school board. A little scrutiny will reveal, however, that the problem is in the process not the product.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog