DeKalb school board drama distilled down to two questions for state Supreme Court, which has six months to answer

The controversy surrounding Gov. Nathan Deal’s removal of six DeKalb Board of Education members has been distilled down to two constitutional questions and presented to the  state Supreme Court.

I hate to think of the chaos if the state’s highest court, which has six months to rule, invalidates the governor’s appointment of six new members.

The court sent out this notice today:

The DeKalb County school board case, in which many media have expressed an interest, has just been docketed in our court. Please see the attached order certifying the questions the federal judge is asking this court to answer.

This case will be handled by the Supreme Court of Georgia like any other. The court has up to two court terms from the time it’s filed here – which is about six months – to make a decision. If the parties request oral argument, this Court will hear the case, as opposed to considering the case based purely on the briefs.

The brief from the “appellant” – the DeKalb County School District and Dr. Eugene Walker – is due within 20 days; the “appellee” – the Georgia State Board of Education and Gov. Nathan Deal – has up to 40 days to file its brief. Thanks.

Here are the questions being presented to the Georgia Supreme Court. The code cited in the the first question refers to the state law allowing the governor to remove school board members:

DOES O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 VIOLATE THE GEORGIA CONSTITUTIONAL DOCTRINE THAT EACH SCHOOL SYSTEM SHALL BE UNDER THE MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF A BOARD OF EDUCATION, THE MEMBERS OF WHICH SHALL BE ELECTED AS PROVIDED BY LAW? OR

DOES THE POTENTIAL REMOVAL OF SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS, AS PROVIDED FOR BY O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73, I EXCEED THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S AUTHORITY TO ENACT GENERAL LAWS REGARDING LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION UNDER ARTICLE VIII, SECTION V?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

61 comments Add your comment

Starik

March 18th, 2013
6:16 pm

These are good legal questions that need answers; unless the Court decides this case quickly, even more middle class and upper middle class parents, black, white, Hispanic and Asian will be leaving DeKalb.

Another factor is the absolutely bizarre situation with the CEO and the DA. What is really going on? Is the CEO a crook? If a corruption investigation is needed, why not let the Feds do it? They do a good job (see Gwinnett’s situation) without creating a destructive conflict between the prosecutor and county government. The future in DeKalb is less than rosy.

Pride and Joy

March 18th, 2013
6:32 pm

The future of Dekalb indeed hangs in the decision of the court. I predict:
If the court does NOT uphold Deal’s suspensions, there will be traffic jams of white flight from Dekalb county and then…a quick slide into perpetual decay.

Old timer

March 18th, 2013
6:38 pm

GlD I no longer own property there….

Concerned DeKalb Mom

March 18th, 2013
7:10 pm

Does anyone know how to contact the removed 6 board members? I imagine their First Class email addresses are defunct now with the county. I’d like to express to them my opinion of their pursuit of this issue.

Another comment

March 18th, 2013
7:42 pm

The Federal Government has a huge investment in the CDC in Dekalb County. Very few people know that about back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Federal Government gave serious thought to moving the CDC out of Dekalb. It was not the ever the local Congressional Delegation or the Senate Delegation that have faught for CDC’s funding. I would not doubt that some of these Congressmen and Senators have their phones buzzing the Federal Judges, as well as I can guess they did to remove the board. Who wants such boozo’s where the Federal Government has an over Billion dollar Capital Investment in World Class Biological Level 4 and Level 3 Laboratories. The Premier Level 4 Laboratory in this Country.

Bernie

March 18th, 2013
7:52 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen we ask that you remain Seated and Fasten your Seatbelts. We are expecting turbulent weather ahead! You will find all necessary Bags, located in the pouch in front of you!

Atlanta Mom

March 18th, 2013
7:57 pm

Surely this was expected. I could see it going all the way to the Supreme Court of the land, considering this has to do with voting rights.

Concerned for children

March 18th, 2013
7:57 pm

Most conservatives are strong advocates for local control until it’s something they do not agree, such as the 2000 Floria vote count or the so called take over of Healthcare with Obomacare. The law passed by the general assembly given far reaching powers to the governor. The governor should have intervened to direct and assist the board in complying with this probation issue from SACS, whereas Dr. Elgart came out last week and stated that Deal acted to quickly. The Dekalb was not going to lose it’s accreditation, of the twelve items listed, only five or six was the responsibility of the board and the rest lies with staff. This insane, unconstitutional law needs to be overturned and the citizens of Dekalb should be allowed to vote for their choices on the board. I have been working in this school system for over twenty-five years and only one of the appointed members has any track record whatsoever of being involved with improving our schools. Where the hell have they been, now all of a sudden, they are coming to the rescue of our children. The hard work is in the schools and classroom, none of them have any record at all for volunteering with our schools.

concerned citizen

March 18th, 2013
8:02 pm

We do have the board members’ names who voted for this mess, Walker, Cunniingham, Speaks, Johnson, Woods, Olsen (by manipulation – NO EXCUSE), McMahon, in short, every last one except Jester may bring about the total collapse of DeKalb County. When people are this corrupt, one knows they are only about their personal finances and power. And, yes, the CDC has no incentive to stay in DeKalb County. Everything is in the balance, yet we are triffled with by the likes of Walker, Johnson, etc. I am feeling very uneasy about what the new board can do under the circumstances. All of this from Friends and Family for way too many years. There is such corruption and money-grubbing. Again, what about these beautiful children and teachers? I am sick to death of supts, area supts, Associate/Deputy Supt. Since 1990, this school system has been diving, and suddenly, people look up and say, “Oh,it’s about ten years since things started going bad.”

CompetenceNotDiversity

March 18th, 2013
8:03 pm

@Concerned for children – “I have been working in this school system for over twenty-five years”.

Please tell me you don’t work in the classroom.

Centrist

March 18th, 2013
8:07 pm

Any chance the voters of Dekalb would replace the old members with the new in a future election if the Supreme Court negates the replacements? You’d think enough of the voters would see the damage they have done to themselves, and have much better alternatives.

Dekalbite

March 18th, 2013
8:21 pm

Sorry for the post above. This iPad is not a great machine to write a comment on.

Walker and the BOE voted to pay SACS for their review to determine if DeKalb Schools met accreditation standards. In addition, they knew very well that the absence of SACS accreditation could mean their replacement. They paid SACS for the review, and now that that review results in their replacement, they want to sue.

Name One

March 18th, 2013
8:36 pm

Go to Access North Georgia and search Gene Walker. This is the type of guy Gene Walker is:

Parole board member on trial for sexual harassment

State paid $190,000 to settle earlier sex harassment suit

Streat’s lawyers file another motion on AG
Lawyers for Sen. Van Streat are seeking “detailed affidavits” from Attorney General Thurbert Baker and two others they accuse of conspiring to destroy official records

Bill

March 18th, 2013
8:38 pm

Bye Bye Dekalb.
I here my school tax is dropping by 60%, or we can keep it the same and pay 1.5 times the going rate for only the best and brightest teachers … hmmmmm
Can’t wait for our official divorce.

Bill from Dunwoody…

CompetenceNotDiversity

March 18th, 2013
8:42 pm

Hey Bill – maybe those best & brightest teachers will be able to teach your kids the difference between “here” and “hear”. That would be nice.

Concernedmom30329

March 18th, 2013
9:09 pm

As of Wednesday night’s meeting, it appears that DCSS will no longer be footing the bill for this suit. Doesn’t mean that Wilson won’t continue for free or another group will step in to fund it, but it no longer will be tax payer dollars.

from Wednesday’s agenda, re the lawsuit against Deal…
Upon approval of this action item, the Superintendent is requested within 24 hours to instruct outside counsel to take appropriate steps to seek termination of the School District’s further status as plaintiff in the above-referenced lawsuit and any related litigation.

Charles Douglas Edwards

March 18th, 2013
9:11 pm

The state Supreme Court if Georgia needs to determine the validity and constitutionality of O.C.G.A. 20-2-77 !!!

The ousted Dekalb Count BOE members have the right to challenge the decision of Governor Nathan Deal and the Republican Party.

Giving someone the right to take away the will and votes of citizens is an issue that must be decided by the state Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.

This is a complicated constitutional issue of voting rights.

We do not believe that anyone has the right to make a law that nullifies the votes and will of American citizens especially in the deep south.

Voter suppression and intimidation redistricting, charter schools, proposed new cities and counties are separating rather than uniting Georgians.

We support a new set of eyeballs to look at O.C.G.A. 20-2-77.

We hope and pray for a fair decision from the Supreme Court of Georgia.

CompetenceNotDiversity

March 18th, 2013
9:14 pm

@Charles – who is “we”?

The Wire

March 18th, 2013
9:15 pm

This law allowing elected officials, using the opinions of unelected officials (the state board) and pseudo-public corporate leaders (SACS) to remove other elected officials is a very dangerous precedent. Regardless of how well or little you ‘like’ the dismissed school board members, they were duly elected by the citizens of their districts – some having been re-elected several times. Think about it — the future could hold a corrupt, politically-motivated Governor, with an agenda to accomplish as well as powerful supporters to please, who upon the recommendation of one powerful corporate leader, operating on a large percentage of public funds, chooses to remove a school board in order to replace them with a new board that will make the decisions the powers behind the Governor want and need to further their agenda and push multi-millions of dollars in public construction funds and real estate investments into pre-determined, powerful hands. Oh, wait.

Concernedmom30329

March 18th, 2013
9:19 pm

Mr. Edward,

What is a fair decision when it comes to the students of DeKalb, particularly the poor, minority students who have been denied a decent education, in part because of incompetent, corrupt, and uncaring board members. If you aren’t careful, many of these students won’t even know what the Voting Rights Act is.

Bill

March 18th, 2013
9:26 pm

@Competence
As long as my tax bill drops $6,000/year … I’m all ‘fore’ it…

OriginalProf

March 18th, 2013
9:34 pm

@ Concernedmom30329. Very glad to hear that one of the actions of the new Board (meeting this Wednesday) will halt the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds on the lawsuit. Possibly the NAACP may decide to pay instead, especially since Sarah Copelin-Wood is on its Executive Committee.

WilieJo

March 18th, 2013
9:40 pm

I think the actual record might indicate that in republican dominated districts there is FAR MORE volunteering in public schools. You might not want to spout ideological nonsense as proto-fact thus making yourself even more of a fool.

This is not about the sacred right to vote but is rather about boobs and incompetents being held to account under the law. Wrapping yourself up in the suddenly sacred right to preserve an incompetent, unresponsive office holder is a sign of moral depravity.

Private Citizen

March 18th, 2013
9:50 pm

I wish the state would keep going and remove school boards wherever there is antics and malfeasance. In some places in Georgia, “school board” is a plague upon both the children and professionals, which do not even exist to a school board that routinely treat the best lifer talent like they’re dogs. One person I know managed to make an escape and ran for their life to a charter school. I have no dog in this fight except personal experience as a worker and seeing how my colleagues are treated, like they’re two steps below the garbage man and the dog catch. And it is the local “school board” that weird poser Martian entities that treat teachers like they would not know a teacher if they met one. They treat teachers like throwing the ongoing picnic waste in a bucket, and that is probably better than how they treat teachers. Georgia would do real well to get rid of the whole school board concept, or at the least make sure they have nothing to do with hiring or teachers, who are professionals and need professional management, not being some toy on the end of some local-power play-game.

Concernedmom30329

March 18th, 2013
9:54 pm

The DeKalb NAACP apparently has only a couple of hundred members and dues are only 30 dollars a year. Not sure how deep those pockets are — maybe the state?

Or most likely, the system has already paid for all the real work and Wilson will continue on for free. Though the system will no longer be a plaintiff, so I am guessing that just leaves Walker?

Private Citizen

March 18th, 2013
9:55 pm

In most districts, “school board” is like an insurance agency that guarantees and enforces local bigotry. Any place other than that is very much the exception.

bu2

March 18th, 2013
10:09 pm

Interesting that the due process is not being questioned. That could be an additional suit. If they apply for reinstatement and Deal refuses, they could file suit against the way the “due process” was implemented. It will be interesting to see if any do apply. Only Jester has resigned. We are still paying the other 5.

If 5 resigned and the law was overturned, would we have a quorom to appoint new members? We might be stuck again, unable to do anything.

Sandra Williamson

March 18th, 2013
10:39 pm

By removing the school board members of Dekalb county, Deal has made a bad situation worse. Deal not only removed the board members but took away the voting rights every citizen in Dekalb County that exercise their right to vote of the school board. He does not live in Dekalb county and truly not looking out the students of Dekalb.

The Wire

March 19th, 2013
1:04 am

Well certainly the voters in District 1 weren’t expecting to get John Colman when they paid money, supported and voted for Nancy Jester to represent them. Colman will get rolled by the power players of this board. Dunwoody will lose big time. Too bad for them. But then again, it will just fuel their desire to break away.

Justine

March 19th, 2013
3:09 am

First, Black and white children are not leaving DeKalb County Schools, many are participating in a little know but well used program which allows Georgia children to attend school on the internet. This is probably the best thing the Georgia school system has.

Secondly, the questions of the Supreme Court reach well beyong the situation with the DeKalb Board of Education. The question must always be asked – If we are a free and just nation which is inclusive of all its citizens and welcomes every who comes in good faith – why is so much time and money being used to take away the ability of the people to vote.

Hopefully, the Court will see the importance of the majority having the right to choose.

concernedmom30329

March 19th, 2013
5:30 am

Sandra Williamson,

Worse? The incessant meddling of certain board members have literally destroyed some of the schools in their community. These children have lost their right to a quality education. I struggle with the voters’ rights issue, but I assure you that I don’t struggle with whose rights are most important.

fondu

March 19th, 2013
7:22 am

@Concerned for children ” I have been working in this school system for over twenty-five years and only one of the appointed members has any track record whatsoever of being involved with improving our schools.”
So have I, and what drugs are you on?? Take those prism glasses off and take a look around. It is clear to me that your concern is not for the children but for mediocrity, do you really think this is the way it is supposed to be??? “Dr. Elgart came out last week and stated that Deal acted to quickly”, and that is “too” quickly, and that is not what he said, read more than one source.

@CompetenceNotDiversity, you get a big amen on that!!!

@Charles Douglas Edwards, you don’t know a gift when you see one.

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
7:32 am

I struggle with the voters’ rights issue,

I sure do not. This school board should have been put out like a menthol cigarette in a trailer park.

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
7:37 am

This school board should have been put out, like…. a dog that peed on the kitchen floor.

This school board should have been put out, like…. a hair stylist that left the chemicals on too long.

This school board should have been put out, like…. yesterday’s cotton candy.

This school board should have been put out, like…. the quart of milk in the back of the ‘fridge.

Pride and Joy

March 19th, 2013
7:38 am

This comment is just flat out wrong “Voter suppression and intimidation redistricting, charter schools, proposed new cities and counties are separating rather than uniting Georgians.”
Georgians have never ever ever been a united group and the disaster that is the public school system here has united many people because we have a common enemy — corrupt and incompetent school boards and school systems.
The people of Dunwoody are now meeting and uniting against that common enemy — corruption and greed in Dekalb county schools.
The area of Lakeside is uniting to do the same.
We the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens are taking up intellectual arms to fight graft, nepotism, greed, incompetence, theft and ignorance.

Pride and Joy

March 19th, 2013
7:42 am

What private citizen said…
Kudos, PC. Good work and funny too!

Atlanta Media Guy

March 19th, 2013
8:33 am

@Charles Douglas Edwards…Are you from the Frances Edwards clan, worried your DCSS gravy train is about to end???…..just wondering since that family is the face of nepotism gone bad at DCSS. Over a million dollars a year in salaries and benefits goes to this family.

From the BOE to the CEO, we have serious issues in DeKalb. We have a DA who thinks the BOE can police themselves, while our court system delays Clews trial. There is no moving forward until we acknowledge our awful past and get rid of the crew that mired DCSS in the muck of mediocrity for the last decade.

Pride and Joy

March 19th, 2013
9:43 am

This comment is just flat out wrong too “First, Black and white children are not leaving DeKalb County Schools..”
Yes, black and white children ARE LEAVING DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS:
1. Dunwoody, an affluent white and black community is trying to at this very moment, divorce themselves from Dekalb county.
2. Lakeside, a middle-class white and black community is trying at this very moment to form themselves as a city so that they can do as Dunwoody is doing and divorce themselves from rotten Dekalb county.
3. A new charter school organized by a mostly-black board and black leaders has formed to get away from Dekalb county.
Don’t know where you get the idea that black and white kids are leaving Dekalb county schools. You are obviously mistaken or lying.

DeKalb Inside Out

March 19th, 2013
9:46 am

Constitutionally Created Positions
There are only a few elected positions defined in the Ga Constitution: Governor, legislature, judges and boards of education. The constitution is very explicit about the removal of all of these positions except the board of education.

Non Constitutionally Created Positions
We regularly vote for positions created by the state or county that are not in the constitution: Mayor, CEO, dog catcher, boards of this and that. These positions serve at the will of the governing body that created it. These elected positions can be replaced or removed at the will of said governing body.

How to remove the board of education
So, in the absence of a removal process defined in the constitution, can we remove a board of education like we would a non constitutionally created position?

Due Process
Whether individual due process can be served up front or in the rears is another conversation.

Pride and Joy

March 19th, 2013
9:46 am

Loved Willie Joe’s comment “This is not about the sacred right to vote but is rather about boobs and incompetents being held to account under the law. Wrapping yourself up in the suddenly sacred right to preserve an incompetent, unresponsive office holder is a sign of moral depravity.”
Thanks, WillieJoe. You made your point and were entertaining too.

Pride and Joy

March 19th, 2013
10:03 am

To Charles Douglas Edwards who writes “We do not believe that anyone has the right to make a law that nullifies the votes and will of American citizens especially in the deep south.”
You can keep your votes. We who are footing the bill will keep our money and move out. We’ll do it through charter schools, forming cities and seceding from Dekalb county or simply by moving.
There are scarier things that can happen to Dekalb county than your votes.
Two words for you, Charles — WHITE FLIGHT.
Without the educated white community, Dekalb is a sinkhole.

Chamblee Dad

March 19th, 2013
10:55 am

Just to expand on Concernedmom 30329’s post at 9:09pm last night (there is ALOT of other juicy stuff on it as well concerning budget, Spost, SACS update, etc. should be a late night for new board.

Posted last night: agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting, Item G13:

G. 13. Termination of the DeKalb County School District’s status as a plaintiff in The DeKalb County School District, et al. vs. The Georgia State Board of Education, et al., Case No. 1:13-CV-0544, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division

Rationale
Reduction in legal expenses.

Quick Summary / Abstract
Presented by: Mr. Marshall D. Orson, Board Representative, District #2

Details
Upon approval of this action item, the Superintendent is requested within 24 hours to instruct outside counsel to take appropriate steps to seek termination of the School District’s further status as plaintiff in the above-referenced lawsuit and any related litigation.

Financial Impact
Termination as plaintiff of the DeKalb County School District in the above-referenced lawsuit and any related litigation will result in financial savings as of the date of the termination of such status.

Requested Action
It is requested that the DeKalb County Board of Education terminate the School District’s status as plaintiff in the above-referenced legal matter and any related litigation in any court. It is further requested that such termination be without prejudice, if possible.

Motion by: ___________________
Seconded by: ________________
Vote: _______

Implementation Date(s)
March 21, 2013

Is it really going to take six months for a decision?

March 19th, 2013
10:59 am

Does anyone know how the court schedule works – is there a chance that these constitutional questions could be resolved before September?

Or is this delay intentional, to allow for a cooling-off period after all the drama? Perhaps the timeline of six months for the Supreme Court is in keeping with SACS’ plans for training the new board and then re-setting the clock for DCSS to six months from now?

Concernedmom30329

March 19th, 2013
11:37 am

Another juicy item from the agenda are the policy changes that Orson and McMahon are pushing through. One is good, school council involvement in principal selection.

Two are worrisome. Something just doesn’t feel right about these changes, especially because they are so vague.

Rationale

The structure Board meetings in order to be more efficient and clearer in purpose.

Quick Summary / Abstract
Presented by: Mr. Marshall D. Orson, Board Representative, District #2

Details
The modification if adopted would:

1. Establish the first Monday of each month for Business Meetings
2. Clarify that the first meeting of the year in January is used to organize the Board
3. Clarify the purpose of Work Sessions
4. Creates a Community Meeting for the purpose of receiving public comments

Financial Impact
None

Requested Action
It is requested that the Board of Education modify Board Policy BC.

To clarify and expand public comment opportunities.

Quick Summary / Abstract
Presented by: Mr. James L. ‘Jim’ McMahan, Vice Chair and Board Representative, District #4

Details
The modification if adopted would:

1. Establish a meeting for public comments
2. Allow the Board to provide for public comments during Committee of the Whole meetings

Financial Impact
None

Requested Action
It is requested that the Board of Education modify Board Policy BCBI.

OriginalProf

March 19th, 2013
11:43 am

@ Concernedmom30329, March 18th, 9:54 pm [on my suggestion that the NAACP might pay the legal expenses here]: “The DeKalb NAACP apparently has only a couple of hundred members and dues are only 30 dollars a year. Not sure how deep those pockets are — maybe the state?”

The DeKalb branch is part of the national organization, that does have pretty deep pockets, I assume. Not only is Sarah Copelin-Wood on the Executive Committee of the DeKalb NAACP branch, but so is Zepora Roberts of past DeKalb BOE renown. In these political times, the Supreme Court is deciding whether to abandon the Voting Rights Act; the Georgia state legislature is in the process of legally crippling Fulton County that is heavily minority and pro-Democratic; and the heavily white, pro-Republican cities of North DeKalb are threatening to break away from the county, taking their tax base and revenues with them.

I think that the national NAACP might get involved in this one.

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
12:00 pm

I think that the national NAACP might get involved in this one.

Good. Then someone can ask the NAACP why DeKalb County is 55% black and got 5/6 of the appointed school board members to be black, which is 83%, which is a 28% advantage in representation over the actual demographic, and how they have managed to elbow out representation of every other race in the county that is not “historic black/white.”

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
12:10 pm

Oh I forgot, Atlanta metropolitan area is “black Mecca (may Allah be praised)” where the Atlanta Public Schools meeting room has portraits of only black people and the superintendent can, with total impunity, kick white Buckhead principal’s butt down the street like playing kick the can. Of course, this sets a nice “leadership” example for every other blackness school district in the state to open up the power spigot on indulging themselves ala Georgia land grant Royalty, which has not been turned to Georgia political-grant Royalty, where the mode of the day is to be out of touch, and out to lunch, and drunk on yourself, take it to the bank for as long as possible in the new Werk It Like Rich Simmons Infomercial – Georgia™.

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
12:14 pm

It could be blackness, it could be white dentine, it could be county, just be sure and get that power and get that paycheck hire mommy and daddy and Larry and Ruth and wind it around your finger and wear a nice suit and read the lines out of the comic book. And if you’re anyone else, for God’s sake, move, because these people will take everything you’ve got and come back for more.

OriginalProf

March 19th, 2013
12:32 pm

@ Private Citizen. I don’t much want to get entangled with this Tarbaby, but will just point out that all of the power-plays by black politicians since the 1990s which you note were also performed by white politicians here before them, and then some. I know, I know–as my dear Mother said: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” But still, it might help to explain if not excuse.

Private Citizen

March 19th, 2013
12:33 pm

And go to the state DOE to download Real Player to access any meeting information. Whose cousin came up with that idea as “service” to the people of Georgia? What, is this a practical joke or something?

Georgia™ – We Don’t Care – Because We Don’t Have To! Because We Were Here First and You Were Dumb Enough to Believe the Marketing and Move Here! (with apology to Cherokee Indians)