The DeKalb County Board of Education held its first meeting Wednesday with a new line-up.
This included, of course, the six chosen by Gov. Nathan Deal in a controversial move that drew a lawsuit from suspended members.
The most significant action taken Wednesday was a motion for the district to remove itself as a plaintiff from that lawsuit, thus saving taxpayers a considerable sum in legal fees. It passed 9-0 and was introduced by Marshall Orson (District 2 - Brookhaven).
Orson, who was elected last year and began his term in January, said in his opening remarks, "My only criticism is that the three of us can longer call ourselves the new guys." He was referring to Jim McMahan (District 4 - Tucker, North Druid Hills, Lakeside) and new chairman Melvin Johnson (District 6 - Stone Mountain). The previous chair, Eugene Walker, remains a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
"We need to charge a new course," Orson said, "and have the optimism to be successful, ensuring that every child gets a good education."
Vice chair McMahan welcomed the new board members and thanked them for “being part of the solution for improving our school system.” Johnson added, "we'll be making every effort to be as efficient as we can."
All members asked plenty of hard questions during the course of the meeting on topics of finance, fleet maintenance, portable classrooms, obsolete equipment and buildings, and moving services. John Coleman (District 1 - Dunwoody) was particulary interested in the budget, and asked the school system's Chief Financial Officer Michael Perrone to "highlight areas that are problematic."
Realizing that could take quite a while, Coleman conceded that Perrone could provide "a brief answer."
Karen Carter, who lives in Lakeside and represents Super District 8, pressed Chief Operations Officer Stephen Wilkins on getting accurate feedback from school staff when deciding on replacing technology. "How do you know satisfaction?" she asked. "When do you know how to bid?" Joyce Morley (District 7 - Stone Mountain) agreed, saying, "it is imperative to ask their opinions so that (we) can make informed decisions."
"We just have to go back to square one on many, many decisions that were made,” said Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “It is hard for any program to succeed if the people charged with teaching and implementing are not supportive of it.”
Also present at the meeting were members of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the county's CEO Burrell Ellis.
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