Monday's news that the DeKalb County school system was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools did not come as a surprise to some Brookhaven and Chamblee parents.
"As I'm known to say around Ashford Park: the stronger our schools, the stronger our community, and vice versa," said Shawn Keefe, co-president of the Ashford Park School Foundation. "Families will start moving out of our neighborhoods and new families will not move in if our school system continues to be weak."
Chamblee City Councilman Tom Hogan hopes the board realizes the seriousness of its situation.
"People will start moving out of our communities to Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett if the board doesn't address these issues," he said."I'm encouraged that (board chairman) Dr. Eugene Walker said that these issues are manageable, but it'd be refreshing to not only see an action plan to not only address the immediate problems, but also set a path for the future."
"The news of probation from SACS is 10 years late but welcome nonetheless," said Kim Gokce, chairman of the Cross Keys Foundation. "Thank goodness the classrooms are NOT run by the Board of Education and the schools will continue to educate children."
"There is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” said SACS Chairman Dr. Mark Elgart. "This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system."
Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson's office responded by saying she has co-operated with SACS investigators and more than 300 central office jobs have been eliminated. "We not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought," said Atkinson.
The district has until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with several issues that SACS identified.
"All of DeKalb has suffered under the poor governance of the Board of Education but in a highly political and corrupt system those at the bottom suffer the most," Gokce said. "With no influence from wealth or political clout, the communities served by Cross Keys schools are completely at the mercy of the system shenanigans and have not been served well by the Board of Education."
"Today's news is upsetting but not surprising," said Keefe. "It is time for the board and DeKalb school leadership to be held accountable for their failures over the past 10+ years.
"We have less than 12 months to start implementing and delivering on these changes to avoid further action which would be devestating to the communities we live in. The children and taxpayers of DeKalb County deserve better from the people we have elected to serve and lead us."
"In my opinion, state stewardship and a ground-up re-constitution of DeKalb Schools will be required to root out the corruption and mis-management that afflicts the system," Gokce said. "Meanwhile, the students and teachers continue their journey towards an education.
"Shame on the board. They tried to manage everything else except what they are sworn to manage."
SACS is requiring the system to:
1. Devise and implement a written, comprehensive plan for unifying the DeKalb County Board of Education so that the focus can become serving the needs of the children of the DeKalb County School District.
2. Ensure that all actions and decisions of the DeKalb County Board of Education are reflective of the collective Board and consistent with approved policies and procedures and all applicable laws, regulations and standards, rather than individual board members acting independently and undermining the authority of the Superintendent to lead and manage day-to-day operations.
3. Establish and implement policies and procedures that ensure segregation of duties of the governing board and that of the administration including the elimination of Board working committees that result in board members assuming administrative functions that should be the responsibility of appropriate staff.
4. Implement and adhere to fiscally responsible policies and practices that ensure the DeKalb County Board of Education will adopt and ensure proper implementation of budgets within the financial means of the school system and that support the delivery of an educational program that meets the needs of the students.