Yesterday, I attended most of the State Board of Education ("SBOE") hearing on the DeKalb Board of Education ("DBOE"). The hearing lasted fourteen hours and testimony was heard from SACS, Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond, and members of the DBOE.
At the outset, the SBOE announced that it was not going to suspend the three newly elected DBOE members: Dr. Melvin Johnson, Jim McMahan, and Marshall Orson.
At the end of all of the testimony, the SBOE unanimously voted to recommend that the Governor suspend the other six members of the Board.
What happens now?
The Governor will make a decision regarding the SBOE's recommendation. My prediction is that he will accept the recommendation and suspend the six DBOE members.
Governor Deal will meet with the members of the DeKalb legislative delegation on Monday morning. After that, it is expected that he will make an announcement as to his decision.
If DBOE members are suspended each would have the right to apply for reinstatement. If that occurs, suspended DBOE members would be granted a hearing to determine if their reinstatement would help or hurt the efforts on accreditation. If a member does not request reinstatement or does not prevail at his or her reinstatement hearing, the suspension will become a permanent removal. The full statute with the timeframes and procedures is pasted below.
What about the Board's lawsuit?
As many of you know, the Board attempted to stop yesterday's hearing from taking place. It is possible that the Board, or individual members of the Board, could continue litigating the constitutionality of the removal statute. Without making any judgment on the legal merits, my view is that continued litigation is not in the best interest of the students or the County. There is much work to do to restore full accreditation and we need to focus on that, not another lawsuit.
Here is the applicable law from the Georgia Code:
O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73
TITLE 20. EDUCATION
CHAPTER 2. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
ARTICLE 3. LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION
O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73 (2012)
§ 20-2-73. Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances
(b) Any local board of education member suspended under this Code section may petition the Governor for reinstatement no earlier than 30 days following suspension and no later than 60 days following suspension. In the event that a suspended member does not petition for reinstatement within the allotted time period, his or her suspension shall be converted into permanent removal, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member.
(c) Upon petition for reinstatement by a suspended local board of education member, the Governor or his or her designated agent shall conduct a hearing for the purpose of receiving evidence relative to whether the local board of education member's continued service on the local board of education is more likely than not to improve the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation. The appealing member shall be given at least 30 days' notice prior to such hearing. Such hearing shall be held not later than 90 days after the petition is filed and in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50, the "Georgia Administrative Procedure Act," except that the individual conducting the hearing shall have the power to call witnesses and request documents on his or her own initiative. For purposes of said chapter and any hearing conducted pursuant to this Code section, the Governor shall be considered the agency, and the Attorney General or his or her designee shall represent the interests of the Governor in the hearing. If it is determined that it is more likely than not that the local board of education member's continued service on the local board of education improves the ability of the local school system or school to retain or reattain its accreditation, the member shall be immediately reinstated; otherwise, the member shall be permanently removed, and the temporary replacement member shall become a permanent member and serve out the remainder of the term of the removed member or until the next general election which is at least six months after the member was permanently removed, whichever is sooner. Judicial review of any such decision shall be in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50.
(d) Paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall apply to a local school system or school which is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation on or after April 20, 2011.
(e) This Code section shall apply to all local board of education members, regardless of when they were elected or appointed.
I will continue to keep you updated as this progresses.