.

Important Update on the DeKalb Board of Education

Rep. Holcomb's Update on the DeKalb County Board of Education

The crisis in our county school system is the single most important issue facing our community.  I want to update you on what’s happened so far, and be sure we all understand the decisions that will be taking place in the next few weeks.  This is an issue that affects us all, whether you have children in the school system or not.

Background:
On December 17, 2012, the DeKalb County School District was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  This was a consequence of the findings in a report prepared by a Special Review Team.  A copy of the report, which is worth reading, can be found by clicking here.  


The review was conducted because of formal complaints made against the school district.  The school district was placed on “Advisement” status in January, 2011, following a special review that followed complaints.  There were two subsequent reviews, in October, 2011, and March, 2012.  The final review, which resulted in probationary status, was conducted from October 17-19, 2012. 


What did SACS find?
The findings are damning.  The report describes numerous areas in which the DeKalb County Board of Education, both collectively and by the actions of individual members, has been failing in its responsibilities.  SACS found numerous occasions where Board members have behaved unprofessionally, unethically and beyond the scope of their authority.  Despite extensive training in how a competent and professional Board must operate, SACS reports that Board members have persistently acted as advocates for “their own” schools rather than as stewards for the system as a whole, interfered in day-to-day school operations,  and engaged in harassment and intimidation of district employees. The report found not only that these violations are taking place, but that they are having serious consequences for the effectiveness of our schools. The report found evidence of declining academic achievement.


The length of the probationary period is one year, during which the governance of the district must improve across the areas cited.  Otherwise the district will lose accreditation.  


What does this mean?  
To be blunt, it is not good.  If the district were to lose accreditation, students attending district high schools would be ineligible for the HOPE scholarship and would likely be compromised in other ways in applying to the colleges of their choice. In addition, there is a real concern that some residents may move away from DeKalb and prospective residents may settle elsewhere.


In most cases (90% according to Mark Elgart, CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization of SACS) a district on probation is able to regain accreditation at the end of the one year period.  As encouraging as that statistic may be, it does not lessen the seriousness of this situation.  It is critical that meaningful changes are made in the management and oversight of DeKalb County schools. 


What happens next and what can you do?
The State Board of Education has called a meeting for January 17, 2013 at 1 PM pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73.  This statute, which is pasted in its entirety below, spells out the procedures that will be followed and possible remedies.


The hearing will be open to the public and it will be in Room 2070 on the 20th Floor of the East Tower Sloppy Floyd Building. The public is invited to attend but there will not be an opportunity for public comment at the hearing.  If you would like to provide a statement for the State Board to consider, you can email it to either Justin Pauly at jpauly@gadoe.org or Brenda Turner at brturner@doe.k12.ga.us.  

At the hearing, the State Board members will hear evidence as to whether the State Board should recommend to the Governor that he suspend the DeKalb School Board.  After the hearing, the State Board will make its recommendation to Governor Deal.  Governor Deal then has the discretion to accept or reject the Board’s recommendation.  If the Governor chooses to suspend the Board, by law every member of the Board would have to be relieved of responsibility.  The Governor would have the power to appoint new Board members. 

Conclusion
My impression is that the State Board’s recommendation will be highly persuasive to the Governor. As a result, the hearing on January 17th will be extremely important.  I believe that the State Board of Education and the Governor should take whatever action they determine is necessary in order to rectify this critical situation.  Their sole priority must be competent school governance.  Along with other members of the DeKalb delegation, I will do everything in my power to see that the situation is properly addressed.  The bottom line is that I am concerned that those who caused this situation may not be able to fix it. 


If Board members are suspended and ultimately removed, then the replacements must be credible, competent, and capable of fixing the issues and moving our county forward.  


I would very much like to hear your views on this serious matter and you can email me at scott@repscottholcomb.com. I also encourage you to make your views known to the State Board of Education.  They need to hear what you think.

GEORGIA CODE (available at http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/)
Copyright 2012 by The State of Georgia All rights reserved.***

Current Through the 2012 Regular Session ***

TITLE 20.  EDUCATION  CHAPTER 2.  ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION  ARTICLE 3.  LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATIONO.C.G.A. § 20-2-73  (2012)§ 20-2-73.  

Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances 
   (a) (1) Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.   (2) Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school has been placed on, as of April 20, 2011, the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519 and does not reattain full accreditation status by July 1, 2011, the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days nor more than 30 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all members of the local board of education with pay. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board.

(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.HISTORY: Code 1981, § 20-2-73, enacted by Ga. L. 2010, p. 452, § 8/SB 84; Ga. L. 2011, p. 1, § 12/HB 326; Ga. L. 2011, p. 26, § 3/SB 79; Ga. L. 2011, p. 752, § 20/HB 142.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Shawn Keefe January 09, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Scott: As a father of 2 Ashford Park School students, with 2 younger ones to come, my family has a long way to go in DeKalb County schools. The challenges ahead are ones that we need to fight together -- parents, legislators, and the residents and shareholders of our respective communities and DeKalb as a whole. Our children have been ignored too long and have been taken advantage of by selfish and incompetent leadership. Leaders we elected to serve us who have turned around and failed us. The time for action and change is now. No more excuses and no more passive ideas. All options need to be on the table. This parent is ready for the fight that looms before us. I hope you are as well.
I C Hope@hope.com January 10, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Rep. Holcomb: I have been a DeKalb resident since 1976 and do not have any kids in DeKalb Schools. I agree with your assessments above. My concerns are that both SACS and the School Board itself are the problem. I assume you are familiar with Ms. Nancy Jester's blog: http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/ Ms. Jester suggests that SACS is not effective at rooting out the causes of DCCS problems like nepotism, gross accounting inconsistencies (or fraud), and cover-ups. I concur with a neighbor who suggests that having ordinary citizens elected to manage a $780MM budget is an unrealistic expectation. In essence, much smaller Districts would be more effective. Here's one idea: http://dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com/2012/12/keep-dekalb-school-board.html This problem must be resolved by the State, our DeKalb political institutions are too strong to make the changes needed. We cleaned up Grady, we can clean up DCCS.
Betsy Parks January 11, 2013 at 05:44 PM
There is enough blame to go around for just about everyone in this mess. Lets keep our eye on the prize please, our kids. I am hoping the GABOE removes DeKalb BOE and the new BOE replaces the superintendent and every incompetent educrat sucking the life out of our school system. When Miller County BOE was replaced that was what they did. I am also hoping that enough light has been shone on DCSS that voters will NEVER do this again. If you agree please Sign and Share our petition! http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board Is Nancy Jester a whistleblower? Probably but "Any suspended board member may petition the Governor for reinstatement as provided in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73." She or any other member who thinks they have a case should appeal to the Governor.
WeDeserveMoreFromDeKalb January 12, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Ms. Parks, The idea of 'hoping' that a new Board will be better than the old Board hardly serves our children or our offers any relief to our school tax emptied wallets. At issue is that the DCCS tax property owners for their revenue. So, if you have kids and no property, you pay proportionately less tax than a homeowner. Whom do you suppose is more likely to vote for down ballot school board races, homeowners or others? We can add all the noise we want to this picture; haves/have-nots, North/South, race, etc. but in the end, just sweeping out the Board MAY not resolve the problem. We need to think outside the box on this and smaller Districts, more local Districts make sense. It is harder to hide malfeasance, possible RICO violations, corruption, nepotism, fraud, accounting irregularities in a smaller District. My opinion, I respect yours, as well. Oh, one last thing, 'for the children,' is often over used as code words and I do not like that at all. It is about everyone, our society depends on educated, law abiding citizens to thrive.
Betsy Parks January 12, 2013 at 09:07 PM
WeDeserveMoreFromDeKalb, I do not have a crystal ball and live by "hope is NOT a method" but don't see how hoping our hard work and difficult choices bears fruit for our kids and community is a problem... To allow this board to remain in power is STUCK ON STUPID! Doing nothing WILL NOT make most things better or resolve most problems. When Governor Deal replaces the board he will be forced to select qualified people. Perhaps Nancy Jester will be able to IMPLEMENT her Portfolio District Plan but not if we are still "Developing our collective mind" for the next year. http://crossroadsnews.com/bookmark/21387255 Again, I have no crystal ball but I hope they are able to make changes and shine a light for North, South, have, have not, black, white and hopefully will be able to see the light of day. I am not sure how I feel about a smaller district but that clearly is not an option at this point and removing the board is a reality NOW. My opinion, I respect yours as well. I was just invited to a community meeting in the Southern part of our county. Please consider attending and DO SOMETHING! I refuse to be stuck on stupid. http://www.facebook.com/events/147147418771624/
WeDeserveMoreFromDeKalb January 13, 2013 at 10:03 AM
Ms. Parks, We agree that something must be done. Doing nothing is not an option, I am not sure how you erroneously derived that from my post... Clayton had a partial Board removal, and I foresee that happening in DeKalb. I also agree that changing Board members is what is 'on the table,' but I would not be too sure that: "I am not sure how I feel about a smaller district but that clearly is not an option at this point and removing the board is a reality NOW." will remain true for long. The General Assembly may make changes that would 'unrig' the current DCCS. Take a look at what Ms. Jester proposes and remember, that Board member Pam Speaks has supported Nancy's analyses in the past, as did former member Don McChesney. Informed people getting involved is critical to meaningful change, so we agree on that as well. http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/01/12/change-the-game/
WeDeserveMoreFromDeKalb January 13, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Here is the action item that individuals may take to effect meaningful DCCS systemic change, per Ms. Jester: "Please request that the State Board and Governor decree that DCSD must take immediate steps to begin converting our district into a Portfolio District. Ask them to study the Texas model for accreditation. If you agree with my approach, let them know. Let’s use this opportunity to take back our schools, empower parents and give every child in DeKalb the education they deserve. " http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/01/12/change-the-game/
GovernorScrutiny January 13, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Action item that individuals may take to effect meaningful DCCS systemic change. The potential for DeKalb County School Board changes are too important to be buried under highly technical weather analyses, with all respect to the lovers of meteorology.
Betsy Parks January 13, 2013 at 05:50 PM
WeDeserveMoreFromDekalb, If Nancy, Pam, Don or anyone on the BOE is spending time trying to correct the mistakes of SACS or the failings of Georgia they should first first take the log out of their your own eye, and then they will see clearly to take the speck out of their brother's eye. Its really not their job either. I have read the report, have followed her blogs and can't imagine that she WITH rest of DKBOE can solve the problems that face our community EVER. She has laid out a great way ahead if she can get consensus, but she simply was not successful. I find it sad that she is Monday morning quarterbacking and blaming the failures on everyone but the board who was responsible for hiring and firing of the administrators. Its really not her job to challenge or change SACS,perhaps she should petition Governor Deal if she thinks she can be a successful BOE member after removal.
Betsy Parks January 13, 2013 at 05:51 PM
If she thinks the Texas model is the way GA needs to go there is a this video from my childhood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyeJ55o3El0 Have you ever watched a football game where the coach blames his loss or failures on the referee or the rules being flawed. Its hard to watch too. If the rules need changing get out of the game/BOE and lobby for change. You can't do it as a complaining coach or Monday morning BOE member blogging how/what GABOE or Gov Deal should do. Don't be surprised if Nancy is thrown out of the game because she was not an effective BOE member. Yelling about the rules, the other team or the refs is stuck on stupid-we have been there too long. Perhaps its not her calling or time. I like Nancy and her ideas but she and the rest of the school board have been ineffective and need to be removed.
GovernorScrutiny January 13, 2013 at 07:00 PM
We'll soon see, I tend to agree that the changes needed will not come as the institutions involved are too entrenched.
GovernorScrutiny January 13, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Thing is, Kim Gocke, many others are saying exactly what Ms. Jester is saying, she'd been pretty effective so far, BTW. I mean SACs did use her analysis for the basis of their report.
GovernorScrutiny January 13, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Betsy Parks: Are you the same person that made this comment on Ms. jester's blog? "Betsy Parks says on January 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm I particularly like your comment, “if the board cannot agree to a drastically new approach to the delivery of education and governance of our district, the board should be removed.” Nancy please come share your GREAT ideas to our fellow citizens." http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/01/12/change-the-game/#comments Your point of view here seems to contradict??? What's up with that?
Betsy Parks January 13, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Yes, that is me. This is a petition I organized too. http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board I do agree and like her comment. But, and this is a big one-Nancy could not and the DK BOE did not succeed. They have failed- she has documented it for us and SACS. Is she a failure? Nope. Does she have GREAT ideas? Yes. BUT no one wins when we don't do our job and then blame others- including SACS. They have failed and its time they were removed. I don't think NJ is doing her job as a BOE member attacking GA and SACS. It is my opinion she can be more effective petitioning the Gov Deal, if reinstated focusing on DeKalb not GABOE or SACS. If she feels that is utterly hopeless and the game is rigged then change the rules but not while she is a DK BOE member. Again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyeJ55o3El0

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »