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Thoughts on Yesterday's State Board of Education Hearing

Update on State BoE Hearing of the DeKalb BoE

Yesterday afternoon, the State Board of Education (“BoE”) conducted a hearing to determine whether they should recommend to the Governor that he suspend the members of the DeKalb Board of Education.  I attended the full hearing and listened to all of the testimony and the questions.  I found the State BoE to be very well informed.  They asked tough and important questions and required accountability from each of the members of the DeKalb BoE.   

After hearing testimony from all of the members of the DeKalb BoE, the State BoE deferred making an immediate recommendation.  Instead, they entered into a Consent Order and Agreement (“Consent Order”) that requires that this hearing will continue on February 21, 2013 at 1 PM.  

What does this mean? 

The State BoE gave the DeKalb BoE a little over a month to demonstrate they are making progress in addressing the issues raised in the SACS report

It is impossible to say what action the State BoE will take after the next hearing. My impression is that, if the DeKalb BoE shows little to no progress, then the State BoE will vote to recommend suspension. If the DeKalb BoE shows progress, then the State BoE may give them more time and continue to monitor through a Consent Order that describes specific actions within prescribed timeframes. 

I will continue to monitor these proceedings and provide updates.  In my opinion, this is the most important issue now facing DeKalb County.  I am committed to keeping you informed and doing my part to be sure that public officials do the right thing for our children and the welfare of our community. 

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.

Kim Gokce January 19, 2013 at 02:30 AM
Representative Holcomb: Thank you for staying focus on what I agree is the most challenging issue for DeKalb residents. Working under the Consent Order is an escalation from working under SACS supervision and failing repeatedly. The fact that the Probation issued by SACS specifically called out the current Board's pathology of complying only when under supervision is the number one problem with continuing to allow them to operate. They are shrewd survivors and will manage to demonstrate progress and compliance in some way to avoid suspension if at all possible. Every month the consent order is renewed is a step closely to enshrining the status quo for another decade or more. Please do not be bamboozled by them the way the DeKalb community was for so many years past. Suspension, State appointees, and a restructuring of the DeKalb County School District is in the best interest of our future as a community.
HamBurger January 19, 2013 at 03:26 AM
I have been waiting for you to say this for some time. Thank you! Few with vested time are interested in continuing to support such a dysfunctional BOE. Indeed, the BOE on a wholesale basis needs to be replaced and everyone existing needs to reapply if they want to be reconsidered. Additionally, those appointed or selected to continue in their BOE positions should be in place and monitored (and replaced if necessary) until such time DCSS is functioning properly. No elections by the citizens until the DCSS is turned around and functioning in an acceptable manner. Let the citizenry observe what competent (and monitored BOE) can accomplish before they are allowed to vote for their new BOE! Special hamburger and a Cheerwine?
Sally January 19, 2013 at 02:40 PM
I couldn't agree more. Will they continue to be monitored after the suspension is lifted? Because otherwise, it will be back to the same behavior that got us here to begin with. We need a new beginning on the Dekalb Board of Ed. Immediately. I will be disappointed in the state board if they don't recommend a fresh start for Dekalb County Schools.
H.A. Hurley January 19, 2013 at 02:53 PM
The DC BOE is so dysfunctional, and two fell asleep in such an important meeting. They need to resign today. Such crap needs to stop. Remedial BOE is unheard of. Tired of remediation, training, second chances, supervising, shaming, outing, convincing, training...They are making DCS look like a remedial ed. program. Where are the educated, gifted, knowledgable, and ethical people? How much more time? How much more $$? Hey, remember it is ALL about kids and teachers! Remember? It's hard to remember with all the disgusting clutter by the DC BOE & Superintendent. Resignation of snoozing BOE members, TODAY! Out!
David Claude Warlick January 19, 2013 at 05:16 PM
No one is sleeping in the two photographs. In one, all Board members are either taking notes or looking directly at the speaker. In the other, new-member Marshall is speaking.
David George January 19, 2013 at 06:19 PM
The guy to Marshall Orson's left ---- the guy with his finger in his eye. He COULD be sleeping.
Tom Doolittle January 19, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Perfect opportunity to introduce you to the authority on all things wrong with DCSS. http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/ Note the videos--quite revealing..and indeed there are screen shots of snoozing. These guys are under a lot of stress. That induces drowziness. But really, on school stuff, this website needs a monitor of the DeKalb School Watch blog. Could be helpful for mass mobilization.
DekalbSchoolWatch2 January 19, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Spot on Kim!! [as usual]... and thanks Tom - for the link. It's true, readers, both Gene Walker (board chair!) and Sarah Copelin-Wood were caught sleeping. One witness in the row behind them said Sarah was even snoring! View them here - along with the video of the entire hearing (shot and posted by The Unhappy Voter and Taxpayer) http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/so-long-farewell-auf-wiedersehen-goodbye/
Bob Peppel January 20, 2013 at 01:09 AM
We'd probably be a lot better off if they slept at home and missed the meetings altogether.
Sally January 20, 2013 at 02:55 PM
I don't see any note taking there. Definately looks like sleeping to me. Oh wait. Maybe they are examining their navels.
Jack of Kings January 20, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Looks like being in the City of Brookhaven vs.Unincorporated Dekalb may have been a good move. ------------------- Image troubles mount for DeKalb Corruption investigations, school woes tarnish reputation. Damage could take years to undo. By Bill Torpy The Wisconsin man relocating to Georgia hasn’t yet stepped foot in the state, but he already knows one thing: Stay away from DeKalb County. Ryan Ward, a Realtor who specializes in the north metro area, said his client wants to buy a $1 million home and the north DeKalb city of Dunwoody was the perfect location. But after hearing that DeKalb’s school system is under probation from an accrediting agency, the potential buyer got cold feet, Ward said. Now he’s looking in north Fulton County. “We eliminated DeKalb County from the search,” said Ward, who added that another client stopped looking in Dunwoody for the same reason and is closing soon on a home in Johns Creek. “The uncertainty itself will keep people from buying homes in that area. It’s tainted. It’s hard to unring that bell.” and so on.... http://www.ajc.com/news/news/image-troubles-mount-for-dekalb/nT25D/
Eddie E. January 20, 2013 at 05:36 PM
yawn,,,
HamBurger January 20, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Mr. Phil, as evidenced by your excerpts from the AJC article, these potential home purchasers recognize that Dunwoody is still in DeKalb County; a county with continuing government and school issues. Wisely, they want no part of this. Creating a new city has done nothing but add more government and actually may complicate life in this area for its citizens and businesses while doing nothing to correct what you thought you were running from. I still wonder how much of a difference our county government and schools could have been changed if four years ago we had competent state elected officials concentrating on making changes to our existing government and schools instead of divisively insisting on creating a new city. But, console yourself, the circus is in town. In Georgia we call it the Georgia General Assembly! Hey! Anyone want a pre-game special hamburger and a Cheerwine?
Enuff Govt Already January 20, 2013 at 06:30 PM
@H'burger...Pictures from the wild hog supper showed the politicians with huge smiles admiring their free trough of food. It was a great visual metaphor; IMHO.
Tom Doolittle January 21, 2013 at 01:09 AM
On the subject of pigs at troughs, did anyone see the report on TV about the food bills for the Fulton County Development Authority. How did those 80 year-old holdovers from the '60s keep their power? Man--there must be a story to that!
Brookhaven4u January 21, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Phil, so when will the new city of Brookhaven fix DeKalb BOE?
Sally January 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM
The article also indicated that work is being done to change state law so that Dunwoody & Brookhaven and any other city, could form their own school system. That would definately be a good thing.
Sally January 21, 2013 at 12:39 PM
This is the headline on the email I got from Patch this morning concerning this post by Rep Holcombe "State Rep. Scott Holcomb blogged after last week's controversial state board of education meeting with our own DeKalb school board." LOL. Really? The State Board of Education meeting was controversial? Really? Interesting perspective.
DeKalb Inside Out January 21, 2013 at 07:17 PM
I would like to respectfully disagree. I found the State BOE to be ill prepared. The questions were cursory at best.
Sally January 21, 2013 at 11:39 PM
And yet, Eugene Walker couldn't even accurately answer the most basic question.
Jonathan Cribbs January 22, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Admittedly, probably not the best word to use, Sally. I wouldn't read into it. Just an awkward choice of adjective made late at night. (I'm my own editor unfortunately.)
Eddie E. January 22, 2013 at 04:12 AM
But, but, but, the State BOE has the full faith and credit of SACS. That and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee.
Cheryl Miller January 22, 2013 at 10:59 AM
The photo shows the State BOE, not the DeKalb BOE. The DeKalb members were in the audience or called to the podium by their attorney to state their name, who they represent, apologize and vow to do better. Most could not even get that right.
Cheryl Miller January 22, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Don't count the state BOE out just yet. For one, this is not a trial. These folks are complying with the new state law that allows for them to intervene in specific cases involving potential loss of accreditation. They do not really have any jurisdiction to consider the mountain of evidence that likely exists out there about all the wrongs that have been committed. They are simply tasked with making a recommendation to the Governor about whether or not the DeKalb board should be suspended. At the beginning of the proceedings, both attorneys announced that they had reached an agreement that they both were okay with. It was a consent order that would allow the DeKalb Board three more months to comply with the 11 items listed in the SACS report as needing to improve to save the accreditation by Dec. 31. The statements made by the board members were only intended to show their agreement to go along with the consent order they were submitting collectively through the Sutherland, Asbill attorney. The questions by the state BOE were likely limited to just the issue being presented - the board members and their request for the order to be accepted. The state BOE has a LOT more information than what they indicated. Their recommendation does not have to reveal how they came to that conclusion. And, the delay to Feb. 21 will ensure due process to head off the possibility of an appeal.
Sally January 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM
I wish I didn't read into it. Unfortunately, that slip of the pen may influence how others view this situation. That's all I'm saying.
Sally January 22, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Oh yes, it's all the fault of SACS. They are picking on those poor Dekalb County School Board members. It's just incredible. They have all the local school boards all over the country they could single out. But they chose the Dekalb County school board.
Sally January 22, 2013 at 01:05 PM
OK, I'm confused. They have already given them 3 months!?!? Even before the hearings started??? If that is true this is the first I've heard it. Not saying that would be surprising but it hasn't been covered in the news outlets I catch. But, that would shine a light on the situation even more. Maybe that's why Eugene Walker slept through the meeting. Maybe that's why he couldn't answer a basic question about who he represents on the school board. Why does he need to worry about that now, he will have another chance to come up with reasonable answers and to pay attention to what's going on. Which just shows the calibre of these people and proves the point that if they are left there, once the spotlight is off of them they will simply return to their old tricks.
HamBurger January 22, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Ms. Sally, or, maybe SACS should have given DCSS an intervention years ago? SACS is just an approved moneymaker for Mr. Mark, nothing more. Regardless, this mess will detract from our area for years to come unless effective corrective measures are taken immediately. And by immediately, I mean the three month mark at the latest. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Sally January 22, 2013 at 01:19 PM
I believe SACS has given them warning in the past. Years ago? Not sure what you mean by that. Hasn't been that long ago that Dekalb County schools were the best in the state. The recent administration has been expert at one thing... shredding a great reputation that was decades old in short order. SACS may not be perfect. It's human run, so of course it's not. But it is what we have. And it works for every other school system across this country. To attack them as the problem makes me wonder if you aren't Eugene Walker posting under an assumed name.
Cheryl Miller January 23, 2013 at 08:13 AM
No, sorry. I should have clarified. They went into it asking for three months. At the end of their presentations (which was just a parade of each DeKalb board member saying his/her promise to try harder, essentially) the state BOE determined that they were not ready to vote. There was a concern raised at the beginning by the DeKalb BOE attorney that he was new to the case AND they received the SACS packet over the winter holidays so there had not been adequate time to prepare. The state BOE decided (very calmly and professionally) to extend the hearing into their next meeting, Feb. 21. There was mention of "due process" which sounds like they are anticipating a recommendation for suspension. Rather than writing up a new order, they agreed to the "consent order" that had been provided at the beginning but changed the time from from 90 to 30 days. They left in the portion that says they should be making improvement from now until then, so they will likely be asked to summarize the actions they have taken relative to the 11 steps mentioned on the SACS report.

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