The DeKalb County school board has been summoned to appear before the Georgia Board of Education to explain why it faces losing its accreditation due to governance issues.
The hearing will take place Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. Members of the DeKalb County school board are expected to explain to the state school board why it shouldn’t recommend replace them Gov. Nathan Deal.
Accrediting agency AdvancED recently placed the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) on accreditation probation and stated that if it didn’t make substantial progress on addressing a list of issues, it would lose its accreditation within the year.
“It will be up to DeKalb to provide as to why they should not be recommended for suspension,” said Justin Pauly, liaison to the State Board of Education. “Keep in mind this is only a recommendation to the governor on whether or not to suspend; he has the authority from there.”
Last year, Deal signed SB79, a bill authorizing the governor to remove members of local school boards if the district has not retained full accreditation status within a certain period of time.
Section 3 of the bill, related to the removal of local school boards, states:
“If a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation [probation] immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies…the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than  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.”
Additionally, the law states that if the state board chooses to make such a recommendation, the governor is able to suspend all board members with pay and appoint temporary replacement members.
Although individual DCSD board members can appeal Deal’s decision, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Education said Deal cannot choose to suspend some board members and keep others.
“The law is all or none,” said Dorie Nolt, GDOE assistant director of communications. “The governor must either remove the entire board or keep the entire board.”
If Deal decides to suspend the DCSD Board of Education it would mark the second time since the law has been in effect that he has chosen such a measure. The first local board Deal suspended was the Miller County school board.
Nolt said SB79 was developed in part, because of the Clayton County School System losing its accreditation in 2008.
“We’ve had a half dozen hearings in front of the board and all of the other boards have worked out a consent agreement with the state board,” Nolt said.
Any school district affected by the law is required to come before the state board no later than 30 days after being placed on probation, which Nolt said isn’t a very long time to address the issues AdvancED has raised.
“A lot of times the state board has felt it important to give the school boards that they are talking to time to work on what was recommended,” Nolt said. “They typically can delay a recommendation to the governor for a few months.”