A group of DeKalb County parents have been circulating a petition asking Gov. Nathan Deal to remove DeKalb County School Board members if the findings of a recent report from accrediting agency AdvancED are accurate.
The petition, which has gained nearly 500 supporters since it was posted on www.change.org, asks Deal to review the findings of AdvancEDâs investigation of the district and determine whether the board is competent to resolve the DeKalb County School Districtâs (DCSD) issues
Recently, DCSD was placed on âAccreditation Probationâ by AdvancED, which said that if the district doesnât make significant progress on a list of action items it will lose its accreditation.
Betsy Parks, who authored the letter, said she doesnât think the board will be able to comply with AdvancEDâs action items, which include developing a plan to unify the nine-member school board, adhering to fiscally responsible practices, performing an internal audit on available technology and strengthening and bolstering its communication channels.
âI think itâs doomed unless thereâs something radically changed,â Parks said of the board.
Parks said the board is dysfunctional and doesnât work together and âwhen one person on a team does something unethical it affects everybody; and the school board is a team.â
âIf the district loses accreditation I donât know if we could sell our houses,â Parks said.
Parks and her husband moved to DeKalb County several years ago and enrolled their oldest son in Lakeside High School, where he graduated in 2011. Her two younger children attend St. Pius X High School.
âI feel fortunate that we were able to get our two youngest children into St. Pius but it shouldnât have to be that way,â Parks said.
Three years ago Parks said she spoke before the board and former Superintendent Crawford Lewis about nepotism but nothing was done. Parks said she received a reply signed by Lewis and DCSD Open Records Officer Ronald Ramsey stating that there was no evidence of nepotism in the district.
Lewis is currently facing charges that he and his former Chief Operations Officer Pat Reid ran a criminal enterprise within the district while he was superintendent.
âIt seems to me like nothing ever changed,â Parks said. âI felt like we needed a grass roots effort.â
In addition to the online petition, Parks and several others have been contacting PTA and PTSA organizations in the district and providing them with a hard copy of AdvancEDâs report. She is also organizing a community meeting and plans to invite all of the board members to attend and provide a response to AdvancEDâs findings.
David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said that nearly every issue mentioned in the AdvancED report stems from the actions of the school board. Schutten also said heâs concerned because the report mentions the three new incoming board members who took office at the beginning of the year.
âThe team verified through interviews that the new board members are following in the current boardâs footsteps by acting individually and misinterpreting their roles and responsibilities already,â the report states.
According to outgoing board member Don McChesneyâs blog, incoming board members have been jockeying for board chair and vice-chair positions or throwing their support behind other board members who will remain through 2013.
âDo you believe the board can put down personal feelings and contribute to the greater good? My gut feeling is no,â McChesney said. â[AdvancED] has already cited the new members as being in the schools using their elected positions to set their expectations.â
Another issue mentioned in AdvancEDâs report that gave both Parks and her son pause was that the agency found board members had interfered in studentsâ school assignments based on athletic preferences.
Parksâ son played football at Lakeside and she said when he heard about the possibility that the district was âstacking teamsâ he was angry.
Online comments on the petition:
I have two elementary school children in DCSD. The current board is corrupt and the system is crumbling. If my children are to get a good education in DeKalb County then we need a change….and fast!!!
This situation is screaming for Leadership!
The children of DeKalb County deserve competent, ethical leadership that will put their educational interests first.
Our children are our future! Itâs time we cure the sickness and make our childrenâs education a priority.
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