OPINION: Bad law, good picks

The 2011 state law that allows the governor to remove “non-functioning” boards is flawed, unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to the sanctity of individual voting rights. The people elected the DeKalb school board. People should un-elect them.

The law should be repealed or at the very least—as Gov. Nathan Deal himself suggested it—ought to include academic performance as criteria for removal of a board. Also, this all prompts the question where does the law give the governor authority to cherry pick which board members should go and which should stay? It should be all or none.

Also in changing the law, charges levied against elected officials should be substantiated through due process. The law allowed the governor to remove DeKalb school board members on unsubstantiated allegations (opinion) of fiscal mismanagement and a lack of proper governance by a non-governmental accrediting agency and without due process. Bad. Bad. Bad!

That said, Gov. Deal selected a great group of replacements for the ousted board members. Included among them are two lawyers, two college professors, business people and a professional mediator. Their educational credentials and experiences are impressive and represent the ideal skill sets needed to govern a school system of nearly 100,000 students. While we’re tossing out kudos, the governor’s nominating panel is owed a huge debt of gratitude for their yeoman efforts. In three days, they pared down a list of some 400 applicants to 60 semi-finalists who were interviewed and then a dozen finalists who were recommended to the governor. Deal chose six new board members along the racial lines of those who were removed.

In case you were out of town, the new members of the DeKalb County school board are:

John Coleman, District 1, is a Harvard educated strategic planning manager for Invesco and lives in Atlanta. Great skills for strategies and forward-thinking planning.

Michael Erwin, District 3, is a Navy veteran with a Ph.D. in biological science from the University of South Carolina. He is on the faculty of Georgia Gwinnett College. Think curriculum.

David Campbell now represents District 5. He is certified public accountant and a senior manager with Georgia Power. Campbell received his undergraduate degree in business administration from Albany State and is, among many community endeavors, a former chair of Leadership DeKalb. I served with him on that board and know him to be thoughtful, thorough and an all-round class act. A “bean counter” is exactly what the school board needs for good financial management. Excellent choice.

Another excellent choice is Joyce Morley, District 7. She was not sworn in with the other five new board members because she was out of town, no doubt on one of her many national speaking engagements. DeKalb’s children could not be better served by this certified counselor, trained mediator and nationally renowned relationship expert. “Dr. Joyce” holds a doctorate in counseling, family and worklife from the University of Rochester. I’ve known Dr. Joyce for most of the 22 years she has lived in DeKalb and proud to say she wrote the review for my first book.

Karen Carter is the new representative for District 8. She has a law degree from Ohio State University and currently serves on the faculty of Georgia Perimeter College. She is also a graduate of Leadership DeKalb and lives in the Lakeside area. A long-time educator, both classroom and administration, yes!

Thad Mayfield, District 9, is another great choice. The Lithonia resident was a driving force with the Friends of DeKalb Education SPLOST IV campaign. He is politically savvy and leads with a quiet, thoughtful, servant’s heart. Thad has been involved in several business and civic organizations in DeKalb and the greater Atlanta area. He is a senior partner in a business development firm and has a master’s in business administration from Mercer University.

Despite being in very strong opposition to the removal of duly elected officials who have not been charged with a crime, one has to agree with the governor’s observation about the new board. Said the governor, “I truly believe that the board members will do an incredible job for DeKalb County.” You never want to see the sausage being made. It’s not pretty. For the greater good of the school system and our children, let us embrace and support this selected board until we can elect another if we so choose. In the meantime, the questions of the constitutionality of the governor’s actions must be resolved in the legislature and the courts.



Steen Miles, The Newslady, is a retired journalist and former Georgia state senator. Contact Steen Miles at Steen@dekalbchamp.com.

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