“It’s a very sad day.”
That’s what Sen. Fran Millar said moments after Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he was following the “compelling” unanimous recommendation of the state education board to remove six members of the DeKalb school board.
DeKalb County was on display at the capitol that day in a very bad way.
It indeed is a very sad chapter in the history of DeKalb County schools, but has the school district hit rock bottom?
My wife and I have often remarked that so-and-so is not ready for life-changing assistance because he has not hit rock bottom. Someone who has hit rock bottom is ready to do whatever it takes to change his situation.
The school board six—Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Donna Elder, Nancy Jester, Pamela A. Speaks and Eugene P. Walker—don’t seem to have hit rock bottom.
They are not ready to do what it takes to help the students and parents served by the DeKalb County School District. Instead they are more concerned about saving the jobs that, by many accounts, they were not doing well.
How do I know the board members are not understanding the gravity of the situation? Exhibit A: A letter written by the former board chairman Eugene Walker. The 580-word letter to the editor does not include the words “students,” “grades,” “graduation,” “teachers,” or “schools.”
The word “education” is mentioned five times in Walker’s letter, but four of those are in the proper name “DeKalb Board of Education.” The other time refers to the accrediting agency’s “sway in the education community.”
One the other hand, Walker talks a lot about the school board, state board of education, voters, constitutionality, constituents and state law.
Walker begins his letter by saying, “The Governor is wrong in his decision to suspend members of the DeKalb County Board of Education.” He proceeds to prove that case.
He ends by saying, “We have had problems on the DeKalb Board of Education. These problems of communication and respect for each other have been brought to our attention, and we are working on them.”
How can board members fix what the president of the accrediting agency called a “decade of decline” if they needed an outsider to tell them that they have a district-crippling problem of “communication and respect for each other?”
There is talk of a compromise between the DeKalb school board and the Governor’s Office that could end the lawsuit by March 1.
I think David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said it best after the governor’s announcement: “Many, many people think the best compromise would be for those six board members to step down.”
The board members have had chance after chance to focus on the students of DeKalb. Instead, they were silent as graduation rates dropped. They seemed ignorant of many of the district’s financial problems. They appeared unconcerned about the “decade of decline.”
Walker has declared that he will not quit or step aside. That is his right. He complained about the governor “meddling in local affairs.” He said he does not have faith in “elitists under the gold dome who never set foot east of Moreland Avenue.”
Walker seems to forget that it was because the school district was not handling its own affairs that the parents and school employees who live and work east of Moreland Avenue felt compelled to seek outside help.
And that is their right.