Suspension recommended for six DeKalb County board members - CBS46 News

Suspension recommended for six DeKalb County board members

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DeKalb County BOE, Source: DeKalb County BOE, Source:

All eyes are on Governor Nathan Deal and his next move following a late Thursday night vote by the Georgia Board of Education to unanimously recommended the suspension of half-a-dozen DeKalb County school board members.

Only three newly-elected members were spared.

It was standing room only during the more than 14-hour-long hearing.

The state began investigating after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) put the district on probation for a lack of leadership, money mismanagement and an abuse of power.

The president of SACS was the first witness called to the stand. He testified about his agency's investigation.

"It's going to take the performance of an entire governing body and leadership team and staff at all levels of this county to change 10 years," said Mark Elgart. "It didn't get created overnight and it's not going solved overnight."

DeKalb County Schools Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond, who just recently took the position, said the weeks ahead, potentially without most of his board, would be challenging.

"I'm going to hope for the best and just hope the community will be able to rally and more or less focus on the job ahead." He also released a community message on Friday, which can be read here.

Many who watched the hearing said the state board really had no choice but to make the decision it did. "I think the bottom line is you've got 100,000 kids. You've got possible loss of accreditation," said Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta. "If that would happen, it's economic devastation for the state of Georgia and the metro area."

DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown attended the hearing, both as a concerned citizen and as an elected official and leader. Brown said that he read the SACS report and that he agrees with a portion of the Georgia Board of Education's recommendation to the governor.

"I agree in part with the State Board of Education's action recommending the removal of Dr. Eugene Walker, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Jesse "Jay" Cunningham. I heard SACS administrator Mark Elgart clearly when he indicated that the board has been governing themselves from a political rather than a performance standpoint for the past decade," Brown said. "Elgart said that there's been a decade of continued ineffective governance during which academics have been fairly stagnant. Instead of acting with urgency to fix things, the board has been treating it like a political matter. This is unacceptable for any school system, but especially for the state's third largest school district."

On FFriday afternoon, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis released a statement about addressing SACS report.

"As I have consistently stated, our primary goal should be to address the issues raised in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Report as swiftly as possible in order to preserve the accreditation of the DeKalb County School District and ensure that every child has equal access to a quality education. I defer to the wisdom of the State Board of Education and the Governor in exercising their authority to decide the best governing structure to accomplish this goal."

The Georgia Education Board's recommendation now goes to Governor Nathan Deal. However, Deal could be stopped from acting due to a lawsuit filed by the DeKalb School Board, calling the law unconstitutional. A hearing is scheduled for February 28.

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