Lawyer: Board replacement delays could cause bigger issues

by: Erica Byfield Updated:

Gov. Nathan Deal decided to remove six DeKalb County School Board members.

DECATUR, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has confirmed a Fulton County Superior Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by DeKalb County's School Board.

A copy of the dismissal was not available late Tuesday. A legal challenge in federal court still stands. There is a hearing on Friday in Judge Richard Story's courtroom.

Earlier in the day, Channel 2's Erica Byfield spoke to several education experts about the impact of Gov. Nathan Deal's decision to remove six DeKalb County School Board members.

"There may have been another situation like this before in Georgia, but I'm not aware of it," attorney Tom Cox said.

Cox has spent more than three decades representing metro school districts.

He told Byfield in general, school boards have seven basic responsibilities, which include: hiring and firing, policy and purchasing decisions, budget adjustments and critical student and teacher tribunal issues.

"If the delay in having the six additional board members goes much beyond the end of this week there could start to be some problems," Cox said.

Thus, not having a board for an extended period of time could cripple DeKalb County.

The three DeKalb County board members not affected by the governor's decision, Melvin Johnson, Jim McMahan and Marshall Orson, issued a statement saying, "As elected representatives on the DeKalb Board of Education, we find ourselves in a unique and confusing situation.

"We are the three members of the Board of Education not subject to the State Board of Education's review process because we joined the DeKalb Board in January 2013, and the State Board's action concerned the nine Board members who held office prior to January 2013.

"We, along with Superintendent Michael Thurmond, are committed to restoring full accreditation and focusing our efforts on the academic achievement of DeKalb's 99,000 students and the professional well-being of the people who teach and serve those students, and we pledge to restore making outcomes for children the priority of the DeKalb County School District.

"We realize there is a great deal of frustration with the current legal proceedings. However, Judge Richard Story's order clearly states that his intention is to maintain the "status quo" until at least Friday, March 1, which, in effect, prohibits any action by the DeKalb Board of Education.

"As a result of that order, any potential appointees by Governor Nathan Deal cannot take office, and the suspended members cannot participate in any decisions or official Board activity. Under Georgia law, a quorum of at least five members is required for the DeKalb Board of Education to act.

"With only the three of us authorized to act by virtue of the federal court order, the DeKalb Board of Education will lack a quorum to conduct any business until such time as there is a decision in the legal matter.

"We will continue to work with Superintendent Thurmond to focus on our students, the hardworking educators who are with those students every day in our schools, and the parents and families who support them. We will not be satisfied until every decision made by the DeKalb County School District is made on the basis of how it advances our responsibility for student achievement."

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