DeKalb School Board files injunction to stop suspensions

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ATLANTA —

DeKalb County School Board members have filed an emergency motion in federal court, hoping to stop Gov. Nathan Deal from suspending some of its members.

The move comes after the Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend the governor suspend six of nine DeKalb County School Board members.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher obtained court documents that were filed just before the close of business on Friday.

“The emergency motion is made in light of the governor’s intention to act on the State Board of Education of suspension,” documents filed by the DeKalb County School Board said. 

The state board decided to spare the county board’s three newest members after a 14-hour session on Thursday.

A spokesman from the Governor’s Office told Channel 2’s Lori Geary the governor will announce his decision on Monday at 11 a.m. unless the court orders him to stop. 

He released a statement that said, “Removing elected officials from office is a serious duty, not undertaken lightly… I will do everything in my power to prevent the loss of accreditation of the DeKalb school system.”

The DeKalb County school system was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency.

That investigation by SACS was laid out before the State Board of Education on Thursday, citing evidence of fiscal mismanagement and unethical practices by the school board.

“We were disappointed from the decision but we will move forward,” Melvin Johnson, board chairman, told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield. Johnson is one of the three who will keep his job regardless of the court’s ruling.

On Wednesday, the DeKalb County School Board tried to stop the State School Board from meeting, calling the maneuver unconstitutional, but a judge ruled there was not enough time to stop the hearing. A Fulton County judge will consider the case next week.

A law passed in 2011 allows the governor to remove board members in a school districts that SACS or has placed on probation, if the State Board of Education makes that recommendation. The governor can also name replacement board members.

Despite the legal wrangling, interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond said he’s making plans to move forward.

“That issue is now in the hands of the court and the governor. My job as the superintendent is to make sure the district is doing its job,” Thurmond said.

State lawmakers told Geary this case is critical because it reflects Georgia’s entire education system.

“The worst thing that could happen is to have your school system lose its accreditation and be on the front page of the New York Times. That would kill economic development in this state,” state Sen. Fran Millar said.