DeKalb school board pulls name from lawsuit against governor

by: Tony Thomas Updated:


DECATUR, Ga. - The DeKalb County School Board has pulled its name and money from a lawsuit challenging the governor's authority to remove school board members and replace them with people of his choosing.

The new school board, with six new members appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, met for the first time Wednesday night.

It was an unusual meeting for DeKalb. Every vote was unanimous except for one and much of the time was spent with the members trying to distance themselves from the rocky recent past.

"It has certainly been an interesting and tumultuous past couple of months in DeKalb County," is how board member Marshall Orson began the meeting.

He was one of three recently elected members who remain from the old board.

Just before being removed from office, the previous board voted to file suit against the state, challenging the constitutionality of the new law the governor used to remove six members.

Those board members don't believe the governor has the authority to removed elected representatives and replace them with appointments. The case is now before the State Supreme Court.

Critics of the previous board said dropping the lawsuit sends an important signal to parents and teachers.
"Extremely important. I think that's what many parents were waiting for, so that's a huge victory for our children," parent Jennifer Hatfield said.

The governor moved in to remove the board earlier this month. An outside accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, has placed the district on probation and warned because of board governance issues, the district could lose its accreditation.

The lawsuit will likely continue though.

Former board chairman Eugene Walker was one of the six removed by the governor and is listed as a plaintiff in the case.

"Oh yes, I am going to continue. It's a constitutional issue. I am going to pay out of my own pocket," Walker told Channel 2's Tony Thomas by phone.

Current board members said that's fine, but they aren't going to spend money to fight about the past.

"We have to deal with now and where we are going in the future, we can't stay in the past," said newly appointed board member Joyce Morley.

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