DeKalb school board to receive report on superintendent email dispute

by: Richard Belcher Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has learned the DeKalb School Board will receive a report Tuesday that could hasten a confrontation between the board and Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson.

Channel 2 broke the story that the school board had authorized its own special investigation of the email dispute that was apparently carried out by the board's outside law firm.

Now, board chairman Eugene Walker confirms to Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher, the report will be delivered on Tuesday, which sets up the prospect of further divisiveness at a school system that is already in trouble.

One by one, members of the DeKalb School Board were called before the state school board last week, where the local members were grilled about DeKalb being placed on probation by SACS.

"No board member deliberately violated a SACS standard," Walker said.

"SACS has never actually interviewed any of the three board members elected," school board member Marshall Orson said.

The state could recommend as early as next month that Gov. Deal suspend the nine elected local school board members.

In two days, the DeKalb board will meet behind closed doors to discuss a dispute involving Atkinson.

The central question is whether Atkinson authorized her chief legal officer, Ron Ramsey, to offer to rehire several laid-off district employees if they would drop a legal demand for the superintendent's texts and emails.

Sources say Atkinson and Ramsey are telling contradictory stories.

We know that the school board is paying for Atkinson's lawyers in the dispute, including former state Attorney General Mike Bowers.

And we know she was questioned for hours in mid-December at the midtown Atlanta offices of Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan, the outside legal counsel for the school board.

It is the report of that investigation that the school board is expecting to receive Tuesday and will discuss behind closed doors on Wednesday.

There's no guarantee the DeKalb board will make any public announcement after it considers the investigation report Wednesday.

But if the findings are critical of Atkinson, it will likely ramp up the internal tensions at a school system already facing suspension by the governor.

Chris Anulewicz, one of the attorneys for Atkinson, declined to comment.

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