by: Erica Byfield Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Suspended DeKalb County School Board Member Jay Cunningham says he has a right to represent the people who elected him and he is fighting the governor’s decision to replace him.
Cunningham spoke exclusively to Channel 2’s Erica Byfield for about 30 minutes on Thursday.
"I ran for this office in order to make a difference, making sure we continue the great schools we had here, or have here. We still do," he said.
Cunningham was in his sixth year on the board when Gov. Nathan Deal removed him and five other veteran board members in February. The governor cited governance issues and dysfunction when suspending the board members.
Friday is the deadline for suspended board members to submit letters to the governor asking to be reinstated.
So far, Cunningham, Pamela Speaks, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Donna Edler have sent Deal letters.
During their discussion, Cunningham told Byfield about his years on the board and discussed his reputation.
Cunningham said in the last election cycle he received 64 percent of the votes in his district. He said that proves his constituents want him in office.
Byfield asked him what he would say to his critics who say he was part of the problem. A school accrediting agency pointed to the school board when placing DeKalb County schools on probation late last year.
"I'm here for the kids and this political bit doesn't mean anything to me," Cunningham said.
Cunningham added that he's ready to make the changes necessary to help the school system move forward and regain full accreditation.
"The biggest thing is to make sure that we are working together as one unit, as the Board of Education, but also that it does include the superintendent and staff so that we are all on one page," Cunningham said.