Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by Muhammad Nadeem
from Education Newshttp://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/atlanta-school-board-overrides-superintendent-approves-charter/The Board of Education in Atlanta, Georgia has unanimously approved a new charter school, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which overrides the superintendent’s recommendation against starting new charters. The Atlanta Classical Academy, a K-8 charter school in Buckhead, will be launched in the 2014-2015 school year.
Superintendent Erroll Davis requested that the board not approve new charter schools while the Georgia Supreme Court is considering whether they can be required by Atlanta Public Schools to help pay off a pension debt of more than $500 million. Charter schools do not participate in the pension system.
Board members said they did not want to reject a high-quality school for financial reasons. “I’m very uncomfortable with denying it for that reason,” said board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane. “I do think we need to address the unfunded pension issue; I don’t think this is the time to do it.”
According to Davis, the school district’s independently managed charter schools should contribute toward paying off a pension debt that has been building for more than 30 years. He said it is not fair that payments come from traditional schools without charter schools pitching in.
“The problem has to be solved. I’m comfortable because Atlanta Classical Academy is not the root of the problem,” Davis said. “I do want to point out that we can’t keep marching down this path.”
But charter schools do not agree with Davis. In court, charter schools have argued that they were founded years after the school system accumulated its pension debt, and their funding cannot be reduced to help pay it off.
“It is your duty to consider charter school petitions on their merits,” said Beth Beskin, whose two children attended Morris Brandon Elementary, in comments to the board. “The proper remedy is not to summarily reject all petitions for start-up charter schools.” Another parent, Barbara Simpson, said she opposed the creation of Atlanta Classical Academy because charter schools pull students and resources from traditional schools. “Parents should have choices, but we must understand those choices come to be as a result of traditional schools that need improvement,” Simpson said.
During the current school year, the school district is scheduled to pay a total of $48.5 million toward the unfunded pension liability.
The Atlanta Board of Education, which establishes and approves the policies governing the Atlanta Public School system, consists of nine members, representing six geographical districts and three “at-large” districts. One person is elected per district to represent the schools in a given district for a four-year term, according to the board’s website.
- See more at: http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/atlanta-school-board-overrides-superintendent-approves-charter/#sthash.0uYeCMu3.dpuf
A link to the list of tax free items appears about halfway down this article. We try to be of as much service to you as parents as we can!Donna Lowry, 11 Alive News, Atlanta, Gahttp://www.11alive.com/News/Education/298601/11/Tax-free-holiday-weekend-arrives-after-school-startsATLANTA -- With a new school year just weeks away, the Georgia Department of Revenue is holding its "back to school" sales tax holiday August 9-10.
The weekend, however, comes after more than half a million metro Atlanta students have returned to school by August 7.
There was an attempt by some lawmakers to move the dates to August first and second, but the proposal was attached to another bill Governor Nathan Deal vetoed for reasons that had nothing to do with the sales tax holiday. So, the dates for the second weekend in August stand.
The later dates puzzle some parents.
"I think they're trying to boost the economy," said Lentreau Jackson, PTA Vice President at Centennial Place Elementary in Atlanta. "I think it should be maybe a longer period time, maybe even earlier. If the purpose is to boost the economy and you're missing a lot of your market, then you maybe want to change it.number one, but I think it should be maybe a longer period of time."
"I have to make a list of how much notebook paper, how much folders, if they need a laptop here, if they need jump drive. So, what can we get now and what are the more costly things we can get for that weekend. So it helps us out," said Rewa Berry, mother of four, including a fourth grader at Centennial Place Elementary.
RESOURCE GUIDE | List of tax-free items
"The 2013 sales tax holiday represents an excellent opportunity for parents to save money on basic necessities when getting their children ready for the upcoming school year in Georgia," said DOR Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie.
Clothing and shoes costing $100 or less per item will be exempt from sales tax, along with single purchases of $1,000 or less of personal computers and computer-related accessories.
Also, general school supplies to be used in the classroom or in classroom-related activities with a sales price of $20 or less per item are exempt from sales tax.
http://www.11alive.com/News/Education/280973/17/Teacher-makes-math-unforgettable-ATLANTA -- The true test of a teacher's legacy are the students who credit the educator with changing their lives.
That's the way former students feel about Naimah Oladuwa Frame, a sixth grade math teacher at The Children's School.
Recently, several of her former students, who now attend The Paideia School, returned to Frame's classroom to tell her how much she continues to impact their lives in such a positive way.
"She challenged me to make sure I was always doing my best," said Mira Kaufmann, an 8th grader.
"She always remembered what it was like to be a student so she could connect with all of us," said 8th grade student, Katy Jordan.
"She created another group for some of us so we could excel more and she challenged us even more," said former student, Nathan Karnik.
Frame believes it's important to connect math with tangible items her students can understand, such as comparing algebra with apples and oranges.
"If you can see it in your head, it's (math) more assessable," said Frame.
She also tries to show students they can have fun with math.
"With her help and bringing this sort of lighted-hearted sense of humor to every lesson, I was able to get into honors math seventh grade," said former student, Maddie Friedman.
"Through her math teaching and personality, she taught me how to be myself," said Kira Farley, a former student. "When I left this class and went on to seventh and 8th grade, I was much more comfortable in my own skin. I think if I hadn't had this class, I'd still be trying to figure out who I was."
The students nominated Frame for 11Alive's Class Act Award
As we offer piano lessons here at RCS, occasionally it becomes necessary to get the piano tuned. I came across pianotuning4u.com quite by accident on the web and saw their listing and reviews on a couple of different sites. They are in Norcross, quite close to us, so I decided to give them a call.
Charity came out on a Saturday morning and worked on our piano for about 3 hours. She explained everything she did as well as where there were problems within the structure of the instrument itself. She did a fantastic job and the keys on my aunt's piano haven't been that lively, nor sounded as pretty, in a long time. The rate for 3 hours of tuning was more than fair. I can't say enough good things about her or her company. We will be using them again!
If you can, you really need to come out and hear Southern Silk; we heard them either at the Music that Inspires back in October / November of last year...they are awesome and very family friendly. It's a great event! Hope to see you there! ~ Tim & Sonya
ON STAGE & EVENT NOTES: In concert THIS Friday, March 1st will be R&B husband and wife called Southern Silk Duo, Inspirational/Rap/R&B Artists "Go2", Saxaphonist, Tommy Mays who has traveled the world and played with such greats as Millie Jackson and other noteable musicians, a special guest appearance by emerging artist and singer, Gifti Kiyya and DJ Blak Magic, one of the most sought after DJ's in town will handle the sound and play music you can dance to allowing you to relax and have a very enjoyable evening after a long week of meeting your challenges and goals.
Also, meet Dr. Latangela Crossfield who will share her book "Forever 17" The Bianca Dillard Story and have on hand copies of her book to sell and autograph and.....Debi, Owner of Pies N the Sky 4 U will be there with her delicious sweet potato pies, you'll shop with vendors and merchants on site and:win great giveaways if you RSVP at www.musicthatinspiresconcert4u.eventbrite.com.
Don't miss "Music that Inspires" a live concert in the food court at North DeKalb Mall THIS Friday starting at 6:30 p.m. SHARP!
Webmaster - didn't have time to look for the latest until now.By Ty TagamiThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionhttp://www.ajc.com/news/news/dekalb-county-school-board-hearing-a-lengthy-legal/nWWwD/After a grueling 14-hour hearing that lasted until 10 p.m. Thursday night, the Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend suspending six of the nine members of the DeKalb County school board.
“I just think the culture of poor governance that has been sustained over years has to be broken now,” said state board member Brian Burdette. “And I don’t think there’s any way to do it short of replacing some of these board members.”
Jennifer Hackemeyer, Department of Education general counsel, asked that the suspension not affect the three board members who took office this year.
The rambling hearing sounded at times like a legal proceeding, and at other moments like a confessional. It covered everything from financial mishaps to board member ethics.
At stake are the futures of 99,000 students in Georgia’s third-largest school district.
Mark Elgart, the man whose authority led to this day, summarized the problem early in the hearing: DeKalb was the only school system in this country that his accreditation agency placed on probation for governance issues last year after reviewing 1,000 other systems.
“There’s been a decade of continued ineffective governance” during which academics have been “fairly stagnant,” Elgart said. Instead of acting with urgency to fix things, the local school board has been “treating it like a political matter, not a performance issue.”
“The majority of their debates,” he said, “have little or nothing to do with student achievement.”
Elgart, as president and CEO of AdvancEd, oversees the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, DeKalb’s accrediting agency. Under a 2011 state law, SACS’ decision to place DeKalb on probation forced the state school board to hold the hearing. Their recommendation gives Gov. Nathan Deal the authority to suspend the local board.
DeKalb’s attorney, Robert Wilson, tried to undermine the credibility of SACS and its December report justifying probation. The 20-page document reported threatening and abusive behavior by board members and a squandering of money that should have gone to the classroom. It quoted no source by name, but Elgart said every anecdote was corroborated.
But Wilson, a former DeKalb district attorney, said the information could not be independently corroborated, and tried to get the report dismissed, saying it was full of “misinformation,” “group innuendo,” “group suggestion,” “rank hearsay” and “double hearsay.”
With the help of testimony from several school system administrators, Wilson went on to argue that a troubling finding by SACS about textbooks was untrue.
The report says the school system borrowed $12 million to buy new textbooks, “yet numerous interviews revealed that no one could identify any school that had received new textbooks.”
Mike Perrone, DeKalb’s chief financial officer, said DeKalb borrowed $25 million to buy books, but returned $13 million to the bank because of budget cutting. Kathy Howe, a deputy superintendent, said she had receipts and spreadsheets that indicated the other $12 million was spent on books.
SACS reported some fundamental financial problems that were corroborated: The school district has spent more money than it has, and has weak financial controls that raised concern among state auditors. Louis Byars, director of financial review at the Georgia Department of Education, said auditors identified weaknesses that leave the district open to fraud.
The board kept spending as revenues dropped until there was a $14.4 million deficit last year. (Perrone said in an interview that the figure is likely to rise to $16 million once the numbers are audited.)
Byars said DeKalb is among 15 of Georgia’s 180 school districts deemed a financial “high risk.”
The school board’s new chairman, Melvin Johnson, said removing the board would “erode” public confidence. “They believe in the individuals they voted on,” he said. The former DeKalb schools administrator said race differences may be causing some of the division, and the county needs to have an honest conversation about it.
“Race is something that some of us deny,” Johnson said. “Some of us won’t put it on the table.”
Michael Thurmond, the former Georgia labor commissioner recently named DeKalb schools’ interim superintendent, also said race was an issue, and said he wanted the chance to address it. He appealed to the state board not to vote for suspension.
But the arguments did not sway the 11 members of the state board who were present. (One participated by phone.)
State board member Mike Royal said the DeKalb board sounded sincere in wanting to reform, but said he doubted they’d stick with it if the threat of suspension were lifted. DeKalb sued earlier this week in federal and Georgia courts to stop the process, alleging the 2011 law is unconstitutional. Board members in Sumter County filed a similar suit, and a Fulton County Superior Court judge issued a restraining order against the state.
A hearing on the DeKalb case scheduled in Fulton Superior Court on Feb. 28 could restrain the governor from acting on the recommended suspensions.
“I hope it doesn’t drag out in litigation, I pray,” Royal said. “But I can’t make my decision based on the fear of litigation.”Who can stay, who might goThe six DeKalb County school board members recommended for suspension:
The three new board members recommended to remain:
- Eugene Walker
- Nancy Jester
- Jesse “Jay” Cunningham
- Sarah Copelin-Wood
- Pam Speaks
- Donna Edler
The story so far
- Marshall Orson
- Melvin Johnson
- Jim McMahan
It’s been a tumultuous week for DeKalb County’s school board.
Monday, Eugene Walker announced he would give up the board chairmanship, and the board voted to hire a law firm at $150,000 to review the school board’s “governance” and recommend changes.
Tuesday, the board filed a suit to prevent Thursday’s hearing by the Georgia Board of Education. A 2011 state law allows the governor to remove boards in school systems on probation, if the state board recommends it. The suit challenges that law.
Wednesday, a judge denied the request for a restraining order to block the state board hearing, but scheduled a hearing on DeKalb’s challenge to the state law. The board selected a new chairman, Melvin Johnson, by a 7-2 vote.
Thursday, board members and their attorney, Bob Wilson, made their case to the state board of education as to why they should not be removed from office.
The state board of education will make a recommendation to Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal will decide whether to remove current board members and appoint new ones.
Thursday, Feb. 28, a hearing is scheduled in Fulton Superior Court. The DeKalb school district will ask a judge to consider a restraining order against the state to prevent members’ removal.
Quotes from the hearing
“Let’s end the madness. Let me do the work and get the job done. … I’m there to clear the deck to deal with some of the issues that have festered for decades.”
— Michael Thurmond,DeKalb County school superintendent.
“We will show that good cause exists for the state board to move forward with a recommendation to the governor to suspend.”
— Jennifer Hackemeyer,lawyer for the state Department of Education
“You are going to find there is a new day. … What that group has addressed is exactly what SACS has asked them to address.”
— Bob Wilson,attorney representing DeKalb’s school board
“They’re treating it like a political matter, not a performance issue. … The majority of their debates have little or nothing to do with student achievement.”
— Mark Elgart, head of AdvancEd, parent company of SACS, the accrediting agency that placed DeKalb on probation.
Webmaster: The latest news on this controvesry. By Ty TagamiThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Updated: 11:05 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 | Posted: 11:22 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/judge-declines-restraining-order-in-dekalb-schools/nWTN7/When a private accrediting agency downgraded the DeKalb County school district last year, it said its allegations were built on “significant and irrefutable evidence.”
On Thursday, the nine elected members of the DeKalb school board must confront that evidence, which is based on anonymous interviews and documents that are mostly not identified specifically.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has alleged mismanagement and threatened to strip accreditation, imperiling the fortunes of college-bound students in Georgia’s third largest district. The agency’s judgment carries real legal clout, too, since it could cause the ouster of officials elected by local voters.
That has spawned a lawsuit over the Georgia constitution that will be decided later. DeKalb sought a restraining order against the state, but filed it too late to affect today’s hearing. A Fulton County judge will consider the request next week.
In the meantime, DeKalb officials must argue their innocence before the Georgia Board of Education without being able to cross-examine key witnesses and not knowing which documents support which allegations.
Atlanta Attorney Warren Fortson said that task will be difficult given the vague nature of the 20-page SACS report.
“It’s predicated on anonymous sources,” said Fortson, who was general counsel for Atlanta Public Schools for more than two decades. “You can’t defend yourself against smoke.”
The report identifies sources as “interviewees,” “stakeholder interviews,” “artifacts” or “various forms of evidence.”
“Interviewees described a feeling of hopelessness,” it says, and “based on evidence from numerous interviews, several board members continue to make harassing calls and visits to schools.”
Mark Elgart, the president and CEO of SACS parent company AdvancEd, said soon after he released the report in December that SACS promised anonymity to induce people to talk.
“We don’t have subpoena power,” Elgart said. (He didn’t return calls for comment Wednesday.) Elgart acknowledged that his agency’s judgment hinged on the truthfulness of the 50 people interviewed, most of them administrators or school principals. But he said SACS used only anecdotes that his investigators could confirm with other interviews and “boxes” of documents or that sounded consistent with similar incidents described by multiple sources.
Elgart refused to release the documents the agency used for the report because, he said in December, he did not want to subject it to “critique.”
Critics say that approach allows SACS to make bold assertions that cannot be independently verified — or contested. That’s a central claim in the lawsuit DeKalb filed Tuesday attempting to halt the proceedings. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Amanda Lee decided Wednesday not to stop the state hearing, but she also scheduled a court date next week that could tie the governor’s hands.
A 2011 Georgia law allows removal of board members in school districts that SACS or other accrediting agencies have placed on probation. The law requires the state education board to make a recommendation to the governor. If the recommendation is for removal, Gov. Nathan Deal can suspend the entire board and name replacements.
But DeKalb alleges in court that this is unconstitutional because the law “illegally defers to the unelected and unaccountable SACS” the power to initiate suspension proceedings “without any inquiry into whether an elected local board of education member has committed any misconduct.” It “unconstitutionally creates an unreasonable qualification for local school board members: that they must remain in the good graces of an unelected, unaccountable private agency.”
Another Fulton judge has stopped the state in a similar case. A majority of the Sumter County school board sued the state in November, and Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane granted a temporary injunction that is still in place. The lawsuit is pending, with no court date set.
Don McChesney, a former DeKalb board member, said he thought the law enabling removal of the board wouldn’t withstand court scrutiny. “I’m not trying to defend the board. I think most of them ought to go,” McChesney said. “But I do think it’s unconstitutional.”
McChesney, who served during the period SACS reviewed, doesn’t envy the task his former colleagues face today. “How can they defend themselves when they are not sure as an individual what they are charged with,” he said.
Only one board member, former chairman Eugene Walker, is referenced directly in SACS’ report, and only by title, though many of the accusations center on individuals. (New board member Melvin Johnson was selected chairman by a 7-2 vote of the board Wednesday.)
Walker couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but he’s spoken often about the report. He’s particularly galled by an assertion of his “interference” in hiring when, on Aug. 24, he sent an email to then-Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson recommending someone for a job.
“Please know that I have met this young man and he is the brother of one of our board … I would appreciate any assistance that you could provide,” the report quoted the email as saying.
Many took that to mean Walker was endorsing the brother of someone with power — a board member. After reviewing the email though, Walker said he realized he sent it in reference to the brother of someone with little power — the unelected school board secretary, an employee who schedules board meetings and keeps notes on them.
Walker said he thought the use of an ellipses was intentional. “They know they are misleading on that,” Walker said last month.
Such details may not matter in the face of growing public ire.
Michael Swahn, who has three kids in DeKalb schools, said the board members’ use of taxpayer money to hire lawyers to prevent their own ouster is “disgraceful.”
“Paying lawyers to save their jobs. It looks like a group trying to cover something up,” Swahn said. “I think they should save face and step down before they’re removed.”
Swahn attended a Wednesday morning gathering at a north DeKalb elementary school where new interim superintendent, former Georgia labor commissioner Michael Thurmond, was a speaker.
Even Thurmond could sense the ill political wind.
“I would question your sanity if you were not angry right now,” Thurmond told the parents. He also laid the blame at their feet. “I didn’t elect the board,” he said. “You did.”
Posted: 11:22 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
By Ty Tagami
The state hearing that could unseat the nine members of the DeKalb County school board should proceed as scheduled Thursday morning, a judge has ruled.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Amanda Lee on Wednesday declined DeKalb’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the proceedings. But Lee left open the possibility of a future court ruling that would prohibit the board’s removal.
The judge declined the restraining order over a technical issue: DeKalb failed to comply with a law that requires five-day notice to the state to suspend a proceeding.
The Georgia Board of Education has scheduled an 8 a.m. hearing Thursday with the DeKalb school board. The state board must decide whether to recommend suspension of the DeKalb board to Gov. Nathan Deal. A 2011 state law authorizes the removal of school boards in districts where accreditation is in probationary status.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation in December and threatened to strip accreditation altogether if the DeKalb board fails to address alleged mismanagement in Georgia’s third largest school system.
Although Judge Lee denied the request to halt the state hearing on the timing issue, her order says DeKalb may yet get a restraining order.
DeKalb asserts that the 2011 law is unconstitutional by denying the local board due process. The state is not required to produce “any specific charges,” DeKalb asserts.
The state law basically allows a non-governmental agency such as SACS to create the evidence that is then used as the basis for suspension. SACS used anonymous sources throughout its report, and did not specify documents used to buttress every allegation.
The lawsuit contends that local voters would be disenfranchised if the state removed their elected officials because they failed to “remain in the good graces of an unelected, unaccountable private agency.”
Judge Lee wrote that “it appears that plaintiffs have shown that immediate and irreparable harm may still occur” to them after the state hearing.
If the state board recommends removal, Deal would be authorized to suspend the DeKalb board with pay and appoint temporary replacements.
Lee scheduled a hearing for Feb. 28 at 8:30 a.m. when the state must argue against granting DeKalb an order that restrains Deal from acting.
From Webmaster: This one even caught me off guard.
By Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The DeKalb County school board filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a state law that could result in the removal of the nine school board members.
The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court by an outside attorney charging taxpayers $250 an hour, seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent a hearing by the Georgia Board of Education Thursday.
The hearing could result in a recommendation to suspend the DeKalb board. Such a recommendation would give Gov. Nathan Deal authority to remove the DeKalb board per a 2011 law.
When informed of DeKalb’s decision to sue, Deal said litigation may only prolong the pain in DeKalb, Georgia’s third largest school district.
“The longer this is drawn out, the more protracted it becomes and the more the story becomes one that concerns people everywhere,” Deal said. “We don’t want anything to occur that will jeopardize what a diploma from a DeKalb County high school might mean, so everything that can be done to facilitate and bring this all to some logical conclusion serves us all.”
The 2011 law requires a hearing — like the one scheduled Thursday — for any school district whose accreditation is on probation. DeKalb was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December. The agency threatened to strip accreditation altogether if the school board doesn’t address financial and management concerns.
The lawsuit, filed by Decatur attorney Robert Wilson on behalf of the DeKalb district, alleges that the 2011 law violates the Georgia constitution because it authorizes removal of local elected officials “without any individualized finding of misconduct.”
Wilson did not return a call for comment. No court hearing date was immediately scheduled in the case, which was assigned to Judge Kelly A. Lee.
The Department of Education had no comment. Spokesman Matt Cardoza said the DeKalb hearing before the state board will occur as scheduled at 8 a.m. Thursday, “until we hear otherwise.”
A similar lawsuit filed by a school board member in Sumter County halted a similar state hearing. Kevin Pless sued in Fulton Superior Court in November, and Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane granted a temporary injunction, ordering the state board not to convene the hearing. The Sumter lawsuit itself is still pending.
Deal said he will discuss the DeKalb lawsuit with county members of the General Assembly.
State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, predicted local outrage. Among SACS’ concerns was taxpayer money DeKalb was spending on lawyers while the budget to teach nearly 100,000 students was being slashed. Millar judged this latest move a “selfish” delay tactic aimed at clinging to power.
“I would like to know who voted in favor of this motion because obviously it’s all about them and not about 100,000 children,” said Millar, the former chairman of the Senate education committee. “All this delay does is increase the likelihood of loss of accreditation,” Millar said. “How selfish can people be?”
Bill Armstrong, a father of three children in DeKalb schools, said the lawsuit is “an outrageous evasion” of the school board’s duty.
“I don’t understand why they all don’t resign,” said Armstrong, of Chamblee. “They are clearly trying to save their jobs instead of the school system.”
If there was a public vote, it didn’t occur in public Monday — the most recent open meeting of the DeKalb board. During that meeting, the board voted to go into a private session to discuss and undisclosed legal matter. Spokesman Jeff Dickerson was not immediately available for comment.
The suit was filed around the time that DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was meeting with DeKalb school board chairman Eugene Walker and about a dozen local “stakeholders” to discuss the school district’s problems.
Reporters were excluded from the morning meeting. Afterward, Ellis told Channel 2 Action News that they held a “robust discussion” and a “good conversation” and were planning to meet again soon.
In the afternoon, a spokesman for Ellis was unaware of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. Later, the spokesman provided this statement from Ellis, who didn’t directly address the legal matter: “My sole interests are in assisting the school district in addressing the requirements contained in the SACS Report and ensuring that every child receives access to a quality education,” Ellis said. He said the morning meeting was to “engage concerned DeKalb County stakeholders in that process.”
The stakeholders at Ellis’ meeting included local lawmakers and the president of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, but not Dave Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, the major local advocacy group for educators.
“We’re disappointed,” Schutten said. “We’re the major stakeholders here.” He predicted the employees will be more than disappointed by the lawsuit, and the associated legal costs.
“This is crazy,” Schutten said. “I think people are going to be outraged. People haven’t had a pay raise in four or five years. … People are going to be upset about them spending more money on attorneys’ fees.”
The lawsuit was filed a day after the school board voted to pay the law firm of former Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker $150,000 for “governance training” to address the SACS concerns.
The DeKalb board voted to hire Wilson and his firm Wilson, Morton & Downs earlier this month. Wilson’s mandate: the state board of education hearing “and/or related proceedings or actions.”
Wilson and his associates are to be paid $250 an hour for a time period that is not limited by the contract. It’s unclear how much the case has cost so far. The district responded earlier this month to an open records request by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seeking Wilson’s invoices by saying none had been filed.
DeKalb interim superintendent Michael Thurmond told the school board Monday that he thought the hiring of Baker and his firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge for technical help and training would help “buttress” the school board’s case in the state hearing. Thurmond had no comment Tuesday about the lawsuit, deferring questions to the school boards.
“This was a board decision,” Thurmond said. He said he hadn’t talked to any teachers about the suit and couldn’t comment about any reaction they might have had to it. He said he was focused on “winning” back accreditation and declined to comment about any effect the suit might have on his chances for that. He said he was still time for the parties to work a compromise.
Walker, who announced Monday that he plans to relinquish his chairmanship, could not be reached for comment.
Jim McMahan, the new vice chairman of the DeKalb school board, said he could not comment about anything that occurred in a closed-door legal discussion. He added this, though: “I believe there’s always alternatives to filing a lawsuit.”