The AJC is reporting that the DeKalb School Board met at a called meeting yesterday and voted to form a committee to discuss the recent letter to Dr. Atkinson from SACS in what many are wrongly interpreting as a closed door Executive Session of the board.
To clarify, at the called meeting yesterday, when a board member asked if this could be discussed in Executive Session, Sutherlin Attorney Bill Wildman responded that this topic absolutely cannot be discussed in Executive Session. Therefore, no Executive Session was held. The board simply voted 8-0 (Bowen was absent) to approve Dr. Atkinson’s plan to address the letter from SACS. Her plan is outlined below:
- Establish a Special Review Team (SRT) composed of the Board Chair, Board Vice-Chair, Superintendent, legal representatives, 2 senior staff, and communications representative
- Convene the SRT to review the SACS/CASI letter
- Prepare recommendations to address SACS/CASE concerns
- Submit draft response to individual Board Members for review and comment
- Submit the formal response to the SACS/CASI
That SRT will soon convene, with the Board’s approval to draft a plan of action to present to the Board and then send to SACS within 30 days of the letter. It’s important to note that the original SACS letter dated August 28, 2012 was written to Dr. Atkinson, and it is her responsibility to respond. She is the only employee of the Board’s and therefore it is prudent for the Board to approve her actions before she sends off her response, especially in light of the fact that many of SACS’ concerns relate to board behavior. This entire process puts Dr. Atkinson in a fairly precarious position.
As far as the assumption that the Board met in Executive Session to discuss the response to SACS, Nancy Jester offered this promise, “If somebody tries to meet in Executive Session to discuss this, I will let you know. And I will be outside that door protesting with you.”
In truth, if DeKalb Schools’ financial wheels are coming off, it will look like SACS wasn’t paying attention – that they weren’t doing their job. They were warned by dozens of concerned citizens and employees over a period of years – and took little action. We believe this ‘letter’ is simply an action by SACS to cover their you-know-what.
When Atkinson and the Special Review Team draft the response letter, it will be made available to the public and we will all see the plan of action. In fact, it would be a wise idea to include AJC reporter Ty Tagami in those meetings so that he can report as they move along. The process should and hopefully will be open, but these detailed discussions would definitely be hindered if done with the full board hashing it out in public—history tells us that never goes well in DeKalb.
The ‘System’ is what needs to change. It is worth noting that most everything in DeKalb schools has changed over the last 5-6 years. Almost the entire staff has been replaced: Crawford Lewis, Pat Pope, Marcus Turk, Jamey Wilson, David Guillory and most top tier administrators as well as the entire board except for Sarah, and yet, the issues of corruption, incompetence and poor outcomes for students remain. If SACS refuses to take a detailed look into the mechanisms that run the system and help to reset the structure, then we will continue to see very little real change. And the change we seek is for the benefit of our students, not for the benefit of adults who enjoy employment at the pleasure of the Board.