Public not barred from board’s process

By Eugene Walker

It is emphatically untrue that the DeKalb Board of Education decided it will meet behind closed doors in responding to allegations of mismanagement.

For the record, no such vote ever took place.

No such decision was ever made.

Equally untrue is that the board publicly approved a private process for responding to a letter sent by AdvancEd.

On Sept. 5, the board voted to accept the letter and approved an administrative process for responding to AdvancEd.

An administrative process is not a “private” process.

The board approved an administrative process that included naming a team to review and draft a response to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

This was necessary because the SACS letter was addressed to the superintendent — not to the board — and it was the administration that was obligated to respond.

Since the SACS letter cited unsubstantiated charges related to board governance, part of the administration’s recommendation was to share its response to SACS with board members.

Every day, the administration responds to correspondence from parents, citizens, educators and a host of public and private agencies.

This correspondence is never “private.”

Nor is the process for responding private to the extent that all correspondence, even drafts, are readily available under the Georgia Open Records Act.

Furthermore, when an individual, such as a parent, writes to the school system, the system responds to that individual.

When board member Paul Womack suggested in the Sept. 5 meeting that the board extend that same courtesy to Mark Elgart, president of AdvancEd, the board unanimously agreed with the clear understanding that the letter would be instantly available to the public.

How an administrative response to a letter, handled no differently than any other letter, would be deemed “private” is difficult to comprehend.

Let’s say, however, that this is a “closed” process because the administration was giving the board an opportunity to weigh in on the letter.

Even then, all correspondence between board members and the administration, including recommended revisions to the SACS letter, would be a matter of public record.

How then, has the board “barred” the public?

And what public agency in its right mind would cast a unanimous vote to do so in flagrant violation of state law?

We have not barred the public from the process.

We have not violated the letter or spirit of the Georgia Open Records Act or Open Meetings Act.

And we certainly did not and would not cast a unanimous vote — eight to zero — to do so.

Every member present voted to extend a courtesy to SACS that we extend to every correspondent with the full understanding that the letter would immediately be made available to the public.

And any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.

Eugene Walker is chairman of the DeKalb County School Board.

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21 Responses to Public not barred from board’s process

  1. Fred the CHAIRMAN says:

    This is a perfect example of the lack of leadership and confusing bureaucracy that is present within the county’s school system. Mr. Walker, have you ever heard the story of the boy that cried wolf? Even if this rambling post of your is the actual truth, you and your cohorts have done so much in Executive Sessions and operated under a cloak of darkness that no one would believe you. Each time something is said about the school board, Mr. Walker, you refute it as lies. Take the March-April grand jury presentment details as a primary example.

    For those of you who may not have read this grand jury presentment you can find it in the archives of this site, here: https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/dekalb-grand-jury-report-for-march-april-2012.pdf

    Shame on you, Mr. Walker, for your continued efforts to try and play the martyr.

  2. Ned says:

    Put up or shut up Dr. Walker.
    100% open and transparent accounting NOW!
    ALL Board sessions broadcast LIVE and TAPED and POSTED IMMEDIATELY!

  3. Tax waste says:

    How is it when the county is broke and every one taking a pay cut that the board approved to buy the superintendent a new car?

  4. dekalbmom says:

    The better question is WHY would our superintendent ask for a new car when the school system is broke and taking out tax anticipation notes to make payroll? How in the world does this match her long-winded response that she is implementing fiscal controls?

  5. I have no doubt that is much left out of or softened to the point of “what’s the big deal?” in this bombshell buried within the bowels of AJC. com:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/dekalb-schools-to-go-on-state-remedial-budget-plan/nSBtD/

    I have a gut feeling that this is direr than the spin let’s own.

    BTW, where the hell has Ty Tagami been exiled to by Jeff Dickerson and the AJC editorial staff? Why the silence from Maureen Downey?

  6. So furious when I typed this it doesn’t make sense. “there is much left out of” and “than the spin lets on”

  7. As far as we know, Ty and Maureen are both on vacation.

  8. Marney Mayo says:

    Ty is on vacation folks…the man does have kids and was out of town, but I got an e-mail this afternoon, so I know he is will be back in there shortly. I did go to the meeting that the article is about. Very enlightening…and it was taped…and Gene Walker was there for a while and then left. He isn’t on the subcommittee, so I don’t know why he left, but I think I was the only person there who was not staff, reporter, or board/board elect.

    One thing that the state CFO made very clear is that in their audits THEY DON’T look at local school district’s budgets either for whether they are reasonable or being followed. THAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LOCAL BOARD. The state only looks at the Fund’s Balance for the year, which is required to be presented on a modified accrual basis. And they will make sure that local boards have a policy on budgets, and will occasionally check to see if the policy is followed as a matter of “internal controls”, but that is spot checking. In general, as long as the fund balance is positive–local districts are generally free to do their monthly reports on whatever basis they choose and have their budget policy contain anything they want.

  9. Whoshelpingthekids says:

    @ Dekalbmom: great question. Similarly, why hasn’t Dr. A offered to take a pay cut with the rest of the staff and offered to cut her own budget?

    @Ned: the fernbank community could hold Dr. Walker accountable- they could initiate a successful recall effort. If you are REALLY about all the children of DeKalb, you have the power to show us all it’s your priority, dispel the rumors that you are only about Fernbank, and right the wrong being done to our students and staff. Will you use your power for the good of the system?

  10. September says:

    I don’t have a lot of faith in this school board. After watching them cut needed personnel from our school buildings without any discussion about how it would affect instruction, I believe these people are just not competent. Our children deserve better.

  11. concernedmom30329 says:

    it isn’t just our school board, DeKalb County as a whole is broken. Our commissioners spend more per constituent for their own operating budget than any other county. Clayton County’s commissioner’s don’t even get their own staff people.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/commissioners-chop-budgets-but-not-their-own/nSCQt/

    Make sure you get to the chart at the bottom of the article.

  12. dekalbite2 says:

    @whoshelping
    “@ Dekalbmom: great question. Similarly, why hasn’t Dr. A offered to take a pay cut with the rest of the staff and offered to cut her own budget?”

    More importantly, why are the Board members not taking pay cuts? Why are they not reducing their travel expenses and staffing allowances? As far as I’m concerned, the BOE can sell their $30,000,000 “palace” and move back into an existing facility. Why not move into the Bryant Center or even a school that has been closed?

  13. DeKalb Observer says:

    Question for DSW2: Was Gene’s letter originally formatted like this? What is this? A series of stanzas? Verses? Pre-edited quotes for the media to cherrypick and publish? It’s like he’s listed a bunch of declarative, stand alone statements but lacks the ability to develop a cogent argument with an assertion, and evidence to support that assertion. He went to Duke? Seriously? Yowza.

  14. Actually, the board, the superintendent and the rest of the central office staff can move right back into Buildings A & B on North Decatur Road. There will be plenty of room once the central office staff is right-sized. Not only can board members take pay cuts, we believe salaries for the board should be eliminated. Also, the board should cut back to one secretary, if even that.

  15. Walker’s statements were copied and pasted from the AJC. Most likely, the AJC did the formatting. The first comment after the article was published was from DSW: This was posted and discussed at the Atlanta Forward blog at the AJC. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2012/09/13/dekalb-school-board-administrative-process-or-closed-meeting/?cxntfid=blogs_atlanta_forward

  16. whoshelpingthekids says:

    @ Dekalbite: all the BOE could take a 10% pay cut and combined, the savings would be less than if Dr. Atkinson took a 10% pay cut. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ok for BOE not to be paid but she should offer to sacrifice her pay in solidarity with her employees. And travel should be gone – that is an extravagance, not a necessity! Dr. A has an allowance for which she does not have to submit receipts. Anyone recall how much that is? Wonder if she maxes it out each month?

  17. Dekalbite2 says:

    @whoshelping

    While the superintendent should take a pay cut, IMHO – the Board of Ed members are more responsible for the fiscal mess because:
    1. They are the top administrators of the school system and the supervisor of the superintendent
    2. Dollars are only spent with their approval
    3. They have presided over these unbalanced budgets for many years while the superintendent has only been in DeKalb for less than a year

  18. howdy1942 says:

    Dr. Walker does not seem to get the point. The Dekalb County School Board is in the position it is in because the majority of the residents in Dekalb County have lost confidence in the Board. I have been to numerous meetings of the School Board that were, indeed, “open” to the public. From the outset of each meeting beginning with comments from the public, members of the School Board were not listening. They were distracted by talking to each other, going in and out, shuffling papers, etc. These meetings were devoid of discussion on meaningful topics. They drummed on and on through a list of agenda items that barely touched on issues of importance to our children, their parents, and our community.

    This School Board has ignored the community and now the community is pushing back. The School Board has been tone deaf in listening to the people. Its actions have been the focus of reports on each of the local television stations and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution – reports that have all been negative and hurt our County’s image. It directly supervised a Superintendent whom the grand jury had indicted for blatant corruption. It has wasted millions in taxpayer funds on needless legal expenses that exceed the sum total of all of our neighboring counties. It was over a year ago that the Board promised to investigate leaks the confidential information of other candidates for the position of School Superintendent and has not done so.

    Dr. Walker, I won’t take issue with your statement that meetings have been open to the public. But you have not listened and acted in the best interests of this County. Right now, this Board appears to fully devoted to answering questions about its conduct and about its management of the school system. Can you not see that you have lost the confidence of the people? Can you not see the damage you are doing to our school children by your pursuit of your “something must be wrong with the public” attitude? Can you not see that your continuing along this course is driving down our property values and diminished the very tax base that supports our schools and critical government functions?

    We need a fresh, new School Board with new ideas, new visions, new goals, and with new focus. We have made some progress in recent elections but it will be two long years before the people can have any further impact. Given the crisis that we face, that is simply too long. For the sake of our people, our children, and our County, I encourage you to let someone else have a chance to lead.

  19. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    @ Dekalbite2
    The BOE over the last 10 years is culpable for our financial situation. I respectfully disagree with the responsibilities you assign the board.

    1. The BOE representatives are not administrators. As defined by DCSD, “The Board of Education is the official policy making body for the DeKalb County School District.” Dr Walker is currently in hot water for forcing administrative decisions which goes against O.C.G.A. 20-2-61 which states: “It shall not be the role of the local board of education or individual members of such board to micromanage the superintendent in executing his or her duties …”

    2. Recent DCSD history is replete with the Administration spending money not approved by the board. They approved $10M for electricity, but the admin spent $15M. Substitute teachers weren’t even in the budget last year (for starters). The budget has been a scam perpetrated by the administration in an attempt to deceive the board and the public.

    3. I agree. My previous 2 points do not detract from the ultimate fiduciary responsibilities of the board. Each member of the board over the last 10 years can be assigned one of these labels: scammed, out voted, or accomplices to fraud.

  20. Jim redovian says:

    DeKalb Inside Out thanks for giving me a category I can live in

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