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.