A decision… for now

From the AJC:

Federal judge rules against DeKalb school board

County school board members who lost their seats over a threatened loss of accreditation, and now Gov. Nathan Deal must find appointees to mend the torn district.

Deal suspended two-thirds of the DeKalb board last week. The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard Story allows the governor to name replacements while the lawsuit for control over Georgia’s third largest school system continues, perhaps to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Now the governor is facing pressure from parents, politicians and the public to quickly name successors. With only three members remaining on the school board, the district is all but paralyzed and major financial and personnel decisions are delayed.

Read more>> http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/federal-judge-rules-against-dekalb-school-board/nWggG/

Someone at the Patch posted a link to the decision –

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32 Responses to A decision… for now

  1. Reasonable40 says:

    They are out. Let’s move forward.

  2. Well – maybe…

    The judge’s decision does not end the litigation. Story indicated he was dubious about the likelihood that DeKalb would win under their U.S. Constitution argument, but he signaled that the Georgia Supreme Court could soon consider questions in the case. He asked the two sides to agree on which questions, and gave them 10 days to submit them.

    “The case as a whole is not going to dry up and blow away at this point, but it will be able to be studied under a less urgent situation,” said Ronald Carlson, an emeritus law professor at the University of Georgia. . . .

    [State Rep. Billy] Mitchell, the state representative who opposes the suspension, said Judge Story’s decision leaves DeKalb in “limbo.”

    “I wish I had confidence this will end the legal matter, but this system is still stuck in legal limbo,” Mitchell said. “I’d love the issue to be resolved, but it’s not.”

  3. Gotta hand it to Melvin Johnson. He seems just fine with moving on…

    Melvin Johnson, the new chairman of the DeKalb school board and one of three members who took office this year, said he appreciated the judge’s “timely” decision.

    “It is essential that we have a governing board capable of meeting the needs of our administration, students, parents and taxpayers,” said Johnson, who pledged “full and complete cooperation” with Deal’s nominating panel.

    The three present members are too few to meet legally.

    “I trust they will work expeditiously to ensure we have a governing board capable of addressing the pressing needs of our school system,” Johnson said.

  4. howdy1942 says:

    Thank you Judge Story! I appreciate your knowledge of the Law and your use of common sense as to which party had the most to lose – the students of Dekalb or Dr. Walker.

    Dr. Walker needs to understand that his rights were not taken away from him. You have had the right to serve for six years, but you had the responsibility to perform and first do no harm. Just because you are elected does not mean you have the right the drive our school system into the ground – to destroy it completely. I wish that we could have had an election on January 17, 2013, – not a State Board hearing. But the next election is not scheduled until July 2014 and those elected could not take office until January 2015. Because you have created such delay by your your destructive behavior, there is just no time to even consider a recall.

    You have no right to threaten our students and their parents with the consequences of losing accreditation. You were elected – true. You failed big time – true. You were warned about your failures and what you had to do to correct them – true. You did not take any action whatsoever to fix the problems – true. Contrary to what you had been advised to do to address the concerns of SACS, you chose to fight and make no effort to fix them – true. You led this board to spend even greater amounts of money on legal expenses in spite of being repeatedly warned by SACS that this is a major problem for the school system – true. You failed to create a balance budget as required by law – true. You led this board to make decisions that were made in “executive session” that should have been made in an open meeting, such as the simple selection of a party to provide governance training – true. Every dollar that you have spent on legal fees is a dollar that is not available to our students, their classrooms, and our teachers – true. On this Friday, March 8, 2013, our teachers must take a furlough day without pay – true. You have alienated and infuriated a very large portion of Dekalb County residents with you irresponsible conduct and your miserable performance – true.

    Dr. Walker, there is absolutely no way that you can come close to effectively leading our school system and, given your record of poor performance and and inability to set priorities, there is no basis to believe that you could ever begin to protect our accreditation. I think that SACS has had it with you.

    You seem to confuse your efforts with those of Dr. Martin Luther King and others who did bleed and suffer. However, their efforts were for a people who had done nothing wrong and who had not been given an opportunity to perform, You, sir, had the opportunity to perform and you failed.

    You are free to appeal Judge Story’s ruling of today – true. However, I do hope that the first action of our new School Board will be to drop the legal case pursued by the District and to drop any funding of your personal legal action. I cannot imagine the legal bills you have already racked up for our people to pay and the funding you have taken away from our students to fund your mistaken belief that you somehow have been wronged. You are the wronger and not the wrongee! You can appeal, but do it at your expense – not mine! Then we’ll see how serious you really are in your appeal.

  5. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Who in their right mind would vote Howdy down? Who ever you are, get a grip. If that was the great and powerful Doctor W. lurking here on dsw, please move on. If not, please explain why Howdy is wrong.

  6. dsw2contributor says:

    The AJC’s Jay Bookman has posted a piece titled “It is not racism to try to help DeKalb students”:


  7. houseofclay says:

    If Gene Walker is fighting for justice for the marginalized, why hasn’t he been the lead board advocate for improving conditions at Cross Keys High School? His conduct while serving on the Board in no way matches the words he wrote last night.

  8. Exactly houseofclay. And he did say, “judge me by my actions”. He has let Hispanics flounder. He has allowed the gerrymandering of school districts to keep Hispanics together to continue and then has continued to underfund those schools. He makes this a white vs black event, however, there are actually MORE Hispanic students in DeKalb schools than white. This is the worst kind of bigotry – just virtually ignoring their existence. If you ask us, the Latino legal leadership should file the federal case here.

  9. Chamblee Dad says:

    @DSW Exactly! I’d love to see some Hispanic presence on the appointee list. In our school it goes blacks, hispanics (almost a tie – likely to flip soon) then whites. No problem here, as I’ve said repeatedly – we are Title 1 but have made AYP for years – despite DCSS leadership. It takes school level – principal, teachers, staff (paras & all the rest), & parents. Some might me surprised that the “minority” parents do value education & will work with the school to achieve success, if given a framework that addresses the needs for the whole student population, including them. But Hispanic representation at the board level, central office too? imagine what progress could be made system-wide. Certainly not SFA & any other program.

    Ron Carlson – my favorite law professor at Georgia. Such a level head & can explain things in a manner you can understand, without being condescending. Many might remember he first became a “public” resource for the media during the OJ trial, if you see quotes from him – listen. I’m afraid ths fight will drag on, but for now we can hopefully catch our collective breath & maybe be allowed to focus on the task at hand.

  10. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Asians and Indians (from India) are way under represented given their population. We definitely need one of each … a U.N. Board of Education.

  11. Chamblee Dad says:

    @ Dekalb Inside out Agreed. At our school, after the Black, Hispanic, White, coming in a bit behind, but still in #s that are certainly noticeable, are both Indian & Asian, I think about a tie. We certainly have a UN school, and a UN system as a whole. I certainly hope people from all 3 groups apply to be appointed ,and they are reached out to as well.

  12. dekalbite2 says:

    Here is from Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog:
    “@To all, This are questions I put to Marshall Orson just now:

    Me: Why is DeKalb still paying {attorney} Wilson? What are the terms of that agreement for the citizens to pay for the legal challenge? Since the six now are no longer members of the board after Story’s ruling, are taxpayers still on the hook?

    His reply: We cannot do anything until we have a quorum.



    I guess they didn’t want taxpayers to know who voted for this agreement and what the terms are – i.e. how many taxpayer dollars did they commit.

  13. Zazycourage says:

    I am in one of those districts where the school board member was removed and I have some concerns about 1) the process for selecting the “panel” 2) the process for the selecting those members who will replace the board members. I have contacted the governor’s office and searched their website looking for answers. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell me or anyone else who to select into office. If they want to remove these members, fine…but the decision to select the person(s) to replace them should not rest at the feet of any one person. This is still a democracy so at best a special election should be called. I suppose what upsets me more…is it is sooo “secretive”…at least I cannot get anywhere. Which makes me wonder about a lot of things? I just want an explanation and I would prefer one in writing and in a public domain. If there are any social studies or political science teachers watching, this is definitely a teachable moment. Great opportunity to engage students no matter what district they are in. WOW! I would love to be there as our children discuss the issues and take sides.

  14. howdy1942 says:

    I don’t know how Marshal Orson’s constituents feel about him, but I can assure you that not only will I not vote for Jim McMahon in July 2014 but I will actively oppose him. I voted for this guy last November thinking he would bring positive change to the board and was I wrong! I’ve observed the unrest in the Lakeside City Alliance relative to this school system and I think that many of them are in Orson’s district as well as McMahon’s. Both Orson and McMahon gave us Thurmond, voted for the School System to fund the legal challenge by the six suspended members that included Eugene Walker, voted to hire that law firm to provide governance training at a cost of $170,000 when that same training could have been provided by a law firm already employed by DCSS at no cost, vote for that severance packet for Atkinson – she is now getting paid by two employers. Nancy Jester and Pamela Speaks tried to bring some sense to this Board, but both Orson and McMahon joined Walker, Copelin-Wood, and Jay Cunningham to cut them down. I’m not sure how others feel, but both Orson and McMahon deserve to be booted in July 2014. Johnson is another story – he says his constituents “love him”. Maybe so, maybe not.

    I am hopeful that Governor Deal will appoint at least four no-nonsense, get it done, hardnosed people who will focus on the kids and not the antics of McMahon, Johnson, and Orson.

  15. Concerned Citizen says:

    If Johnson isn’t neutralized, he will take over; that’s a guarantee. And he is a 100% Gene Walker, and the rest of the old guard’s man. Just watch and BTW, you have noted his voting thus far, I hope. McMahon stood up there and said how buddy-buddy he and Johnson are. Did anyone besides me hear that?

  16. Acheolus says:

    The cure for racial preferences by one group is not racial preferences by another.

    How about this: Get the best people to represent all of us, regardless of their color. What’s best for all the groups within DeKalb is the same as what is best for all of DeKalb.

  17. dekalbite2 says:

    “Both Orson and McMahon gave us Thurmond, voted for the School System to fund the legal challenge by the six suspended members that included Eugene Walker…..Johnson is another story – he says his constituents “love him”. Maybe so, maybe not.”

    That’s the point. Why won’t the sitting BOE members – Orson, McMahan, and Johnson – say how they voted. We deserve to know how EVERY BOE member voted on the funding of the legal challenge. While the attorney advice to them may be protected in a closed session, the votes for funding the legal challenge should be public knowledge. Taxpayers should know if who voted for and who voted against funding the legal challenge and if any member abstained. Just a simple yes, no, or abstention. Why is that privileged information. This is costing us a lot of tax dollars that could have been spent on instructing students.

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    IMHO – Jim McMahan got into this race not for power or gain and before he ran, he found out a lot about what was going on in DCSS by reading this blog. He has kids in the system going to their home school – no magnet or theme or special program. I don’t think he was a power broker or insider. Quite the contrary which is why he might be trying to find his footing in this mess.

  19. momfromhe11 says:

    Howdy –
    My house has four constituents who did NOT vote for Orson and campaigned against him. We will do so again.

    Yes, you are correct that some of Marshall’s constituents are actively involved in the cityhood movement. Personally, I have misgivings – while it might benefit me to be part of a city (big MIGHT), I cannot see leaving the rest of unincorporated DeKalb out on a limb. I would, however work to help other areas move to cityhood if they desired – I believe their county and state representatives are dead set against it, making the task much harder.

  20. psdad says:

    Interesting case cited to support the denial of the injunction request: Coffee Cnty. Sch. Dist. v. Snipes, 454 S.E.2d 149, 150 (Ga. Ct. App. 1995). (“Political subdivisions of a state may not challenge the validity of a state statute under the Fourteenth Amendment”) and Williams v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 289 U.S. 36, 40 (1933) (“A municipal corporation, created by a state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the Federal Constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.”). The ruling goes on to suggest that the as a political subdivision of the State of Georgia, the School District may lack standing and cannot demonstrate injury (as defined in the ruling).

    The Court goes on the observe that Dr. Walker appears to have a property interest that is subject to the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and questions what “…process he
    is due…”. The ruling goes on to cite Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, in which the Supreme Court outlined the predetermination process a public employee should receive. This outlined termination process is deemed by the courts to be sufficient for establishing due process: (“We have described “the root requirement” of the Due Process Clause as being that an individual be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest.”) and this is key

    …the predetermination hearing need not definitively resolve the propriety of the discharge. It should be an initial check against mistaken decisions- essentially, a determination of whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against the employee are true and support the proposed action .

    I’m sure that EW and his attorneys dropped the state complaint because they thought the federal court would be more impartial. It looks like that plan backfired on them because the Federal Court all but ruled against them, but because the of the School Systems involvement (Political subdivisions of a state may not challenge the validity of a state statute under the Fourteenth Amendment) the court laid out the case for a decision against Walker and the School System, but deferred the final interpretation and ruling to the State Supreme Court. It would be highly unusual for the state court to ignore the reasoning and citations that were laid out by the Federal Court and find in favor of the school system or EW.

    The part that I enjoyed reading the most was the courts finding that, “The report contains specific allegations of conduct that violate applicable standards and policies. Though more specificity could have been provided, an “ordinary person exercising ordinary common sense can sufficiently understand” the allegations. I guess we all know why Eugene is having such a tough time understanding the allegations. 🙂

  21. howdy1942 says:

    @dekalbite2 – I have the same question. How can we find out how our respective school board members voted, especially on that matter of funding the legal challenge of Governor Deal’s actions?

    I also agree with you on the votes. I don’t care what they discussed in executive session, but I think that the voters deserve to know how they voted – simply yes or no. Every time I hear one of these board members use this “executive session” excuse or “I’m not at liberty to say” – I cringe! It disgusts me. Michael Thurmond did the same thing in his AJC interview.

    Again, how can one go about finding out how a specific member voted on a specific issue?

  22. dekalbite2 says:


    I don’t know how to find out since they will not make this public. It appears that the person who wrote “Why Jester and Speaks did not Resign from the Board” know how to find out how the respective members voted. Perhaps the poster who wrote that article can share how to find out how the three newly elected Board members voted on the expenditure of educational dollars to fund the lawsuit of the ousted BOE members.

  23. @dekalbite2: As we’ve said before, we don’t know exactly how the votes went at this secret meeting. We have heard from the rumor mill that Marshall and Jim abstained, and Nancy and Pam voted no. The remaining 5 voted to spend the dough. So, technically, our new board chair ‘could’ be the one deciding vote that allowed this spending on legal fees to go forward. We are not certain, but if true, it’s not a good sign.

  24. Probably true about Jim, dekalbite2. But – Jim needs to disengage from Marshall. He has so far only functioned as a shadow of Marshall – much like Don did for a while under Paul when he first came on the board. Jim has to dig down into his own values and knowledge and find a way to lead. He has disappointed us in that he seems to let Marshall take the lead and he has simply followed. Jim has plenty of knowledge of what is wrong and how to fix it. He just needs to trust his own instincts and take action – regardless of where Marshall is trying to lead him.

  25. dekalbite2 says:

    Nancy says on her blog that her vote is a matter of public record. But where is the public record so we can see how the other newly elected members voted? I would like to know how my rep voted since I walked door to door for him. It seems others in Mr. Johnson’s area and Mr. Orson’s areas would like to know if they committed us to pay student dollars to this lawsuit. I just asked Nancy on her blog where we can find this public record. That will let us know for sure if Johnson is supporting diverting tax dollars to support this lawsuit.

    Am I dense or have they been failing to write and publish BOE minutes? Don’t we pay TWO secretaries quite handsomely to do this – one of them being Dr. Walker’s daughter in law?

  26. dekalbite2 says:

    Agree about Jim. He seems to be the least politically connected of the three so that may be why he appears to follow rather than lead. Hopefully, he will find his footing as he represents all DeKalb students.

  27. You are SO CORRECT in that they do not post meeting minutes anymore. They did for a while under Tyson and quickly stopped. Now, if you want minutes, you can go to the Palace and ask to see them. Take your phone or a scanner and take photos or make your own copies – or choose the pages you’d like copied and pay them a quarter a page or so…

  28. psdad says:

    DSW & Dekalbite2 @ Jim McMahon… Jim doesn’t represent my district so I’m not very familiar with his background, but if I remember correctly he was the candidate that attended two separate colleges over a two year period, then dropped out and worked as a clerk for a while. If that is correct, I also remember thinking that he didn’t have enough education or functional experience to tackle this job, but assumed that he couldn’t be any flakier than the incumbent. In these first few months McMahon is appearing to be more flakey than functional, which leads me to wonder if a college education should be a requirement for all BOE candidates.

  29. Read this very interesting post at the Dunwoody Talk blog:


    Seems we now have Brad Bryant and Robert Brown in charge of appointing new board members. Should be interesting – and very “DeKalb”…

    Here’s the related AJC article:
    Pressure on to fill DeKalb school board

  30. concerned citizen says:

    We need to demand that the new board “chair” tell us how he voted on the money for the lawsuit. Hey, if he didn’t, who did? Can we get the truth just once?

  31. dekalbite2 says:

    “In these first few months McMahon is appearing to be more flakey than functional, which leads me to wonder if a college education should be a requirement for all BOE candidates.”

    Well, Walker has a PhD from Duke so maybe the educational requirement won’t quite do the trick. I still believe Jim McMahan is very new to this game. Jim may have a lot of experience at the local schol level (he was a dedicated volunteer since he has kids at the local school), but he has little experience at the macro (i.e. district) level – an area Orson and Johnson have a lot of experience at. If you met the other candidates, perhaps you would have supported Jim as well. Maybe I’m too presumptuous, and you did meet the other candidates. I met and talked with them, and McMahan was – IMHO – the best of the lot.

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