by Dr. Eugene P. Walker
for “The Patch”
“All things considered, I am encouraged by Friday’s administrative hearing in Judge Maxwell Wood’s courtroom. It was in his venue that any scrutiny whatsoever was given to the blatantly false AdvancED/SACS report which has caused irreparable damage to the DeKalb School System, my colleagues on the Board of Education and the community as a whole. No matter what the outcome is from this point forward, at least there is that.
“I have been dismayed since the beginning of this odyssey that the report, lengthy as it is, has been sold and bought as the gospel truth. In Judge Wood’s courtroom, we were finally allowed to scrutinize the document and the hands that prepared it. We were validated: SACS brought forward no supporting documentation for their baseless allegations.
“The whole process has been suspect from the start. SACS had advised us of concerns, and we were addressing them. In their review in March 2012, SACS commended the DeKalb School System in five areas. There were seven areas, called “Standards,” that we had been addressing. At that time, we had met 4 of them and making progress on the other three. Things were looking up.
“In an effort to streamline our processes as a policy setting organization, and to rectify our remaining issues with SACS, we did vote on a policy change that I believe was the root of our sudden and unexplained falling out with SACS. We increased the unilateral purchasing authority of the superintendant from $50,000 to $100,000. With this flexibility came the condition that a report of these purchases would be provided to the Board. After all, the Board was no longer seeing and approving these purchases on the front end, so to ensure transparency and fiscal integrity, we asked for the report on the back end. It was our responsibility as stewards of public funds.
“But the report, as stipulated by policy, was not produced. When I asked for it, our former superintendant said it could not be produced without additional money and staff. I wasn’t buying it. And then came the sudden execution from SACS: immediate probation.
“Remember, a few scant months earlier DeKalb was making substantial progress toward all the SACS goals. We were on “advisement” and moving in the right direction. As a result of the December 2012 report, the School System was taken off of “advisement,” moved past “warning,” and placed on “probation”.
“The record shows that there was not a drop in student performance, there was no credible evidence of fiscal mismanagement, nepotism, and the personnel department had consistently received good ratings for their operations. No one knows what evidence or documents were used to pass “warning” to placing the System on probation in light of the March report. Thanks to Judge Wood’s hearing, we know that SACS did not review the state audits. I would think a sound and fair review of alleged fiscal mismanagement might have included taking a look at them. But not in DeKalb’s case.
“I could go on and on, and I have done so before. But there are two more things I’d like to make clear before I close.
“First, enough with the missing book money already. All of the money earmarked for textbooks went for textbooks. We have the records and the textbooks. Just because SACS cites it in a flawed report does not make it true.
“Second, there are many who believe that my legal filings are the selfish act of an old man trying to save his political career. Completely false, except for my age. While I am indeed 77 years old, my political career was over years ago. The job pays $18,000 a year, if anyone is interested. I continue to serve the school system only because I believe I have something to offer.
“The reason why I continue to fight in my retirement is because what has happened here is wrong. I have not been arrested, indicted or even accused of any crime or wrongdoing. There is no recall effort underway for myself or any other board member. Yet the Governor, armed with a largely anonymous and completely flawed report, usurped the will of 42,000 DeKalb County voters without due process for me, or for them.
“Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Georgia has made sufficient progress that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. It is true that the old Jim Crow has been eradicated for the most part, but you can’t tell me that the new Jim Crow isn’t just the same. It’s just gotten smarter.
“Dr. Eugene P. Walker”
[DSW Note] Our readers know that we don’t often agree with Gene Walker. But, when he is right, he is right. Beginning with paragraph 4, above, Walker has nailed what we believe was the tipping point with AdvancED/SACS.
We also filed an Open Records Request with Atkinson asking for the list of her purchases, including contract personnel, that were $100,000 or less. There was no response. Atkinson used her authority to spend up to $100,000 per purchase to hire her friends to do nothing.