OpEd: “The Fight for Truth and Voting Rights Continues”

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.

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33 Responses to OpEd: “The Fight for Truth and Voting Rights Continues”

  1. concernedmom30329 says:

    Understand that Walker was only interested in the report because he was after Atkinson. He hired her, pretty much single handedly, and then when he couldn’t control her, he went nuts. Add to that the fact that his son was hurt in that incident at Tucker High School, where he is a school resource officer, and Atkinson didn’t respond in the manner that Walker wanted and there you have it. It burns me up that Walker insisted that Atkinson be our superintendent and as soon as she made changes, positive ones like removing Marcus Turk, Walker started a campaign to undermine her.

    Atkinson was a terrible choice to make and the system will be impacted for years because of that decision. Walker and Cunningham leaked the information on the woman from NC (I can’t remember her name) so that we wouldn’t have a white superintendent. He rejected other candidates, who were far more qualified than Atkinson, because they weren’t black. In fact, his leaking led to the abandonment of the position by black candidates who were more qualified than Atkinson.

    Was Atkinson covering up something by not releasing that report? Absolutely. Did Walker really care? Not really, he just wanted her gone, so he could get another superintendent, probably Ramona, who he could control.

  2. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Well written letter by Dr. Walker. You might not care for the man but it is hard to argue the points that he has raised. The bar should be higher for removing an elected official. At a minimum, documented evidence should be provided. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, it should be produced for all to examine.

    This is still the USA when I last looked. One is innocent until proven guilty.

  3. A reminder of the politics of Walker, et al:

    From the Wednesday, November 3, 2010 DeKalb School Watch Blog:

    No message sent to the school board

    Today’s AJC recaps the election results for DeKalb schools. Tom Bowen is quoted as saying:

    “The election results were all over the place with no clear message being sent from the public,” Bowen told the AJC. “There was no visible anti-incumbent message in the votes cast and the publicized endorsements did not seem to carry any weight. The voters made up their own minds.”

    I disagree. I think there is a message in here. A very sad message. The message that the racially divisive politics of old are still very strongly at play in DeKalb and voters still harbor mistrust and antipathy toward “others” in the system. Sending Sarah, Jay and possibly Zepora back to the board is definitely a “statement”. And sending Dr. Walker back is an endorsement of his racial perspective. He openly admitted his own racially-motivated thinking when he stated at a board meeting, “I am a very, very race-conscious person,” Walker said in October 2009. “I will never ever try to lead you to believe that I am race-neutral. I see color. I appreciate color. I celebrate color and I love color.”

    Sarah Copelin-Wood inserted herself into the redistricting task force discussions, injecting a race-baited argument and pitting schools in her own district against each other. As the head of the task force reported , “As a board member, she [Copelin-Wood] has the responsibility to stay neutral and not make this a racial issue because it was not a racial issue,” Coward said. “But she kept making comments about black and white task force members.”

    In fact, one email campaign in support of Sarah Copelin-Wood summed up the anti-“north” racially divisive sentiment quite honestly –

    Do not be so “gullible” to allow these groups, mostly comprised by Dunwoody, “to tell you how to think,” “what to think” and “what to do.” You just try to attempt to go to Dunwoody and tell them “how to think” or who to “vote for” – Dunwoody would object your presence and reject your opinion. If the people in Dunwoody wanted to be a part of you, they would not have created their own city.

    I think Bowen is wrong – I think the voters of South DeKalb have sent a very strong message. The message so blatantly stated in the writers email above. The message states that South DeKalb continues to feel as if they are fighting some kind of power in North DeKalb and the only people who can save them are Copelin-Wood, Cunningham and Walker. To me, this is a very sad statement that the racial divide has not healed much at all in Georgia.

    +++

    Trust us, it pains us greatly to have to agree that Walker is in the right on this one. We can’t stand the guy – he is a race-baiter and a system-user in our opinion. He is only concerned about jobs for adults, not about creating real futures for young people. However, we just don’t see how it can be Constitutional for the Governor to remove elected officials. Imagine a day in the future – if the ‘politics’ are reversed. If we allow the Gov to do this now, there will come a day when the same power will be used again. That is a given.

  4. concernedmom30329 says:

    Just a reminder of the situation when Atkinson left..
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/dekalb-school-board-schedules-friday-meeting-to-re/nWJTp/
    From the article…
    It’s unclear whether the loss of a superintendent will affect the DeKalb board’s chances for survival or the district’s accreditation. SACS has threatened to strip the district of accreditation if the board doesn’t address a list of management concerns.

    Mark Elgart, head of SACS’ parent company AdvancEd, said Thursday that the district is in a “precarious position” and Atkinson’s departure “doesn’t help.”

    Elgart noted that the board couldn’t muster majority support for a new chairman when it met Wednesday.

    “It speaks volumes about the uncertainty of the system and provides no confidence moving forward,” he said.

  5. Ah! But the very last action of this board before they were removed was to hire Mr. Thurmond — lifelong political friend of Dr. Eugene Walker’s – and next door neighbor to Marcus Turk’s mother — in a move highly praised by Elgart these days. Touche Gene!

  6. That said, follow the post linking to the Patch article stating that SACS has announced that DeKalb has managed to make significant progress in the past few months….
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/dekalb-school-board-making-progress-according-to-sacs/

  7. Refugee from DCSS says:

    “Trust us, it pains us greatly to have to agree that Walker is in the right on this one. We can’t stand the guy – he is a race-baiter and a system-user in our opinion. ”

    It’s how the Devil argues. Mix a little bit of truth into every lie and he becomes harder to fight. Every evil person in history used the same approach. Walker is no different.

  8. Stan Jester says:

    DeKalb Politics
    As Dr. Walker says, “You can’t ask me to go against my politics”. Like Gene or not, he understands what South DeKalb wants. DeKalb Schools Interim Superintendent is equally savvy with South DeKalb politics. Those who ignore these facts will do so at their detriment.

    Interim Superintendent
    “Fran Millar could go down to South DeKalb and pick out a school board member he doesn’t like. And endorse him and I guarantee he won’t win.”Video clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3uUlJwLZXU

    Gene Walker
    As reported in the AJC, “DeKalb school board members admit they voted last year to spend almost $1 million more on attorneys to ensure they had a black female attorney working with them … The two other firms – which also have African-American, Indian and Hispanic attorneys on staff – offered to do the human resources work for about $500,000 less … During the heated debate, board member Walker argued that to him diversity is only black and white. ‘I am a very, very race-conscious person,’ Walker said in October 2009. “I will never ever try to lead you to believe that I am race-neutral. I see color. I appreciate color. I celebrate color and I love color.’ …”

    –Stan

  9. Another Thurmond quote:
    http://dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/2013/04/dekalb-interim-superintendent-michael.html

    Just in talking to the residents of DeKalb County. North and South, East and West, and if you listen intently and with purpose, and actively. You can find so many opportunities for common ground. But yet, if I travel from my house there in Stone Mountain, as I did one Sunday afternoon up to Dunwoody. It was just a 15 minute drive. But sometimes, politically, it felt like two thousand miles.

    What we have to recognize is that some of the dysfunction that we face at the school board is really dysfunction in the county. And it was representative of the dysfunction in the county. But we have to find common ground via bridges and do what’s best for our citizens and particularly our student. We had a great meeting in Brookhaven last night. A former state senator, Dan Weber, he has a plan that focuses on creating high school charter systems where you really decentralize authority all the way to the high school level. That’s not necessarily my belief, but I do believe where we do share common ground is that we are going to decentralize some decision making, some resources from the central office to the regional level. Right? When our Area Superintendent, Dr Pringle, sitting there ????. We need to, I’ve always believed in any situation I’ve gone in is that decisions made closest to the delivery of the service of the product are better, more effective and efficient. So, we have over centralized some of the decision making into the central office at DeKalb. We are going to change that and you will see evidence of that in our F.Y. ’14 budget. Because we are so diverse, I can’t sit like the Wizard of Oz behind a curtain. And make decisions about the 138 schools that serving an extremely diverse population without input from the people who are closest to the point of delivery. And those people are the teachers and principals, and the support staff in the school. That will change. And I think we will end up with a more effective school district with better results.

    It’s honest anyway.

  10. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Here is my opinion: Gene Walker is gone, let it go. All his statements since the removal have been about how all this has effected him, his rights, his constituents, his, his, his.. I am tired of all of it. Oh poor me, I am just a humble public servant trying to do a good job. Look how I have been run over by the big bad Governor. Puleez! The man was completely out of line when he was on the board. It is all about power and control. He has lost the power and he is out of control.
    Enter the NAACP who would get behind him and not the countless numbers of children who were being robbed by this board’s inability to reign it in. (It being spending, legal issues, crony-ism, nepotism, politics and effort to create a employment agency on the public dime.)
    The plain fact is the board is a steward of public money. That board didn’t do their job very well. Finally there was some accountability in a environment of no accountability. I see no problem with that.
    DSW, you cant see how this is right, this law? Well it worked its way through the system. Work to change the law if you don’t like it. But to my mind it is a law that is necessary because it gives the PEOPLE the ability to take immediate action. These boards govern millions and close to a billion dollars of public funds that impact children’s education today, also for years and years from now. If the board is not functioning, then the system in place should take over. I couldn”t vote for Walker or anyone except McChesney/Mcmahon, but their decisions effect my kid’s education. The only recourse I had was to get out pound the pavement and beg HIS constituents to recall him. Sorry, There has to be a better way. Until I can vote, as I have said before, on a platform of all possible members I have no problem with laws that take away the power of someone who effects my child’s education. No one asked my opinion of Walker. But yet I am supposed to feel bad he is no longer running the show? I couldn’t vote for him
    I am happy the legislature saw fit to give me some relief of these folks.

  11. @Betty: Many laws passed by legislatures around the country end up being challenged in state Supreme Courts. It really is how the system works. Gene is entitled to his day in court. That’s America.

  12. bettyandveronica1 says:

    That’s right . The system is working. They were removed, they get a hearing if the individual so chooses, there will be a resolution. He is availing himself of the process the law affords him. But in the meantime, the hemorrhaging has slowed. It is not perfect, but we are moving on.

  13. Procopius from Constantinople says:

    A prediction, if you will. Dr. Walker and his fellow board members (felon and non-college grad included) get reinstated to the board of the second largest school district in Georgia, the one with the 58.65% graduation rate. Accreditation is lost and Dekalb ends up on a page one article in the New York Times. “What’s wrong with Dekalb County?” This will follow on the heels of the acquittal of Pope and Lewis and the conviction of a certain CEO. Laughing stock would be putting it mildly.

  14. Word Wall says:

    Victory in every courtroom!

  15. howdy1942 says:

    Dr. Walker, please just go away and stop. Dekalb got the SACS decision on December 18, 2012. You could have challenged it, even insisted that SACS provide details. You could have even challenged the SACS findings in court. You did neither. You could have addressed specific SACS claims before the State Board of Education – after all, the real hearing was not held until the end of February, almost two months after receiving the SACS decision. You didn’t. Why was Dekalb spending so much on lawyers, more than all its neighboring counties combined? Why had Dekalb been through four superintendents in four years? Why did you never get to the bottom of who on the Board leaked the name of the candidate from Charlotte for the position of superintendent? Why, specifically, had so much money been spent on the Heery case ($18 million) when the case could have been settled for $500,000 at the outset? How is that good fiscal management? Why did Dekalb lose $10 million in State money because it could not adequately complete a few forms? Why did it take a state legislator to inform the school board of alleged wrongdoing on the part of Superintendent Lewis? Why did SACS come back for another review in October 2012? Did you read any portion of Dekalb’s pitiful response to SACS issues voiced in 2011, the one where pages were just copied and stuffed in a notebook and were often crooked? If you didn’t like how SACS was performing its service to Dekalb County, why didn’t you just take action to change accrediting agencies? Do you really think that SACS has it in for Dekalb County – the only institution it has placed on probation among the thousands it serves? Do you not realize that if you should prevail that Dekalb would be thrust into chaos and the school system likely lose its accreditation? Have you considered what would happen to the Class of 2014, Class of 2015, etc., – in all of our high schools – if you prevail? How would you even begin to respond to questions from these high school students who would be impacted from any loss of accreditation – why?

    Except for Dr. Walker and some of his colleagues, I think that the vast majority of us in Dekalb County would agree that our school system is in a deep, dark hole. One thing that SACS did point out that I think we can all agree with is that the Dekalb School System has been on a downward spiral for years. For now, I hope that the current appointed board and Mr. Thurmond will continue to make progress in satisfying SACS to the point we can regain our full accreditation. I try to be optimistic, but I also know that we face elections in July 2014 for seven school board members that threatens to place any of our progress in jeopardy.

    One thing that I do believe is that if Dr. Walker does prevail, the cityhood movements will take on new perspective. I think that any such decision will enhance the prospects of any changes to the Georgia Constitution to allow the creation of new school districts. Perhaps that would even motivate the Tucker Together and Lakeside City Alliance to unite their efforts and form a city of North Dekalb and work to control their own school systems. I’ve been a reluctant supporter of cityhood, but for the sake of our children, I now support them. Dr. Walker is probably the biggest impetus for that movement. In short, Dr. Walker just needs to be like that old soldier and fade away. If he prevails, he will lose and so will Dekalb.

  16. teachermom says:

    Surely we haven’t forgotten how difficult it was to remove this dysfunctional board and how much damage they did? Removal was way too long coming, and it took an intervention by the agency who stood there for years doing nothing. Accrediting agencies have to have teeth. Who can forget posting and reading posts asking “Where is SACs?” in our darkest hours when the most blatant and questionable actions were finally called out (remember the secrecy, the lack of even posting minutes and broadcasting meetings, the botched hiring of supers, the nepotism, the political favors)? It discredits all of the work and frustration of those who have fought so hard for change. I could never align myself with Walker, bonding over voter rights. Now is the time to look forward and to keep pushing for accountability and transparency.

  17. No argument there, teachermom. We agree with you in our guts… we just have a bad feeling that in order to get our way, we could possibly be trampling on our own rights. We simply think Gene has a point (and it really pains us to say so!) Let’s see what the judge says.

  18. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    People, including Judge Story, are generally OK with “the ends justify the means” even if some rights get trampled. Personally, I would prefer to follow the law and hold on to our rights.

    The acceptance of the DeKalb Schools current situation is fascinating. The budget is more fraudulent than it has been in years. I only see one budget hearing posted (suspicious). I see at least $9M in the budget revenue shortfall. Thurmond and Walker are pretty much the same people. The only difference is none of the current board members have the spine to speak up. Somebody said on this blog, “the canaries in the coal mine have been removed”. That seems to accurately describe it.

  19. Insider says:

    Actually, Howdy, all NINE board members are up for reelection in 2014. The only question is whether they’ll be running for 5 or 7 seats.

  20. Funny – We said the same thing – Eugene P Walker, would you please go Now?
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/eugene-p-walker-will-you-please-go-now/

    IF Gene had listened – and left – and the Board elected a decent leader in his place, perhaps there could have been a ray of hope. In fact, if Gene were not so race-focused, he (and Jay, Sarah, etc) would not have completely downgraded a superior candidate in Dr. Duron. Duron, the very first choice of Pam, Don and Nancy, however, is Hispanic, and color-focused Walker would have none of that. Then, when a white lady looked like she might have a chance, ‘someone’ on the board leaked info and sabotaged that. Duron surfaced again, and again, ‘someone’ on the board leaked info and sabotaged Duron a second time. Walker manipulated his way to hiring Dr. Atkinson – simply because she is African-American. In our opinion, Gene got what he deserved.

  21. concernedmom30329 says:

    Even with Nancy Jester calling out issues, nothing changed.. I am not sure it matters who is on the BoE, the culture of DeKalb County (and not just the school system) is permanently broken. I am not sure anything but a total implosion will save this county.

  22. momfromhe11 says:

    Howdy,
    I have never seen the reasoning stated as clearly – if he was really upset about the veracity of SACS’ comments (and I will agree that some of Elgart’s answers were too vague to be acceptable), Dr. Walker had many opportunities to present his concerns. The fact that he waited until the appeal to officially state his case shows me that what he is upset about is losing his power – unfortunately, the fuzziness of the law and how it was enforced give him a bully pulpit.

    If all our new board members are so dedicated to the welfare of DCSS, why is no one continuing to ask questions until there is an answer? It looks like the same game with new players, and someone (Thurmond? Johnson? some coalition?) is continuing to repress dissent just as Dr. Walker did.

  23. howdy1942 says:

    My understanding is that in July 2014, Dekalb County will vote and elect seven school board members. My perspective is that our rights are not being trampled. The law under which the Dekalb Board was removed was passed years ago and went without challenge. This law applies very narrowly to school districts whose accrediting agencies have placed them on probation. Those school districts can challenge any such decision by their accrediting agencies either directly or in court. Dekalb did neither. Those school districts can also present their respective cases to the State Board of Education. They can show evidence to the State Board contradicting the conclusions of their accrediting agencies. Other than vague statements by Dr. Walker, the Dekalb Board presented no documents, presented no witnesses, and provided no specifics to refute the SACS conclusions. And Dekalb had over two months to prepare. Copelin-Wood’s response was incoherent. Cunningham’s rambled on and on, citing his pizza business and how his voters loved him and how he had done his duty. The members of the Dekalb School Board wasted this opportunity. Not one member of the State Board supported the Dekalb Board.

    To remove any other official, such as a supreme court justice, would require a separate state law. That is a far fetch. There is just no basis for any such law to even be contemplated. The law pertaining to school boards was passed due the the antics of the Clayton County Board. Sadly, the Dekalb Board paid no attention.

    I’ve worked at three colleges and universities accredited by SACS. I’ve been through their reviews. We spent hours and days preparing for those reviews and we answered their questions. When SACS did have findings, they presented those findings clearly. After they had left, we sometimes had questions of them and they responded and were very helpful. In virtually all situations, we were able to respond with a concise, factual answer and were able to resolve any such finding.

    I find it very hard to believe that somehow SACS had it in for Dekalb and that it would not or could not help Dekalb. My sense is that Dekalb never tried to resolve its differences with SACS. Dekalb was warned on three separate occasions and little seems to have been done. The Dekalb Board kept right on interfering with school officials to the point of berating them, the Dekalb Board kept right on increasing its budget for lawyers, the Dekalb Board kept right on increasing the percentage of employees in central administration at the expense of the classroom, the Dekalb Board paid little attention to the residents and ignored their comments – often talking or even sleeping while residents were making comments. They did little to mingle with residents after Board meetings, often leaving directly or talking to each other. The Board often adjourned to Executive Session without stating their reason and completely ignoring the people. Others on this blog have provided many other examples.

    Judge Story got it exactly right. He carefully weighed who would be harmed the most – Walker or our children. Walker had been given every opportunity to lead the Board to fix the schools over a number of years. He didn’t. Walker had every opportunity to challenge SACS, to satisfy SACS, and to move forward. He didn’t. Our children had no such opportunities. Judge Story spoke for the children. I close by asking a simple question: What happens to our children if Walker wins?

  24. Dr Moore says:

    Walker,
    It is time to go the era of Eugine has passed on realize that you and rest have had your 15 of fame let it go I have no faith in you or your side kicks. … good by.
    Dr.EdD, PhD
    25 year vet DeKalb Schools

  25. You are correct, Howdy. We will elect 7 new board members in July, 2014. However, they will not officially take their seats until January, 2015. That leaves a lot of time for the current Board to make policies and FIND A NEW SUPERINTENDENT! This is the Board’s most important task – do they really want to leave it up to the next group that gets elected in DeKalb?

  26. howdy1942 says:

    One other point that I would like to make. Dr. Walker now wants SACS to identify the people within the Dekalb County School District it interviewed and to learn exactly what each person said. That is a matter of confidentiality. Who, in his/her right mind, would ever say anything negative if he/she knew that the Chairman of the School Board would be given that information? Dr. Walker wants to refute and challenge each person and that cannot and should not be allowed to happen. Confidentiality is at the very heart of such accreditation reviews and cannot be compromised. SACS rightly refuses to provide that information and will not permit Dr. Walker to threaten, intimidate, or berate anyone that it interviewed. Dr. Walker refuses to tell us what went on in those Executive Sessions that he called, he refuses to give us any specifics about the circumstances involving Dr. Atkinson’s abrupt departure, and he refuses to tell us anything about the breach of confidentiality of at least one of the candidates for position of school superintendent. Other than Dr. Howe (I think that is her name) stating that she now has records showing the purchase of textbooks and who received them, I have seen no substantive evidence of that. Certainly the DCSS must have known that SACS was asking about that and should have made that information available. As it was, it took the DCSS two months to find that information, if it indeed exists, and even make a statement about it. Frankly, I’m not sure what Dr. Walker and the other members of this former board are trying to achieve. Do they really want their positions back when they have so little support in the County? Are they just trying to clear their name? Do they believe that what they are doing is so important to threaten the future of our high school graduates? Do they really think that the former board did a good job, given the criminal indictments, given the decline of our school system, given the excessive legal fees, given the discontent among the people, given the turnover in key personnel, given the behavior of school board members as shown on television, etc., Dr. Walker, did you see that report on several of our local television stations that showed you sleeping during the State Board meeting that would determine your fate? Do these former members even care? Nancy Jester is probably the most deserving, by far, of any former school board member worthy of being considered for reinstatement. I think that she answered those questions, she answered that she cares, and she made a bold statement that some things are more noble, more important, and longer lasting and that they rise above any possible self interest.

    @DSW, I don’t believe that the current appointed school board will make any serious effort to find a new school superintendent. Perhaps you know different, but I am not aware of any discussion by this board of even pursuing this topic. I would like to see them try, but I think that is something they want the board elected in July 2014 to decide and, until sometime in 2015 at the earliest, I believe we will have Mr. Thurmond.

    Again, I would appreciate some discussion on what others on this blog believe will happen in Dekalb if the Georgia Supreme Court rules in favor of Dr. Walker.

  27. On the subject — in case you missed it, let me refer you all to our post showing that Gene has support from the Georgia School Boards Association:

    It ain’t over till it’s over… Gene Walker has support from the GSBA

    And yes, we have come to believe that Thurmond is quite comfortable in his new position, and is showing strong signs that he fully expects to be around for quite some time. Let’s see… that puts us at 5 crumbling years with Crawford Lewis who was indicted on RICO charges (with Ramona Tyson as one of his top administrators, along with Pat Pope who was also indicted), 18 months or so with Ramona Tyson as interim superintendent (as recommended by the indicted Lewis), maybe a year with Atkinson as permanent superintendent (with Ramona overlapping and actually earning more than Atkinson in that year) and now, who knows – maybe another two to two and a half years with Thurmond as interim superintendent (with Ramona as his right arm woman, taking care of SACS reports and working on the budget)… All in all, not too stable in the leadership department, IMHO (well, except for the part about Ramona).

  28. teachermom says:

    Howdy- I think Walker is deluded. which is why he continues to pursue this. The same personality that ran this district in to the ground would believe that they are righteous in a dogged pursuit of “justice.” Because it is all about him it doesn’t matter to him what impact his return would have on the district.

    Unfortunately, he has manipulated, or attempted to manipulate, the public and other willing sidekicks such as the NAACP. It’s all about hot button polito-speak. He does this with the help of those who will to jump on the bandwagon with political agenda’s of their own. This big old mess he trails with him all the way to the Supreme Court as he pursues–What?

    It doesn’t surprise me that that the former head of a board who so often turned to hot button racial issues to get it’s way would turn to the same tactics, and pull in more hot button issues/supporters, to try to resurrect his image. He says he is not trying to fix his political career, and maybe he isn’t, I think it might just be ego.

  29. Adding to the DeKalb (bad) news, this is from “On Common Ground News” —

    Deal appoints review panel in DeKalb CEO case
    Gov. Nathan Deal today appointed Rockdale County CEO Richard A. Oden and Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeffrey E. Turner to a panel that will determine whether the indictment against DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis relates to and adversely affects his ability to perform his official duties.

    The law requires Attorney General Sam Olens to fill the third position on the review panel. Under the executive order, the panel has 14 days to study the case and issue a recommendation to the governor. If the panel determines that the CEO should remain in office, that decision is final. Should it determine that the charges require suspension, the governor makes the final decision.
    More to come…

    So – the Gov is taking care of things in DeKalb again!

  30. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    What SACS Warnings
    What SACS warnings are you talking about? As far as SACS is concerned, DCSD was doing just fine until Dr. Walker insisted Dr. Atkinson turn over the text messages and follow board policies. SACS just came in to get the board off Dr. Atkinson’s back.

    DCSD has a decent history of SACS requests, reports, etc ….
    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/sacs-casi-accreditation

    Before the Oct 2012 report, there were no relevant warnings? Nothing fiscal … not textbooks, utilities, legal fees, etc … Nothing about how racketeering is discouraged.

    SACS – Useless Warnings
    Feb 2007 – Oral Exit Report
    SACS accredits district saying “Effective leadership at all levels” – No warnings

    Mar 2011 – Special Review Team Report
    Useless warnings regarding strategic planning

    Oct 2011 – AdvancED DeKalb Report
    KUDOS from SACS … you’ve addressed 6 of your 8 warnings from your last report.

    Oct 2012 – It wasn’t until October of 2012 that SACS had anything relevant to say.

    This is hardly a history of SACS giving DCSD plenty of warnings.

  31. howdy1942 says:

    @DIO – I think that @DSW can help you with specific warnings – it cited these in a recent post. The very fact that SACS has had to become involved in recent years on at least three occasions should set off alarms. In a previous post, I mentioned having worked at three colleges and universities that were accredited by SACS. I’ll assure that mountains would have been moved the first time SACS came calling. There would have been direct involvement by top officials and there would have been followup actions taken to insure that any possible deficiencies had been corrected and the procedures were in place to insure that they did not happen again. Accreditation is not something that I have ever known to be taken lightly, except in Dekalb. When I was in the military, the same was true when the Inspector General’s office came calling. As we used to say in the classroom, the reality should have been “intuitively obvious to the most casual observer”. There is no defense that can be made about the performance of the Dekalb School Board, especially under the direction of Tom Bowen and Eugene Walker. There have been criminal indictments, there have been school board members that were going to “slug” a CBS Atlanta reporter, there have been four superintendents in four years, there has been confidential information leaked by the School Board that should give pause to anyone who might even consider becoming a candidate for the permanent position of superintendent, there has been at least $21 million that was “lost” by Walker and “found” by Thurmond, there was at least $10 million in State Grants “lost” because the district could not fill out forms that other districts seem to have been able to do, there were legal expenses and legal budgets that exceeded those of our four neighboring counties combined, and this board kept on keeping on. It wasn’t just SACS that had concerns. I’ve attended many meetings of this school board and often felt like I wanted to put a sack over my head – they were that bad. There were warnings and signs that things were just badly out of line and amiss.

    I hope that, for the sake of our children, that we can buy enough time to set a process in place to fix our situation.

  32. dekalbite2 says:

    ” That leaves a lot of time for the current Board to make policies and FIND A NEW SUPERINTENDENT! This is the Board’s most important task – do they really want to leave it up to the next group that gets elected in DeKalb?”

    IMHO – The ousted BOE put Mr. Thurmond in place to hold the status quo in case they were removed by the governor. They also elected Melvin Johnson, the ultimate insider whose campaign was run by the ultimate insiders, Board Chair for the same reason. They hope that the Board that will be elected will be part of their power structure so they can continue business as usual. They have a lot of patience and they think they can stall and wait out this out. So far it has worked for them. The same personnel who were Lewis’s trusted advisors are still in place. Student achievement is still not a priority. Taxes still remain the highest in Georgia because they refuse to make the outside the classroom cutbacks.

  33. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Howdy,
    I’m not defending the board, but condemning SACS. DeKalb has endured fraud and racketeering for 10+ years while getting glowing reports from SACS. In 2007, the darkest days of corruption in DeKalb, SACS fully accredited the DeKalb School District with no warnings saying “Effective leadership at all levels”. Where has SACS been? No warning for racketeering or spending their entire fund balance savings.

    Walker et al needed to go, but let’s not pretend SACS had been warning them all along. The school district didn’t get its first financial warning until Oct 2012.

    Here are all the SACS reports. See for yourself the glowing reports and progress well made, according to SACS, over the last 10 years – http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/sacs-casi-accreditation

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