Jesse Cunningham heads to re-instatement hearing on Monday

From “On Common Ground News”

Jesse “Jay” Cunningham is urging DeKalb County residents to attend the upcoming state administrative hearing to determine if he and four other suspended school board members should be reinstated.

Cunningham’s hearing is scheduled Monday, July 15, 10 a.m., at the Office of State Administrative Hearings, 230 Peachtree Street NW Suite 830 Atlanta. Cunningham will be the fourth school board member to take the stand. Pamela Speaks, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Eugene Walker already have had their hearings. Donna Edler will go before Judge Maxwell Wood on July 16, wrapping up the court proceedings. No hearing was set for Nancy Jester because she did not petition the governor to reinstate her to the board.

“I am encouraging the community to come out and witness the hearing for themselves. They are the stakeholders who elected me and I think it’s important for them to attend,” said Cunningham, who will be representing himself at the hearing.

Read more here >> Jesse Cunningham heads to re-instatement hearing on Monday

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25 Responses to Jesse Cunningham heads to re-instatement hearing on Monday

  1. Sylvia richardson says:

    Please, we don’t need ant more drama!

  2. This won’t be drama, it’ll be absurd comedy. A real LOLer.

  3. toohonestfor you says:

    All of them should just let it go. The new board seems to be making the progress the old one did not with much less drama. If the old board members were truly there for the kids, then they’d just walk away and let the new people with fresh ideas and the ability to get along, continue.

  4. Stan Jester says:

    Walker Hearing – Video of Testimonies
    I recorded, cut and posted on FactChecker the various testimonies given at Dr. Walker’s hearing. The Walker, Turk, Freeman, and Elgart testimonies are fascinating.

  5. Fred in DeKalb says:

    If you are looking for another topic to discuss, let me suggest an article that appeared in the newspaper about making it easy to provide meal assistance for students by eliminating applications. According to the article, if at least 40% of the students at a school receive free or reduced priced meals, the school will be spared of the paperwork. This is provided through the Community Eligibility Option program.

    Many here expressed concerned that this program may not be reflective of the actual demographics of the school and immediate community given the lack of validation on the part of the federal government. I’d be curious to hear what others have to say, especially as it relates to DeKalb schools.

    Here is the link for those interested. It is a premium content article,

  6. Thanks Fred. We don’t even really notice anything in the AJC these days, as all of their articles require a special, paid subscription to view. If you can find an alternative report on the subject, please share it. Most of our readers do not subscribe to the AJC online and can’t read the info at the link you provided. The AJC has become much more private in their reporting and we have ceased relying on them.

  7. momfromhe11 says:

    Georgia will become one of 10 states and the District of Columbia to participate in a federal program designed to streamline the delivery of school meal assistance to more students.
    At least two districts in metro Atlanta — Clayton County Schools and Atlanta Public Schools — have signed up so far for the Community Eligibility Option, which was part of the $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Georgia was one of four states invited to join the growing program this upcoming school year before it goes nationwide in 2014-15.
    Typically, schools in high-poverty areas where at least 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, breakfast and lunch is provided to all students without collecting applications.

    The Community Eligibility Option program eases that application requirement, sparing schools from the paperwork where at least 40 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

    In Clayton, where 82 percent of students were eligible for the meal assistance in 2010-2011, all students will now be eligible through the 2016-17 school year without having to fill out an application. In APS, where 76 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals in 2010-2011, students at 58 schools will get meal assistance without applying this upcoming school year.

    “The CEO program will ensure that every child has access to free breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks every day within these selected schools,” said Marilyn Hughes, the director of APS’ Nutrition Department. “Because the schools are located in communities with high levels of need, this program will enable us to provide healthy meals for student success.”

    Audrey Hamilton, the director of nutrition services in Clayton, said the district will be able to provide assistance to all students without regard to household income.

    “We know that every student will benefit from our decision to participate in CEO,” she said, “and we look forward to serving our students healthy, nutritious meals to support districtwide academic achievement.”

    Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan were the first three states chosen to participate in the program during the 2011-2012 school year. New York, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia came on board in 2012-2013. In addition to Georgia, the states invited to participate in the upcoming school year are Florida, Maryland and Massachusetts.

    The following year, the Community Eligibility Option will be available to all districts in the country with schools that meet the eligibility criteria.

    Federal education officials said the goal is to improve childhood nutrition, which, if neglected, can limit academic progress.

    A Community Eligibility Option fact sheet compiled by the Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit group that focuses on nutrition, states: “It doesn’t make sense for high-poverty schools to go through the standard application process to identify the few children who do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals.”

    David Payne, the president of Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools, a parent advocacy group, praised APS’ decision to participate in the meal assistance program.

    “One of the challenges we always have is we have kids who are hungry,” said Payne, who had three children attend schools in APS. “I work with kids who don’t have the better support systems. When kids come to school hungry, they are unable to focus properly and even pay attention the teacher. Due to better nutrition, their brains should function more properly and be able to receive the information.”


    Georgia is one of 10 states and the District of Columbia that are participating in a federal program that allows families in poor areas to skip the process of applying for school meal assistance.

    Program participants include:





    New York


    West Virginia




    District of Columbia

  8. momfromhe11 says:

    So it appears DeKalb has not jumped on yet.

  9. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I imagine DCSS will jump because this type of program fits well with Thurmond’s background of maximizing federal dollars.

  10. whyaminotsurprised says:

    This summary of the Cunningham hearing was on WABE: It’s not much, but at least a little update.

  11. Stan Jester says:

    Interesting … “Wood said he hopes to make a decision regarding Cunningham’s case in 30 days.”

  12. After the hearing, Cunningham said he thought he made his case.

    “I think I demonstrated that I have the skills and the knowledge to be reinstated back on the board,” Cunningham said, “What I would bring is my experience, with the time I’ve been on the board.”

    Really, Jay? Wow. That is really deluded.

  13. concerned citizen says:

    How could anyone delude himself this much – to see himself as skilled? Why would Wood single him out of the others” to make a decision in thirty days”?

  14. whyaminotsurprised says:

    I just remember Cunningham stating explicitly that if he were removed from the board, he would not fight for reinstatement. I wish someone called him on that publicly.

  15. concernedmom30329 says:

    The Judge told Walker thirty days as well.

    Also, Cunnngham and Speaks both said they would step down. (You know the rest of the story….)

  16. Thanks for posting the video testimonies Stan! I haven’t worked all the way through yet, but they ARE fascinating! Looks like Marcus Turk landed on his feet — he is now M. Turk Enterprises, Inc…

    Interesting. Marcus Turk was asked if he thought Dr Walker was an unfit member of the board – he answered No. Then he scratched his nose

    Sounds like they are blaming Cheryl Atkinson for going beyond the ‘balanced’ budget into a deficit due to her hiring of so many consultants and staff. Turk stated that it doesn’t appear she adhered to the budget. He also said she hired consultants to do duties for people who were also being paid to do the same job. (Many overlapping hands paid to do the same job. New staff in. Old staff stayed. Old staff was in the budget. New staff was not. Hence, the first deficit in DCSS history.)

    They go on to question him about policy DJE. Nancy Jester wrote a blog post about this – it clears up quite a lot. It really should be entered into evidence… The Curious Case of Policy DJE Turk enlightens us once again that the amount the superintendent can spend on any contract was increased from $50,000 to $100,000 by Atkinson. (She promptly gave out several contracts for just about $99,500 each…) FWIW, on the old blog, we had a fit when the amount was raised from $25,000 to $50,000.

  17. But the lawyer for the state takes the angle that perhaps there was a deficit because in the past, bills were deferred in order to maintain a balanced budget. Then, he goes down the textbook purchasing path. Said Turk said they had to submit invoices. Turk was surprised that the KPMG report showed they couldn’t find invoices. Also, there were invoices dating prior to 2008. He said that was not a surprise, since it was a reimbursement. Turk also testified that the surplus increased YOY under him. But SACS said there was an unaudited balance of a $25 million deficit. Turk was not familiar. Walker couldn’t state how they operated under a budget. In order to effectuate a budget, you have to follow the budget. Turk was not aware of any of it, as he stated he was not a part of the budget. Said Walker had an understanding of the budget and the district operated within its budget and the fund balance increased YOY. (Turk doesn’t seem to understand that the lawyers are insinuating that perhaps the deficit was due to his method of postponing paying the bills…)

  18. Now comes a parent, Marcene Cooper, who testifies that her children attended Columbia and a nephew attended Towers and she was very happy with their education. She went to Dr. Walker with an issue about her nephew. He personally called her back and gave her the proper person to contact and then followed up. (She got her problem resolved without Dr Walker personally getting involved other than giving her the name of the right person.)

  19. concernedmom30329 says:

    The Board approved the change that allowed Atkinson to spend nearly 100K at a time without their approval. Walker et all hired Atkinson because she was unqualified and he thought he could control her. The Board is responsible for empowering her to spend all that money, some of which most likely when to some of their friends and family (graft).

  20. Oh, and don’t forget the million or so that went to Success For All — her new employer!

    Fact is, they approved that contract as well – along with any and all others she submitted – which put them well over budget. No one ever even asked, which budget do you plan to pay for this from? What will you cut in order to cover this new cost? Many times Nancy tried to ask these kinds of questions, but was often more or less attacked by Atkinson’s supporters – ironically, Walker leading the pack! Then – worse – Atkinson stopped showing up for work – sent her lawyer to negotiate her resignation and was handed a $100,000 severance package!!! This – when she should have been investigated for destroying evidence in a civil case – those pesky text messages!!

  21. And, in other news of DeKalb corruption, being intercepted by the Governor:

    Deal Suspends DeKalb CEO Ellis, Names Lee May as Replacement

    Gov. Nathan Deal has suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis from office as a result of his recent indictments, and named DeKalb Commissioner Lee May as his temporary replacement.

    The suspension takes effect immediately.

    May currently serves as chairman of the DeKalb County Commission.

    On Monday, a three-member panel appointed by Deal recommended that Ellis be suspended from office.

    Deal made the announcement late Tuesday afternoon during a press conference.

  22. Stan Jester says:

    Policy DJE – Commonly Known as the Purchasing Policy
    Policy DJE was adopted in the wake of the AdvancED/SACS investigation from 2010 and amended later, at the Superintendent Atkinson’s request, to change the dollar limit from $50,000 to $100,000 thus giving the Superintendent and the administration even more latitude in spending money without board approval.

    Ashford Park Parent Paid Renovation
    The Ashford Park School Education Foundation is requesting approval to upgrade the school’s carpool site to include expanding the existing sidewalk and adding a cantilevered canopy; redoing the plaza area with new pavers and upgrading the existing outdoor amphitheater at the school. This completion of this project will help facilitate student pick up and drop off during the morning and afternoon carpools as well as create a usable space for an additional outdoor classroom.

    I’m incredulous the community has to pass the hat around to pay for this. DeKalb Schools administration and board should be embarrassed.

  23. Concernedmom30329 says:

    With all due respect, if there are limited dollars for capital projects and you have kids sitting in schools that are falling apart, how do you prioritize the funds. I would like to see needs over wants. An outdoor amphitheater is nice, but a school with newly discovered dangerous wiring probably needs to take priority.
    When you look at well managed (ok better managed) school systems, their SPLOST dollars are used for needs. Extras like outdoor classrooms are funded by PTAs all the time.
    One of the biggest mistakes DCSS made, in the early days of SPLOST funding, was to only build new, while not renovating old. This meant that old buildings deteriorated at a far greater rate than should have happened. Compare this to Fulton where they built new and renovated old simultaneously. They are in much better shape than DCSS in terms of facilities.

  24. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Fernbank was renovated a couple years ago to the tune of $10M. It will be destroyed and rebuilt during SPLOST IV. 3 perfectly good schools in South DeKalb at 40% utilization are getting destroyed so they can get a new school. I could go on …

    A sidewalk and canopy to cover it in the carpool lane isn’t too much to ask for. They can pay for their own outdoor amphitheater. Roofs, wiring … all that should be WAY ahead of many of these other projects.

    It’s scandalous.

  25. We never really seem to get ahead of the curve on the “needs”. When we first voted in SPLOST 1 we were told we had $2 billion in needs and could only raise enough for 25%. SPLOST 2 had a list of projects totaling over $600 million but a projected collection of only $400-500 million, so they created this weird above and below ‘the line’ method of starting projects. It was a cat fight for sure.

    Each SPLOST generates about $400-600 million in revenue. So the four SPLOSTS voters have taxed themselves should add up to two Billion or more dollars. Which, in theory, should cover the original projected need. However, with each new SPLOST, we seem to have the same $2 Billion in need – or even $3 Billion in Need. It’s the weirdest thing – we just can’t dig ourselves out!

    Kim wrote a great post about it in the old blog:
    Friday, June 17, 2011
    There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza

    Here’s another oddity: Cross Keys was #2 on the SPLOST 3 list, just after the carryover projects from SPLOST 2. However, they ended up getting their construction done almost last in line… and then, there was never ‘enough’ to fix the horrific and dangerous track, fix the gym or band room or build them an auditorium like every other high school. They simply ran out of money – and then when the SPLOST 4 list was created, Cross Keys was not on it at all – not to finish anything that was incomplete or to build an auditorium. Just flat skipped. It’s all so political – and the CK community has little political clout. Hopefully, Chamblee will allow CK to ‘borrow’ their auditorium for events.

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