The March 15 school board candidate forum hosted by the NAACP

Stan Jester has kindly posted videos of this very first candidate forum for DeKalb school board candidates.

Check them out here >>

Panel 1 – Jester, McChesney, Johnson, Bolga
Panel 2 – Mosley, LeBlanc, Bason, Jordan, Erwin
Panel 3 – Carter, McMahan, Oselette, Smith

There are two more panels yet to be posted – we will add them as Stan gets them posted. For now, there is a lot to see in these videos. Click the numbered links above to view their discussions.

Of interest so far >>

  • Marshall Orson did not attend
  • Melvin Johnson, chair of the board, believes we have a 90% graduation rate

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34 Responses to The March 15 school board candidate forum hosted by the NAACP

  1. howdy1942 says:

    90% graduation rate? Now everyone can see exactly why many of us say that this board knows very little about what is actually going on at this board and the reason that we need a new one. Statements like this one by Johnson is why he needs to go.

  2. Maybe he thinks he’s on the City of Decatur school board?

  3. FWIW, here is a link to a WSB report on school board candidate, Bridgemon Bolger.

    Posted: 4:36 p.m. Friday, March 14, 2014

    School board candidate talks about arrest record

    Critics of Bolger are pointing to his arrest record, but he was more than willing to discuss it.

    “That does not define me today. And it actually motivates to help somebody in a similar situation that I was in,” Bolger said.

    Bolger opened up about several previous arrests, many of which occurred during his teenage years. His record shows the single misdemeanor conviction included a charge of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

    “I want to show people who were in that spot that I was in, they don’t have to be there forever and there’s a path to success,” Bolger said

    The candidate told Kavanaugh he’s focused on improving the district’s graduation rate, getting more guidance counselors in schools, and improving student access to technology.

    He’s challenging the current school board chairman, Melvin Johnson.

  4. Short notice – but the Austin community might want to check this out tomorrow >>

    “There will be at School Council meeting this coming Monday, March 17th at 12:30p at Austin ES to discuss their upcoming SPLOST project. URS and DCSD will be presenting.

    URS is the contracted SPLOST construction manager.

  5. John Oselette says:


    You are absolutely correct. Each of the incumbent Board Members at the forum seemed to be pushing the same message, regardless of the facts. From what I observed, the members of the audience took them to task.

  6. acheolus says:

    There are some really sad examples of higher education in many of these responses. One would hope that, with the highest degree possible, a person would have learned how to answer a question in a way that does not resemble a mish-mash of buzz words, key terms, and the maximum number of times the word ‘student’ can be thrown in a sentence.

    To me, this is one of the saddest days in DeKalb schools: the witnessing of the failures of our future board in the panels of the present.

  7. One thing I have to say in response to your observation that the audience took the candidates to task — if you people are so concerned about it – then either step up and run for the seat or do whatever it takes to find and support the best candidates you can find!

  8. Teachers Matter says:

    It would be helpful if Mr. Johnson offered solid proof to support his claim. Simply throwing out empty statistics is extremely ineffective and the taxpayers of this county have grown quite weary of it.

  9. John Oselette says:


    I am not at all concerned. I was happy to hear their rejection of the EduBabble and ridiculous platitudes. The audience at the NAACP candidate forum was not buying it at all.

    BTW, I am running 🙂

  10. midvaledad says:

    I watched the videos for the Panel #1 and Dr. Johnson was just embarrassing with his answers.

  11. @ John — boy, we messed up that last comment… we know you’re running – and That’s GREAT! — what we meant to say was – if the people in the audience are so concerned about it – then they should either step up and run for the seat or do whatever it takes to find and support the best candidates they can find!

  12. concernedmome30329 says:

    From watching (a little), it sounds like those in attendance weren’t buying what Johnson and others were selling. Which is a good sign.
    In most races there are plenty of candidates, presuming there are some quality folks in the pool.

  13. anothercomment says:

    It seemed like the NAACP moderator wanted to push certain incumbent candidates and primarly giving them a chance to respond and one other candidate. The audience did not like that. Then the audience got even madder when the moderator would not let every candidate answer their questions from the floor. I loved the woman telling him off that they had taken their time to come and develop questions, and they wanted ask every candidate. They were pissed at the NAACPA obvious bias for some candidates.

  14. Sarah says:

    Thank you Stan for posting these videos. They were very eye-opening…

  15. Howdy1942 says:

    I think all of us who live in Tucker, Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Breokhaven are exhausted after the cityhood and independent schools battles of this past year. One common ground that we all share is our profound disgust with the Dekalb County School System. And I also think that is true of the State and the courts. I expect that the school board will soon be on the receiving end of a number of charter school petitions. The DCSS is so broken, so poorly governed, and so poorly managed that it may be beyond the capability of a new school board to fix. This May’s elections may well be the last chance for Dekalb to get it right. I know that large numbers of our residents are talking with Legislators to get the school board out of the way of new charter petitions and, unlike the cityhood debates, this effort is one that strongly unites us. The days of the DCSS as it is now governed and managed are numbered. For one, I can hardly wait. I like Interim CEO May, but he needs to start at the Palace by insisting on change (even though it is separately governed). Until that happens, little else matters.

  16. This next board will hire the next superintendent. There isn’t anything more critical. This group must be thoughtful, fair, hard-working and intelligent. It’s a difficult process and one we simply must get right this time. We’ve had too many in a row who have not been able to make improvements in student outcomes. This is not about politics – it’s about children’s lives. Children can’t wait.

  17. So Melvin Johnson stated that they raised the graduation rate from 78% to 90%… ha ha ha… how can he be SO OUT OF TOUCH?

    “”The graduation rate, let me address that first. In terms of the dropout rate, 58%, actual numbers from 98%, no 90% of graduation rate. Last year it was 78%.””

  18. Another comment says:

    Melvin Johnson is a clear bully.. Who is used to using his size to bully others. I had to love how the camera cut off his head. That was too funny. It was obvious that the NAACP was trying to give him and Erwin the heads up.

    Karen Carter, Erwin and Melvin all came off as big dummies, as they were just falling over themselves to kiss the Supt. Bridge Initiative. Every other candidate wanted to tell them to get rid of their Friends and Family special. Melvin I am sure planted the pot arrest of his opponent. The guy Bridgeman, was adamant that those positions needed to be replaced with certified guidance counselor and the schools were way under the 250 students per certified counselor mark they should be. Carter, Erwin, Johnson and Mc Mahon all appeared like they had drunk the Jim Jones Koolaid delivered by the Charismatic Supt., whose bridge initiative they had become fast disciples. if those 4 are allowed to remain on the board it is clear that they will keep Thurmond as Supt., along with Friends and Family.

  19. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Why do you say “This next board will hire the next superintendent”? We said that last time about the current appointed board. Heck, even Thurmond said that was his number one priority a year ago.

    If re-elected, I don’t think we can count on any of the current board members to actually engage a formal Superintendent search.

  20. Just trying to be optimistic DIO… we will be replacing our superintendent soon – let’s hope we elect a competent board to see the task through and find the best qualified person for our schools!

  21. Sarah says:

    You know, statistics can be pretty tricky. Let’s give him the benefit of doubt. Maybe he meant 90% of students who were still attending high school for the last nine weeks of their senior year graduated…

  22. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – I hope you are right about a new board. We’ve had a disastrous 10 years from the governance and management of the Dekalb County School System and little has changed this past year. Can anyone name a single positive accomplishment they achieved last year? Heery? That “found” $21 million? We got moved one step above probation because we had a different board and a different superintendent who, for the most part, didn’t insult each other. I am growing more impressed with John Oslette and, as I think back over the past year, less inclined to support McMahan in our district.

    The group in Dekalb that can really help to improve the educational opportunities for their kids is in South Dekalb. Johnson, Morley, Cunningham, and Erwin should be turned away bigtime! Do that, give a new board a chance, and stand back.

  23. concernedmome30329 says:

    Please don’t take my comments as rude, Howdy, but you were all excited about the last board elections too. The only route to change in DeKalb is to suddenly have an engaged voter base that understands just how low student performance is in S. DeKalb. And holds the system accountable, rather that some perceived wrongs foist upon the South end of the county by the North end.
    I am not holding my breath.

  24. concernedmom30329 says:

    I need to correct something I wrote above– there were some historical wrongs done to the schools of S. DeKalb. However, that was long ago– the current horrid situation in many DeKalb schools has everything to do with poor management and administration in the last 15 years.

  25. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    I am more impressed by John Oselette, also. He talks about a new superintendent being a top priority. McMahan turned out to be a rubber-stamper, not supporting many of the initiatives he campaigned with last election.

  26. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    This board has been a real let down. We asked for a real Superintendent and didn’t get it. We asked for all money to be spent in the classroom and didn’t get it. At least Dr Atkinson closed down the Parent Centers. Thurmond cranked them back up without any questions from the board.

  27. Stan Jester says:

    I’ve posted the rest of the videos.

    Panel 4
    Turner, Fitzhugh, Cunningham, Bhatti, Mayfield

    YouTube Panel 4 Playlist
    Opening Statements
    Role of a School Board Member
    How to Improve Student Achievement
    How to Affect the Drop-Out Rate
    A Parent Contacts You About Bad Cafeteria Food
    Who is Responsible for Education
    Common Core
    Closing Statements

  28. Thank you Stan! You remind us of John Heneghan – For those who don’t know him, John is an elected Dunwoody city council member. He had been maintaining a blog about the city and has maintained it since he was elected. It’s very helpful for citizens who can’t attend meetings or keep up with local issues. We appreciate you both!

    Read Heneghan’s blog here >>

    He sometimes also writes about school issues. Here’s a link to a post about former school board member Jim Redovian’s support of small school systems >>

    He has a more recent post about the principal of Dunwoody High leaving DeKalb schools >>

  29. Word Wall says:

    Even the pathetic APS Atlanta system just gave teachers a three percent raise…. Dekalb tax money is reseved for the Palace staff, lawyers and boondoggles like Parent Centers…..

  30. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    Also, Jim McMahan’s website and FB page have not been updated since he won the election in 2012.

  31. howdy1942 says:

    @concernedmom30329 – You got me! And you are correct! And it hurts! I’ve always tried to be an optimist and really thought that the credentials of this new board appointed by Governor Deal offered real hope for real changed. Did I get that one wrong! And the election before that – well, we did vote Zepora out! But little else can be said for the majority of that board. But I am hopeful that residents throughout Dekalb County have had enough and will storm the polls on May 20 to vote for real change. I do believe that if we continue to have a majority of this board, they will have a decreasing domain to govern during their terms.

  32. teachermom says:

    Not to state the obvious but..I have a lot of trouble being optimistic. This board and many employees are part of what we used to call a “good ole boy network.” The majority are very connected outside of the arena of the school system, through political and social organizations. Nobody wants to be seen as a party pooper and bring down the friends and family network. Not only that, I believe there would be political and/or business consequences to anyone who is seen as aggressively trying to break the cycle (not just appearing to break it but actually fighting for real change).

    I don’t think the hard changes will ever be made. Even when change was forced we ended up with a leader at the helm who was hand picked by those very corrupt members who were going out. And the new board has shown that it will not to stand up to this unqualified superintendent. I really don’t know what the answer is but hope is fading.

    We do need to continue to have citizens hold the system accountable because that is the only consistent accountability I am seeing. Thank you all who do that so well, so many here on this blog are doing a great job.

  33. Ned says:

    Which video(s) are Ault, Morley & Dukes on? Thanks

  34. acheolus says:

    teachermom, you are absolutely right. It doesn’t matter if you back a good candidate, because other districts have no one decent running. Even if, by a miracle, a decent board was elected, they have only one employee. A good super can’t be brought in because they will be sabotaged (it’s happened before!!)

    Scrapping the district is the only way to fix this. Each district needs to find a geographical cohesion and become a city, so that we can all move forward from this horrible hegemon.

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