Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District

Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District.

CBS46 News

Emails have been obtained between Board Rep Marshall Orson and the organizers of the annexation to Atlanta effort via an Open Records Request.

“Orson’s emails reveal the second-term board member has met multiple times with annexation advocates to discuss the planning of the annexation effort, even organizing at least one meeting.”

The emails revealed statements made by Orson like these >>

…”a key to a successful annexation push,” “building a compelling case for [annexation]” and “keeping the message on point” is critical.”

“It’s a clear breach of ethics,” said Bill Joy, one of a dozen DeKalb County residents who met with CBS46 to call on Orson to step down from his position.

The 2014-2015 school board handbook indicates members should represent the interests of a district as a whole over the interests of a group of voters.

A study performed by the district indicated that annexation would disenfranchise students, force more than 1000 students from their high school and cause a district-wide redistricting, hurting the tax base.

Joy and others said they believe Orson has violated board rules and is hurting the district.

… “Orson said critics are misinterpreting his involvement and his emails, including one sent in September 2014 in which he arranged a meeting with seven people, including annexation supporters and Emory University officials.

Orson wrote, “This is a complex issue which, if not handled properly runs the risk of pitting the school community against annexation.”

When we questioned him about it, Orson acknowledged is was a poor choice of words and no reflection on his position.

Orson denied he supports annexation, describing his personal opinion on it as “conflicted.”

Annexation opponent Dawn Forman said Orson, as an elected board member, should be opposed to annexation since its expected negative impact on the school system as a whole.

“He’s done enough damage to our schools,” said Forman. “We need people who care about all kids in our schools and not just the school in their neighborhood.”

You may recall public statements Marshall made on this issue just a few short months ago >>

Marshall Orson speaks up on the Druid Hills annexation issue

… I realize that things I have said in public and private may be given their own meaning unless I put them in context. Some have defined my observations as advocacy. Others ascribe a more sinister view to such observations. Perhaps it would have been better to just say nothing but I think an informed public is critical to any decisions that may be made. So, here goes:

1. I favor an outcome that keeps the Druid Hills Cluster intact. If annexation is not approved, that will occur on its own. We will all lose if we lose the Druid Hills Cluster as we know it. …

2. I have shared in various quarters that, if an annexation were to occur, organizing along school attendance zones makes sense and that there Is a logic behind utilizing elementary attendance zones since they are aligned with neighborhoods. When in conversations with those who favor or are involved in annexation efforts, I have made the point that the potential success of their efforts are intertwined with how the boundaries are defined. …

3. I have made the point that the law appears to provide that the control of school buildings shift when an annexation involves a city that has its own school system. Quite frankly, I was surprised that the case law and other authority appear to provide this outcome. Some have interpreted my statements as advocating such an outcome. I am simply reporting what I know and I welcome other authority that would enable us to re-frame the narrative about the buildings. …

4. Annexation is a big if. The Legislature might not approve an annexation plan or it might defer consideration to another session. The Legislature could approve a plan but the voters could reject it. But, if the Legislature and the voters approve such a plan, I believe there is a pathway to keep the Druid Hills Cluster intact. …

I tend to be matter of fact—a big downside of my training as a lawyer! So, I speak in terms of success or failure, what I believe to be factually correct, and what I hope is objective but I now realize may not sound that way to all who hear what I say. These issues are incredibly emotional and personal—those on either “side” (and there may be more than two sides) have compelling arguments for their point of view. We are talking about our children and grandchildren, our communities, and our shared history. I promise to be mindful and respectful of this as we proceed through these issues and challenging times.


So, does Marshall have a split personality or is he fully aware of the discrepancies of his public vs private thoughts on annexation? Was he trying to prevent ‘fallout’ when he wrote this public statement? Had the emails already been requested via Open Records and Orson was just trying to cover his own behind?

Inquiring minds want to know. But we do know that Don McChesney tried to warn people that Marshall was only concerned with his own community during their vicious campaigns for this board seat. Orson’s buddy on the board, Jim McMahan helped Orson out by sharing another email publicly – one written by Don about only appointing men to his fireside chat group. Orson had no qualms about aggressively using that email in his own campaign against Don, never allowing Don to claim a ‘misunderstanding’.

Sorry Orson, when it comes to emails, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You can’t have it both ways.


CLICK HERE to download one pdf with all of the Emails combined.

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43 Responses to Lawmaker: Board member appears to support ‘decimating’ DeKalb County School District

  1. @Howdy: Does Sharon Barnes-Sutton think ICEO May is also on a ‘witch hunt’?

    Interim DeKalb County CEO, Lee May signed an Executive Order hiring former State Attorney General Mike Bowers to dig deeply into the internal operations of DeKalb County Government. Before signing the order, ICEO May stated emphatically, “I’ve made it clear, there is no tolerance for corruption in my administration. There is no tolerance for unethical conduct in my administration.”

    May said Bowers will have “unfettered access” to review Government Operations and ferret out any “conflicts of interests, corruption or malfeasance” and make recommendations to authorities based on their findings.

    …“I’ve been around Government for a long long time,” Bowers said. “I want this message to go out loud and clear to the employees and officials of DeKalb County. I believe without any reservations the vast majority of you are honest, decent, hard working people. We start from that premise. There are some bad apples. Woe be unto you.”

  2. So, interesting comments from those APS ‘educators’ who even refused a plea deal. Now, at the 11th hour they are still in deep denial of their fate >>

    Photo text in an AJC report:

    Former APS School Reform Team Director Tamara Cotman said she didn’t take a plea deal because “I wasn’t able to compromise my integrity.” With her is her defense attorney Benjamin Davis. KENT D. JOHNSON /KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

    Really? She couldn’t compromise her integrity and accept a plea deal?

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