The chairman of the DeKalb school board is promising the board would work together to pull the system’s accreditation out of jeopardy, but the board member representing Dunwoody and Chamblee thinks the accreditation process is flawed.
Some in the community aren’t waiting for the board to work things out and have started a petition asking Gov. Nathan Deal remove the entire school board. As of Jan. 8, it had 749 signatures.
District 1 BOE member Nancy Jester wants to turn the tables on the DeKalb County Schools’ accusers, AdvancED, a national accrediting body that includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. On Dec. 17, AdvancED announced that the system is on accreditation probation and gave school board members until December 2013 to resolve numerous issues related to board governance.
In short, AdvanceED found, the board meddles too much in daily school operations to advance individual political agendas.
Jester sees it differently and in a series of blog posts said AdvancED has a political agenda too, namely to protect what she refers to as “educrats”, officials who benefit from the accrediting body’s policies.
She said AdvancED’s report about the school system identifies problems she’s already discovered. Jester said AdvancED’s policies regarding board conduct would prevent her from speaking about the issues she said she’s tried to bring to everyone’s attention.
“While I’m flattered by AdvancED’s extensive use of my research and statements, their conclusions, required actions, indeed, their paradigm for ‘team governance’ would prevent me or any other board member from discovering and properly alerting the public to these misdeeds,” Jester said via blog post written on Dec. 26.
Jester has written several lengthy blog posts since her initial reaction to AdvancED’s findings. Her most recent post from Jan. 3 critiques AdvancED’s conclusions about how the board followed one of its purchasing policies, a policy she said was established as the result of a prior AdvancED investigation.
According to the recently-released AdvancED report, the purchasing policy in question requires “all purchases and contracts under $100,000 shall be reported to the board monthly for information only, reflecting vendor, goods or services purchased, amount of purchase, and the name(s) of staff member(s) who signed the approval.”
School board Chairman Eugene Walker requested a report to document compliance with the policy, but was told it would be too much of a burden on school system staff, the AdvancED report says. The report says the board chair “unilaterally made an arbitrary decision, without further discussion and direction by the full board, to set a new, lower floor for purchases for which the Superintendent needed to submit a report.”
Jester says in her Jan. 3 blog post that DeKalb schools staff drew up a policy it could not follow.
“So, let me sum it up for you,” Jester wrote. “Staff writes policy and the board approves it after giving everyone a 30-day window to comment or bring up any potential conflicts with the policy. Board chair asks staff to comply. Staff says they can’t because previous staff didn’t purchase the right software. AdvancED cites the board for both following and not following policy.”
To see Jester’s blog, visit http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/
While Jester sees it as an issue of staff not doing its job, others see it as an issue of board members not doing their jobs. Many who signed the petition had harsh words for school leaders.
“The buck starts with the school board. Throw the bums out! Right now!” wrote a parent from Stone Mountain.
Another wrote: “There is no sense to their madness. Don’t make these kids suffer more by losing accreditation. Replace them.”
Caroline Lord, a long-time DeKalb County resident and activist, said she would work with the governor and state lawmakers to get board members tossed out.
“The checks and balances at the county level, at the state level, at the SACS level have failed us and now the only thing that can salvage it is intervention by the governor,” Lord said.
Reporter Newspapers broadcast partner CBS Atlanta contributed to this report.