Barge attended a meeting hosted by the Dunwoody Chamblee Parents’ Council to give a presentation on the positive aspects of the state’s public schools, such as improved test scores and a better teacher evaluation system. However, when he opened the floor up for questions, Barge got an earful of the grievances of DeKalb County stakeholders.
“I understand that you guys are very frustrated,” he said. “We’re very frustrated. It’s going to take a collaborative effort with our legislators and your community to address what’s going on in DeKalb.”
When asked whether he would support schools pulling out from the DeKalb school district to form independent school districts, Barge said “it’s probably worth looking at a plan and how that plan might look.” He said he could not express support without digesting all the details. While some places like Dunwoody might be able to afford supporting its own school system, it could open up a can of worms for other communities that could not, he added.
Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall said the independent school district issue is one of the city’s legislative priorities this year. He asked Barge if he would support having a second accrediting body evaluate individual schools in DeKalb for accreditation.
“That sounds like an idea that has merit,” Barge said.
Again, he explained he would need more details before throwing in his full support.
The audience members at the meeting expressed their dissatisfaction about DeKalb’s accreditation dropping to probation status due to governance dysfunction within the school board. Barge said there was not a lot he could do to intervene in local governance issues.
“You have a locally elected board that we need to look at,” he said. “If [the state school board] needs greater authority, that needs to be given to us. We don’t have that authority right now.”
He added, “If the determination is made to remove the board then that could begin the wheels of change for DeKalb.”
Barge said it will be up to Gov. Nathan Deal to suspend the local school board members should the state school board make that recommendation. The governor would then appoint new members to serve on the board.
Last year, Deal removed local school board members in Miller County after the state board made the recommendation.
The state school board will hold a hearing Feb. 21 to decide whether or not to recommend the governor suspend the members of the DeKalb County Board of Education.