State law dictates hearings on these matters must be held within 10 to 30 days following the drop in accreditation, but state board members approved a consent order allowing them to bring the hearing back up at any time given a 14-day advanced notice. The consent order was drafted by legal counsel representing both the local board and the Georgia Department of Education.
State board members voted to reconvene the hearing Feb. 21.
“That gives the attorneys time to prepare and meet with their client and also that gives a little bit of time … to see what these board members can do in that time frame,” said state board member Mike Royal, who made the motion.
Royal added he was sympathetic to the fact the accreditation notice occurred around the district’s holiday break and wanted to make allowance for due process but did not want to significantly delay the hearing.
“I try to be crystal clear in the perception that [the problems addressed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] can’t be tolerated and that we have to come back soon,” he said.
At the hearing, the nine DeKalb school board members testified to their commitment to meet the required actions outlined by SACS.
“I assure you that we fully realize the seriousness and gravity of this issue,” said DeKalb school board chair Gene Walker. “We’ve already begun making measurable progress on the required actions. For instance, with regards to technology … we’ve approved an aggressive plan to make sure that 100 percent of our schools are wireless by the time our students return this fall.”
Royal questioned board members about how they responded to fixing issues brought up by SACS in the past. A SACS report in January 2011 placed the district’s status as accredited on advisement.
“The issues that have gotten us here today have not developed overnight,” he explained.
Walker said the board had been working on correcting the previous SACS findings and were not being deliberately indifferent. Dealing with lawsuits and finding a new superintendent had been a distraction, added DeKalb school board member Jay Cunningham.
The state school board will consider the progress the DeKalb school board members make towards meeting SACS requirements in the time leading up to the Feb. 21 hearing.
The state board of education will reconvene Feb. 21 for a hearing to decide whether to recommend suspending the DeKalb County school board members.