Legislators, Voters May Cut School Board Seats
DeKalb's fraught school board might need a smaller table in the coming years. Next year, the state Legislature will hear a proposal to reduce the board from nine members to either five or seven. Stone Mountain's state representative likes it.
DeKalb's fraught school board might need a smaller table in the coming years. Next year, the state Legislature will hear a proposal to cut the number of board members from nine to either five or seven. Stone Mountain's state representative likes it, so does the school board member from the north side.
Paul Womack now serves on the nine-member BOE in a district that includes Stone Mountain Middle School. "I was on the board for 12 years when we had seven members," in the eighties and early nineties, he says, "and it worked very well."
But 2010 was tough on DeKalb schools. In May, a court indicted Crawford Lewis, who had been superintendent only a few months earlier, on racketeering charges. That headline first attracted the scrutiny of the Southern Association of College and Schools, which accredits Georgia's schools. In the first quarter next year, it will review a long list of school practices, including "the governing effectiveness of the Board of Education."
DeKalb business and civic leaders are trying to increase the professionalism of the board, via a new lobby that attempts to get citizens to pay attention to board members and candidates. And that's not to mention the two furlough days so far this school year.
Womack thinks the two so-called superdistricts should disappear when their incumbents finish their terms in 2012 and 2014. One of these districts overlays the north of the county, the other the south.
And that's roughly one way it might happen.
A state bill by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) suggests two choices: a five-member board with no superdistricts or a seven-member board with two superdistricts.
If her bill passes the Legislature, the next step would be a county-wide question on the Nov. 2011 ballot: cut to five seats, seven seats or change nothing.
If voters choose a change, all the seats would come open for the Nov. 2012 elections, under a new district map approved by the Legislature.
Stone Mountain Democratic state Rep. Michele Henson likes a cut. Though she's not committed to either five or seven at this point, she thinks a redo would be a good chance to draw improved district lines.
"I think we need to look at our [county] commission and school board districts," Henson said. Ideally, the two apportionments could line up better.
The county is cut into five commission seats plus two superdistricts that each overlay about half the county.
Predicts Henson, if DeKalb's legislators all like the bill, it should have no problem passing the full legislature. North DeKalb Republican senator-elect Fran Millar says he's a supporter.
The bill may also be edited during the legislative process, perhaps dropping either the five- or seven-seat option.
The Georgia General Assembly session begins Jan. 10.