Many of you know that up until now, I have been silent on the DeKalb County School Board issue as this a VERY complex situation and a case of first impression for Georgia. There are multiple players and "what ifs" but I feel comfortable enough to make a brief statement about the Governor's recent decision to suspend (he hasn't actually removed them yet as they have a 30 day appeal process) six (6) duly elected DeKalb County Board Members. I truly believe that the ONLY goal that any legislator in the DeKalb county delegation has is to maintain accreditation for DeKalb's school system. We just differ on the MEANS and PROCESS by which we make that happen. Note that I am NOT attacking the MERITS of removal...I am attacking the PROCESS of removal. The issue of removal is for each individual person to decide.
To sum up my thoughts, it is this: "Buyer beware!" Beware, Georgians, when your vote is being usurped and those that you DID NOT elect and probably DO NOT even know are being placed in places of power, over your children, your county and your school system. It's a slippery slope and I understand the frustrations in DeKalb County. I grew up in DeKalb County. I graduated from Glen Have Elementary School and from Towers High School in Decatur in 2000. My parents graduated from DeKalb County schools, so did my cousins and aunt and siblings, so I have a deep connection to DeKalb county schools and only want it to succeed. However there is a WAY to make sure we accomplish the same goals without placing the rights of children over the right to vote.
The Governor was acting under a different law in removing the Board Members and not SB 79 which was passed during my last term HOWEVER, I will restate my problems with SB 79 which codified the Governor's actions this week. SB 79 gives the Governor the power to remove School Board members when SACS places a school system of probation. I would go into my thoughts about SACS but that's a different public statement altogether.
Now I am not criticizing the Governor's decision. I suspect that he didn't particularly find it enjoyable to have to make this tough decision and set this precedence. I don't envy him at all. Additionally, what else could he do given that the media and others have waged personal attacks on the School Board and made DeKalb parents super sensitive to this issue? HOWEVER, I would encourage every DeKalb resident to consider the "after effects" of the Governor's decision which is this:
1. Now our Superintendent, Michael Thurmond, is in limbo. Who, beside the 3 that remain, has actual authority to move forwards keeping SACS accreditation? Is the Superintendent working with 3,9 or 15 board members? This may not be resolved for months if Friday's hearing doesn't go smoothly.
2. Who is going to be appointed to this Board? This places a huge trust in people even I don't know to represent the DeKalb electorate in a way that its best for DeKalb's children and so that we can remain accredited.
3. "2 wrongs don't make a right" as my mom always said. I feel it is patently against the fabric of who we are as Americans and Georgians to say to voters "You got it wrong. Here. Let me help correct YOUR mistake." when there are other methods (recalls, new elections like in 2014, demanding resignations) to remove elected officials.
4. Is this move constitutional? I will let the federal courts make that determination but it is an issue.
Moving forward, I would like to see some compromise by the suspended Board Members and Governor. As an attorney, I understand and agree that the definition of compromise is when BOTH parties walk away a little dissatisfied. For the future of DeKalb's children and DeKalb's economic sustainability as a whole, I would like to see both lawsuits go away (state has already been dismissed albeit "without prejudice" so they can refile) and a concrete, representative, non-political Board in place that will start working on DeKalb's accreditation since SACS will be back in May. Not everyone will be happy with a compromise but the alternative is pure destruction, confusion, and wastes of time and money. DeKalb's children don't deserve that.
All in all, I respect my fellow DeKalb legislators who supported SB 79 and the Governor's decision to remove but let me leave EVERYONE, especially my duly elected colleagues, with this thought: If it happened to THEM, it can happen to YOU. Let's respect the People's vote and move DeKalb county forward.
NOTE: I will be considering a bill next year that would reduce the requirements needed to recall an elected official and the Governor could only act to replace School Board members after obtaining the required signatures for a recall (essentially allowing the Governor to skip the administrative process and swiftly replace).
State Rep. Dar'shun N. Kendrick
State Representative House District 93 (unincorporated Lithonia, Snellville, Stone Mountain and Loganville)
Secretary, DeKalb House Delegation
Member, Small Business Development & Job Creation (Ranking House Democrat),
Interstate Cooperation and Juvenile Justice Committees