DeKalb commissioners rescind support for school board member’s reelection

Interim superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley (left) alongside DeKalb School Board Chair Vickie B. Turner and board members Diijon DaCosta and Anna Hill following the DeKalb State of the County Address on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

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Interim superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley (left) alongside DeKalb School Board Chair Vickie B. Turner and board members Diijon DaCosta and Anna Hill following the DeKalb State of the County Address on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Two DeKalb County commissioners have rescinded their support for the reelection of school board member Diijon DaCosta, as the fallout from the controversial firing of the local schools superintendent continues.

DaCosta, one of four board members to support Cheryl Watson-Harris’ dismissal during a surprise Tuesday night vote, is the school board’s vice chair and represents District 6 on the eastern side of the county. He’s up for reelection on May 24 and has two opponents.

On Thursday morning, DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson issued a statement formally rescinding her previous endorsement of DaCosta’s campaign.

“The children are paramount,” Davis Johnson said. “Parents and prospective residents must feel confident in our educational system.”

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Another county commissioner, Ted Terry, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he had supported DaCosta in the past and had planned to offer an endorsement in the current election cycle — but will no longer do so.

That news came a day after DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond used his state of the county address to lambaste the school district’s leadership, saying the recent decision reminded him of the dysfunction he inherited during his own tenure as DeKalb’s superintendent.

“I want you all to love [DeKalb County] enough to protect it,” Thurmond said Wednesday. “I want you to love it enough to defend it. I want you to love it enough to put the ultimate outcome of the school district and this county ahead of your own political ambitions.”

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Neither the CEO nor the Board of Commissioners have any control over DeKalb’s school district, but officials have said its decisions — and its reputation — affect the entire county.

In a lengthy statement emailed to constituents Thursday, Terry said he was “shocked and saddened” by Watson-Harris’ termination and called for “a countywide summit to be held to assess the future of education across DeKalb.”

“The continuum of education encompasses the heart of any future success our community wants to achieve,” he wrote, “and it’s going to take all of us –– commissioners, mayors, businesses, philanthropic organizations and community leaders –– coming together, putting egos and political ambitions aside to do what is best for our students, teachers, and the families in need outside of the classroom.”

Fellow county commissioner Steve Bradshaw used his regular newsletter to express support for Watson-Harris just hours before she was fired. Bradshaw later told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was “very surprised” by the decision but declined to comment further.

“I know every member of the school board to one degree or another,” he said, “and I will be asking questions.”

DaCosta’s seat is one of three DeKalb school board positions on next month’s ballots.

Incumbent District 4 representative Allyson Gevertz — who was not present for the meeting where Watson-Harris was fired and has condemned the decision — has one challenger.

Current District 2 representative Marshall Orson is not seeking reelection to the school board, choosing to seek a spot on the county commission instead. Four candidates are vying for Orson’s vacated seat.

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