New DeKalb school board members say they will learn, listen early on

New DeKalb County Board of Education members Allyson Gevertz and Diijon DaCosta said Thursday after being sworn in they will spend time learning the ropes, not immediately diving into objectives they stated in their campaigns.

"I've got a lot to learn," said Gevertz, a DeKalb parent who ran unopposed for her District 4 seat, vacated by James "Jim" McMahan. "I think I'll be in learning mode for awhile. I'm not coming in with an agenda really, other than having positive, collaborative relationships with the other board members."

DaCosta, who defeated local activist Lance Hammonds to replace former board chair Melvin Johnson in District 6, said he would like to see more effective communication within the district, something he saw lacking while he was an employee in the district’s human resources department.

“Leadership starts at the top, and it trickles down from there,” DaCosta said. “Understanding communication is the key. I look forward to better collaboration with (Superintendent Steve) Green, the board, students, staff and the constituents.”

The two, along with board member Marshall Orson, were sworn in Thursday afternoon in a ceremony in board chambers at the district’s Stone Mountain headquarters, surrounded by family members. Current board Chairman Michael Erwin greeted those in attendance with a pledge about what they and the board members should expect out of their term.

“Today, these new board members, and returning board member Mr. Orson, will join, or rejoin, a responsible corporate body,” he said. “They will also join a collaborative board that is gaining momentum and will serve our boys and girls.”

Both expressed during campaigning a desire to see better relationships with local education leaders and more transparency.

Gevertz, a long-time local parent advocate and co-founder of Parents Council United, was joined by her husband and children when being sworn in. DaCosta, a product of the DeKalb County School District, was joined by his daughter and other family members. Orson, who first joined the board in 2013, was joined by his wife and children.

“I hope and I expect to make progress on student achievement,” Orson said Thursday. “And that we operate as a unified board.”

In recent years, the DeKalb County School District has seen slight improvements in standardized test scores while reporting drops in student disciplinary actions. Green said the district currently boasts its highest graduation rate ever.