James “Jim” McMahan serves the fourth district on DeKalb County’s school board.

Two members to exit DeKalb school board

Two DeKalb County Board of Education members are calling it quits.

Melvin Johnson, elected in 2012 to represent the sixth district, did not qualify to run for re-election in the May 22 general election. Johnson had been board chairman the previous four years and was replaced as chairman by Michael Erwin in January.

James “Jim” McMahan, who serves the fourth district, also did not qualify for re-election.

Dijon “Twin” Dacosta and Lance Lawyer Hammonds are vying for Johnson’s seat, while parent advocate Allyson Gevertz is running unopposed for McMahan’s seat. Board vice chairman Marshall Orson, the only incumbent seeking re-election this cycle, will face off against Decatur resident Candace McKinley.

McMahan said after six years it was simply time to pass the baton to someone from the community who also wants the best for the district’s students.

He added that his daughter graduates from Lakeside High School this spring, and being a board member through her high school years made it tough to just be a dad at school events.

“It’s sustainable leadership,” he said. “When I asked my wife if it was OK to run, she said, ‘It’s not forever, is it?’ This wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction to challenges that were on the board or anything. This was a well thought-out plan.”

Johnson served 37 years as an educator with the DeKalb County School District, from teacher to principal, then rising through the administration as an area superintendent, then deputy superintendent. He retired from the district in 2004.

“I’d made up my mind six years ago how long I was going to stay on the board,” he said. “My love for these 102,000 students was the reason I came back.”

Johnson said he’s proud of helping steer the district away from its $14 million deficit from five years ago, as well as collaborating with the superintendent, school board and the community at large as the district sought a culture change.

As for his second retirement?

“I’ll travel and do the things I sought to do in my earlier retirement,” he said with a chuckle.

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