No rush by DeKalb board members to regain jobs

The 30-day window is open for suspended members of the DeKalb County school board to petition for their old jobs back, but so far none of them have.

Officials in Gov. Nathan Deal’s office said under state law the six members whom Deal suspended in February could have begun filing reinstatement petitions late last week. None were filed as of Friday morning, according to the governor’s office, which closed before noon.

One suspended member, Nancy Jester, may have slammed the window shut. The governor’s office said Friday morning that she filed a resignation letter with the DeKalb school system, though officials in DeKalb said Friday afternoon that they hadn’t received any resignations.

The suspended members — the other five are Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Donna Edler, Pam Speaks, Eugene Walker and Sarah Copelin-Wood — continue to draw payments on their $18,000 annual salaries. All except Edler received health insurance through the system and will continue receiving that benefit until they are formally removed.

Deal suspended the members in February under a 2011 state law that gives him authority to remove school boards in school districts that are on accreditation probation. DeKalb’s accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, placed DeKalb on probation in December, alleging school board mismanagement. In March, Deal appointed six replacements.

Deal’s action did not affect three board members who were elected last year and took office in January. But it meant that the nine members in office last year, when SACS documented the problems, no longer exercise authority over the system.

That could change if suspended members petition the governor for reinstatement, and he agrees to it. Anyone who does not petition within a month will be removed from office.

One suspended member, Walker, is pursuing another avenue for reinstatement: he has sued, alleging the law gave Deal unconstitutional powers to remove elected board members. Walker’s case is before the Georgia Supreme Court. The old board made the district a plaintiff, but the new board removed the district from the case in March.

Walker vowed to get his own lawyer and said he was raising money for legal fees.

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