Q&A: The DeKalb school board crisis

Q: Why is the DeKalb school system in danger of losing its accreditation?

A: The district was placed on probation in December by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Mark Elgart, who heads SACS, said this about the district Thursday during a hearing in front of the state board of education: “There’s been a decade of continued ineffective governance” during which academics have been “fairly stagnant.” Instead of acting with urgency to fix things, Elgart said the local school board has been “treating it like a political matter, not a performance issue.”

“The majority of their debates,” he said, “have little or nothing to do with student achievement.”

SACS has given DeKalb until the end of the year to address its problems.

Q: What would the loss of accreditation mean for DeKalb students and the community?

A: Students applying to some colleges may have to jump through extra hoops to get in. Some scholarships could also be at risk. When the Clayton County school district lost its accreditation several years ago, thousands of students left the district and home values plummeted. Businesses are also reluctant to move to an area where the schools are in trouble.

Q: What gives Gov. Nathan Deal the authority to remove elected school board members?

A: A 2011 law gives the governor that power if the school district in question has been placed on probation by its accrediting agency.

Q: Why did the state board of education recommend suspension of six board members, rather than all nine?

A: Three of the board members began four-year terms in January. There were not on the school board when SACS put the district on probation.

Q: Who are the six board members recommended for suspension?

A: Jesse “Jay” Cunningham; Donna Edler; Nancy Jester; Pamela Speaks; Eugene Walker and Sarah Copelin-Wood.

Q: Who are the three board members who will retain their seats?

A: Jim McMahan, Marshall Orson and Melvin Johnson, the newly-elected board chairman.

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