Monday's news that the DeKalb County school system was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools did not come as a surprise to some DeKalb County parents.
"This isn't a surprise," said Mitch Leff, a parent that lives in the Lakeside cluster. "There have been rumors about probation for the last several weeks. There's a lot of unhappiness about how the board is managing the district, especially when it comes to fiscal matters such as money spent on lawsuits and on executive salaries in the main office.
"I'm hoping that by being put on probation, the board will take it as a good sign that they need to make some serious changes and that this will be the impetus to move in the right direction."
"The news of probation from SACS is 10 years late but welcome nonetheless," said Kim Gokce, chairman of the Cross Keys Foundation. "Thank goodness the classrooms are NOT run by the Board of Education and the schools will continue to educate children."
"There is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” said SACS Chairman Dr. Mark Elgart. "This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system."
Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson's office responded by saying she has co-operated with SACS investigators and more than 300 central office jobs have been eliminated. "We not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought," said Atkinson.
The district has until May 31, 2013 to make progress in complying with several issues that SACS identified.
"All of DeKalb has suffered under the poor governance of the Board of Education but in a highly political and corrupt system those at the bottom suffer the most," Gokce said. "With no influence from wealth or political clout, the communities served by Cross Keys schools are completely at the mercy of the system shenanigans and have not been served well by the Board of Education."
"In my opinion, state stewardship and a ground-up re-constitution of DeKalb Schools will be required to root out the corruption and mis-management that afflicts the system," Gokce said. "Meanwhile, the students and teachers continue their journey towards an education.
"Shame on the board. They tried to manage everything else except what they are sworn to manage."
SACS is requiring the system to:
1. Devise and implement a written, comprehensive plan for unifying the DeKalb County Board of Education so that the focus can become serving the needs of the children of the DeKalb County School District.
2. Ensure that all actions and decisions of the DeKalb County Board of Education are reflective of the collective Board and consistent with approved policies and procedures and all applicable laws, regulations and standards, rather than individual board members acting independently and undermining the authority of the Superintendent to lead and manage day-to-day operations.
3. Establish and implement policies and procedures that ensure segregation of duties of the governing board and that of the administration including the elimination of Board working committees that result in board members assuming administrative functions that should be the responsibility of appropriate staff.
4. Implement and adhere to fiscally responsible policies and practices that ensure the DeKalb County Board of Education will adopt and ensure proper implementation of budgets within the financial means of the school system and that support the delivery of an educational program that meets the needs of the students.