A diverse group of parents in the Atlanta suburbs of Dunwoody, Chamblee and Brookhaven are discussing the possibility of forming their own school district, which would break away from the beleaguered DeKalb County schools.
Parent Matt Blankenship, whose two children attend elementary and middle schools in the Dunwoody area, told the Daily World that he attended a Sunday night meeting about the idea because he’s concerned about how DeKalb County schools operate.
“I don’t claim to know the answer to the problem, but common sense tells me that the DeKalb school district is just too large for one board to manage well,” he said.
DeKalb County is the state’s third-largest school district, serving about 99,000 students. It was placed on probation in December by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools following a six-month investigation. The accreditation agency cited long-term leadership issues including nepotism, fiscal mismanagement, inappropriate micromanagement and intimidation within the district.
This week a federal judge upheld Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to suspend six of nine DeKalb school board members and appoint new ones. The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard Story allows the governor to name replacements while a lawsuit for control over Georgia’s third largest school system continues, perhaps to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Now the governor is facing pressure from parents, politicians and the public to quickly name successors. With only three members remaining on the school board, the district is all but paralyzed and major financial and personnel decisions are delayed.
“The harm from the loss of accreditation to the school district and the resulting harm to the students in the district are profound,” Story wrote in his decision. “To permit the board members to continue to serve while their individual claims are resolved risks substantial consequences for the school district and its students. The court finds that this risk of harm far outweighs the risks to the board members.”
The lawsuit was filed in the name of former school board chairman Eugene Walker, who vowed to fight on.
“I still think I’m on the right side of history,” said Walker, who was one of the six board members Deal suspended last week.
Sunday night’s meeting to discuss breaking away from the existing DeKalb school district was held at a Dunwoody church and included state representatives, members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, and families from other municipalities north of the City of Atlanta.
“We have strong community involvement from a diverse group of families,” Blankenship notes. “The process of forming a separate district doesn’t happen overnight, but we’ve made a start and we’re determined to move forward.”
John Evans, president of the DeKalb County branch of the NAACP, says he was not surprised by the actions.
“It’s just another attempt by these people to get away from Black and poor folks,” Evans said. “We need to stop chasing after white people and get our own act together.”