DeKalb County Schools

DeKalb School Board
12:48 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Voters' Guide to DeKalb School Board Candidates

An overview of the new school districts in DeKalb County. A link to a detailed PDF version of this map of the districts appears below.
Credit DeKalb County

The DeKalb school board race will be critical for the community and the metro Atlanta region. DeKalb has the third-largest school district in the state. School and county leaders have urged residents to invest in the contest.

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Education
10:11 am
Tue April 8, 2014

DeKalb Teachers to Pay Fines for Breaking Contracts

Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

DeKalb County teachers will have a new clause in their contracts for the upcoming school year. Teachers will be held accountable for ‘liquidated damages.’

DeKalb teachers will  have to pay a fine of $750 if they break their contracts.

“Teachers are pretty upset about it,” says David Schutten, the president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators. “DeKalb is facing a crisis in terms of retaining teachers.”

At a recent board meeting, district officials complained that several teachers violated their contracts by not showing up at the beginning of the school year.

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Local
5:31 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Judge Rejects Lewis' Plea; Attorney Files Appeal

Lewis, Reid, and Pope were sentenced in DeKalb County Superior Court.
Credit DeKalb County Court System

A DeKalb County Superior Court judge recently rejected a plea deal involving former DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis. The County District Attorney charged Lewis and two others with racketeering. Judge Cynthia Becker’s decision means the case may not end any time soon.

The deal allowed Lewis to plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge in exchange for testifying against co-defendants Pat Reid and her ex-husband, Tony Pope. Lewis would also receive 12 months’ probation instead of jail time.

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Local
5:30 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

DeKalb Judge Sentences Former Superintendent, Two Others

Some former DeKalb County school system employees were sentenced Monday for their role in a racketeering scheme.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

Former DeKalb schools superintendent Crawford Lewis and two others were sentenced Monday in DeKalb County Superior Court. The three will serve jail time for their roles in a racketeering scheme.

Judge Cynthia Becker sentenced Lewis, former district Chief Operating Officer Patricia Reid and her ex-husband, Tony Pope during a special hearing.

Reid was sentenced to 15 years in prison for steering contracts to Pope’s architecture firm. Pope received an eight-year sentence. 

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Breaking
8:23 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Supreme Court Upholds Suspension of DeKalb School Board Members

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld a law allowing Gov. Nathan Deal to and replace six members of the DeKalb County school board.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

The Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously upheld a 2010 state law authorizing Gov. Nathan Deal to suspend six members of the DeKalb County school board. Former DeKalb County school board chair Eugene Walker challenged the constitutionality of the law in federal court. Federal Judge Richard W. Story asked the state's High Court to determine whether the statute complies with the Constitution. 

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Local
9:00 am
Thu October 31, 2013

State Releases Audit of DeKalb Schools

State officials released an audit of the DeKalb County schools this week. The report covered the school system’s finances from July 2011 to June of 2012. 

The audit found weaknesses in the district’s accounting practices, including a $14.4 million deficit and poor oversight of a federal technology grant. Chief Financial Officer Mike Bell says the district improved its accounting during the 2013 fiscal year.

“Within the general fund budget for ’13, as of June 30, 2013, we had collected about $26 million more than we spent,” Bell says. 

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Common Core Standards
9:00 am
Mon October 28, 2013

A Look at the Common Core in the Classroom

Mr. Eismeier's students work on a project to demonstrate their comprehension of "The Hot Zone."
Martha Dalton/WABE News

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding a new set of education standards called the Common Core. Georgia is one of 45 states that have adopted the standards. But some state Republican lawmakers want Georgia to opt out. Others strongly support the Common Core.

As legislators debate the standards, Georgia English/Language Arts and math teachers still have to teach them. WABE visited one DeKalb County high school to see how they’re doing that and whether the controversy has had any effect.  

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Local
12:40 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Former DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis Takes Plea Deal, Will Testify

Dr. Crawford Lewis, former DeKalb County School Superintendent, in a photo from 2008.
Credit Milken Family Foundation

Former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis is taking a plea deal with the state.

And as WABE’s Rose Scott reports, Lewis now will become a witness for the prosecution.

In May of 2010, Crawford Lewis and three others were indicted on charges that included racketeering.

It stemmed from a lengthy investigation into how contracts were given for school construction projects.

Now, Lewis is taking a guilty plea of obstructing a law-enforcement officer.

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Education
1:36 am
Tue October 8, 2013

DeKalb School Board Extends Thurmond's Contract

Former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond is now DeKalb County's superintendent.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

It’s no longer “interim superintendent.” Now, former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond is the DeKalb County school district’s superintendent until June 2015.

The board unanimously agreed to extend Thurmond’s contract, which otherwise would’ve ended in February. His annual salary of $275,000 won’t change.Thurmond said he’s pleased to stay in DeKalb.

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Local
5:22 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

DeKalb High School Named Georgia School of Excellence

State Schools Superintendent John Barge presents the Georgia School of Excellence award to DECA principal Sharon D. Riley Ordu.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

State officials choose 28 Schools of Excellence each year: 2 from each of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts. State Superintendent John Barge said a school can be chosen for one of two reasons. The first is having the highest score on a state-issued report card.

“The second way a school is chosen as a Georgia School of Excellence is being the school in the congressional district that makes the highest progress from year to year in improving student achievement,” Barge said.  

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Local
4:50 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

DeKalb Officials Announce New After School Program

Clergy from DeKalb County churches stand behind police chief Cedric Alexander to announce the new program.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

DeKalb County officials have responded to a shooting at an elementary school about two weeks ago by forming a new partnership. Thursday, DeKalb church leaders, police, and school officials announced they’re collaborating on a new after school program for students. 

About a dozen DeKalb church leaders, county police chief Cedric Alexander, and DeKalb schools chief legal officer Ronald Ramsey announced The Right Choice after school program. Bishop Quincy Carswell, with the Covenant Church in Decatur, says the program will initially target high school boys at risk of dropping out.

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Local
7:22 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

DeKalb Police Release 911 Audio of McNair School Shooting

Police released this self-portrait of suspect Michael Brandon Hill with a gun, taken with his cellphone.

Note: we have posted the complete audio of Antoinette Tuff's 911 call at the end of this story.

DeKalb police have released the 911 call and more details about yesterday’s school shooting at McNair Discovery Learning Academy. During the incident no one was injured, but 20-year-old shooting suspect Michael Brandon Hill exchanged gunfire with police. Hill was taken into custody at the school Tuesday. 

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Local
2:06 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Suspect in Custody After Shots Fired at McNair Discovery Learning Academy

Parents and family forming a prayer circle while waiting for the students.
Dan Raby WABE

No one was injured when a gunman, now in custody, fired shots inside a DeKalb County elementary school early this afternoon.

The school is the Ronald E. McNair Discover Learning Academy Elementary School in Decatur. The school has more than 800 students.

Officials with DeKalb County Schools told parents to pick up students at the Walmart near Gresham Road and I-20.

This is a breaking story.  WABE will have more later during All Things Considered, and we will post information here as it becomes available.

***

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Local
12:31 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

State Attorney General Asks for More Transparency from SACS

The DeKalb County school board went through a restructuring process after the governor suspended six of its nine members. A scathing report from SACS sparked the process.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, accredits schools and districts internationally and in metro Atlanta. SACS faced criticism recently over its accreditation methods. That triggered a meeting this week with the head of SACS and Georgia’s attorney general.  The two men discussed how SACS can become more transparent.

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Local
5:44 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

DeKalb Students Head Back to School

Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

Monday was the first day of school for students in several metro Atlanta districts, including the DeKalb County schools. DeKalb starts the year on accredited probation. The district’s interim superintendent says he’s sure the year will end on a different note.

DeKalb’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, gave the district eleven criteria to meet by December. Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond says they’ll do it.

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Local
5:43 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Judge Upholds All DeKalb School Board Suspensions

Jesse "Jay" Cunningham prepares to testify at his reinstatement hearing before Judge Maxwell Wood.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

Gov. Nathan Deal says his suspensions of five former DeKalb County school board members have been upheld by a judge. That's despite the board members' appeals to reclaim their seats. 

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Local
4:04 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Judge Upholds Two DeKalb Suspensions

Chief Judge Max Wood of the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings presided over the hearings of the suspended DeKalb County school board members.
Credit osah.ga.gov

Sara Copelin-Wood and Pam Speaks are two of the people Governor Deal suspended from the DeKalb County School Board earlier this year.

Today, Governor Deal said an administrative law judge has upheld the suspensions.

Both Copelin-Wood and Speaks petitioned for reinstatement to the offices they were elected to hold.

But, according to an email Deal’s office sent out today, the administrative law judge ruled both Copelin-Wood and Speaks failed to show their presence on DeKalb’s school board would improve the school system’s chances to regain full accreditation.

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WABE News
6:47 am
Tue July 16, 2013

DeKalb School Board Reinstatement Hearings Continue

Jesse "Jay" Cunningham testifies at his DeKalb County school board reinstatement hearing.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

Monday, a fourth suspended member of the DeKalb County school board appeared in court in an attempt to reclaim his seat.

Jesse "Jay" Cunningham testified he deserves to be reinstated.

Cunningham, who represented himself in court, called seven witnesses to testify on his behalf. Some were school system employees, others were DeKalb parents. PTA president Tanya Graham testified  Cunningham was an involved board member who cared about students. 

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WABE News
3:44 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

Accrediting Agency Says DeKalb School District is Improving

Newly-appointed members of the DeKalb County school board have until December to put some long-term measures in place.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

The DeKalb County school system has made progress, according to the district’s accrediting agency. But the system may still face some obstacles while working to regain full accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools says DeKalb has shown improvement in governance and financial practices. But Mark Elgart, the CEO of SACS’ parent company, says the key will be sustaining that progress.

“They must not only show further progress, but show evidence that what they have done and are doing has a long-term ability to stay  in place,” Elgart says.

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Local
9:37 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Former DeKalb County School Board Chairman Testifies to Get Seat Back

Eugene Walker, former DeKalb County School Board chairman, testifies before an administrative law judge.
Credit Elly Yu/for WABE

The former DeKalb County school board chairman is fighting to get his elected seat back. Eugene Walker testified in a reinstatement hearing on Wednesday, the third board member to do so.

The governor removed Walker and five other members in February after a state board recommendation, but Walker and his attorney argued that the report that led to his removal was biased and lacked evidence.

The report by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, also known as SACS, said the board was dysfunctional. But Walker disagreed with its findings:

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WABE News
4:26 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

DeKalb Schools Locked in Legal Battle with Construction Management Firm

The headquarters for the DeKalb County School District in Stone Mountain.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

For six years the DeKalb County school district has been embroiled in a lawsuit with a construction management firm. Both sides say they’re closer to a resolution although it’s unclear exactly when the case will wrap up. 

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Local
6:08 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

First of Five Suspended DeKalb School Board Members Has Reinstatement Hearing

Suspended DeKalb County Board Member Pam Speaks testifies at her reinstatement hearing.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

Suspended DeKalb County Board Member Pam Speaks testifies at her reinstatement hearing.

 Thursday, one of six suspended members of the DeKalb County school board had her day in court. Dr. Pam Speaks tried to convince administrative law judge Max Wood that she should get her seat back. 

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Local
6:54 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Georgia High Court Hears Arguments Regarding DeKalb School Board Removals

Former DeKalb County School Board Dr. Eugene Walker chats with former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert Wilson after leaving the hearing at Georgia Supreme Court.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

Did the Georgia statute that allowed Governor Nathan Deal to remove members of the DeKalb County School Board violate the state’s constitution?

Monday, June 3rd, both sides argued before the Georgia State Supreme Court.

Up first for the plaintiff was attorney Thomas Cox.

There are many problems with the state law that allowed Governor Nathan Deal to remove those school board members said Cox.

He’s representing former DeKalb board chair Dr. Eugene Walker.

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WABE News
4:37 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Suspended DeKalb School Board Members Attain Reinstatement Hearings

Gov. Deal announces his decision to suspend six of nine DeKalb County school board members in February. Suspended board member Nancy Jester has not asked to be reinstated.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

Five suspended members of the DeKalb County school board appeared in court Thursday. Administrative Law Judge Max Wood scheduled individual reinstatement hearings for the members. All five have petitioned the governor to regain their seats.  

The same law that allows Gov. Deal to remove school board members also allows the board members to re-apply for their jobs. But the constitutionality of that law will be challenged in a case to be heard by the state Supreme Court Monday. However, Judge Wood scheduled the hearings anyway.

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WABE News
4:50 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Thurmond Cautious About Expected Surplus

Dekalb School Board interim superintendent Michael Thurmond
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

The DeKalb County school board has to approve a budget for the upcoming year by the end of next month.  Although the district was expected to be millions of dollars in debt, officials now say there’s a surplus. 

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Local
8:00 am
Sun May 26, 2013

DeKalb Schools Move Graduation Out of Churches

DeKalb County's public schools will host 26 high school graduation ceremonies this month.

For the first time this year, none of the graduation ceremonies for DeKalb County public schools will take place in churches.

The ceremonies are being held in venues ranging from the school system’s auditorium to stadiums to the Georgia Dome and even the Fox Theatre. Moving them is a decision made in response to parents who asked that their children not graduate in a facility where religious symbols are displayed.

But now there are complaints that the fees senior pay to help offset graduation costs are too high because of the new venues.

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WABE News
6:28 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Elgart Addresses DeKalb County Graduates

AdvancEd CEO Mark Elgart addresses the graduating class at Druid Hills High School of DeKalb County.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

 Seniors at DeKalb County’s Druid Hills High School graduated Friday in a ceremony at the Atlanta Civic Center.  Mark Elgart, the CEO of DeKalb’s accrediting agency, delivered the commencement address. 

The sound of pomp and circumstance is especially sweet this year for seniors at DeKalb County high schools. The district was placed on accredited probation in December, which precedes a loss of accreditation. That could affect scholarships and college acceptances. But during his address, Elgart encouraged the class of 2013.

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WABE News
5:31 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Hearing Set for Suspended DeKalb School Board Members Who Want Reinstatement

Five of the six suspended DeKalb County school board members have petitioned Gov. Deal to regain their seats.
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News

Five of six suspended members of the DeKalb County school board have petitioned Gov. Deal to get their seats back. The governor suspended, and then replaced, the six members at the recommendation of the state board of education. 

Former board chair Eugene Walker, Jesse Cunningham, Donna Edler, Sarah Copelin-Wood, and Pam Speaks are the five who’ve submitted petitions. Gov. Deal’s spokesperson Brian Robinson says the clock is ticking.

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WABE News
10:23 am
Mon May 13, 2013

DeKalb Schools' CFO Resigns After Budget Surplus Revealed

Credit Nick NeSmith / for WABE

Officials with the DeKalb County schools originally predicted the district would run a deficit of tens of millions of dollars next year. But when interim superintendent Michael Thurmond released his proposed budget last week, it revealed a surplus of more than $9 million. 

District spokesman Jeff Dickerson says the money came from federal and state reimbursements that district officials didn’t know to ask for.

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WABE News
5:34 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Thurmond Responds to DeKalb Indictments

DeKalb's interim superintendent Michael Thurmond addresses a group of parents Wednesday morning in Decatur.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James Tuesday issued an indictment for three former DeKalb educators accused of cheating on standardized tests. Speaking to a group of parents Wednesday, DeKalb’s interim superintendent Michael Thurmond responded to the charges. 

The charges include public record fraud, such as changing attendance records and removing students from school rolls during testing so their scores wouldn’t count. Thurmond said he was saddened by the indictment, but was glad it wasn’t worse.

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