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State "overwhelmed" with applications for empty DeKalb School seats

7:06 PM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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  • Six suspended members of DeKalb County School Board
  • George Chidi of Concerned Citizens for a United DeKalb
  • State Board of Education member Kenneth Mason
  • Dr. Mark Elgart of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
    

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Georgia Board of Education member Kenneth Mason admits he's a bit "overwhelmed".

As of Monday afternoon, 150 people had applied for six vacant seats on the DeKalb County School Board and the deadline for more applications isn't until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Some were from other parts of Georgia and at least one from out-of-state, but whoever is picked will have to live in the school district to be represented.

"Business leaders, community activists, parents, concerned people who want to be part of the solution," is how Mason described the list to 11Alive News on Tuesday.

Mason is chairman of a nomination panel named last week by Governor Nathan Deal to begin picking replacements for the six DeKalb members the governor suspended.

Deal acted after a unanimous recommendation from the State Board of Education who found those 6 board members had contributed to DeKalb's accreditation being placed on probation last December thanks to mismanagement and infighting.

Those ousted board members, especially former chairman Eugene Walker, filed a lawsuit challenging the 2011 removal law as unconstitutional.

On Monday a federal judge lifted his earlier order halting the suspensions, but sent the constitutional argument to Georgia's State Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the panel headed by Mason will meet Friday to begin deciding which of the scores of applicants would be qualified for the six vacancies.

But time is running out for Georgia's third largest school system with 99,000 students.

The man who put DeKalb on academic probation is pleased that the judge's ruling can now let the replacement process begin, but he's worried about progress.

"The district to this point has done virtually nothing since they were aware of the areas that needed improvement in December," Elgart told 11Alive on Tuesday.

DeKalb's school system is supposed to show progress by May and has until the end of the year before facing a loss of accreditation.

With all the legal turmoil, Elgart said it's possible his organization might give new board members more time to prepare.

"If more time or a different schedule of events moving forward were necessary to help secure that improvement, we would be flexible and adaptable to that," he added.

A group called Concerned Citizens for a United DeKalb is calling on the 6 suspended board members to resign, as some had promised they might do before the State Board of Education a few weeks ago.

"We don't know whether or not we can trust these people anymore," the group's George Chidi told 11Alive.

But he's one of many who still wonder if the removal law is unconstitutional.

He would prefer that the board members resign and the Governor call special elections.

"We want the board to be gone, but we also want people's voting rights to be preserved and I think that's the best way to do it," Chidi added.

Under the 2011 removal law the appointed replacements would serve until the next election, which is not until the summer of 2014.

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