Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The School Board Needs To Make Decisions Based On What Is Best For the School System Now in the 21st Century
First - a little history. The courts supervised the desegregation of the DeKalb County school system for over twenty-five years. After the process of desegregation was deemed over, the school district still appears from time to time to be divided over race (Bates & Gagnon, 1996). This can be observed repeatedly by actions of the members of the DeKalb County School Board Members (Smith, 2009).
In 1968, several black high school students from DeKalb County, including Willie Eugene Pitts, and their parents in addition to four white students and their parents decided to file a class action lawsuit against Jim Cherry, the superintendent, and the entire DeKalb County school system. The complaint dealt with the county’s failure to integrate the school system as well as the failure to comply with the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare that was mandatory under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If the DeKalb County School System did not comply with this would result in the elimination of federal funding to the school (Bates & Gagnon, 1996).
In June of 1969, the courts ruled that the DeKalb County school system must be completely desegregated by the start of the school year in the fall of 1969. The court also ordered DeKalb County to redraw the school zones. The school system could not have any all black or all white school districts. All the black schools were closed in DeKalb County School System and over the years many policies and procedures were implemented to encourage integration such as busing, the Minority to Majority (M to M) program, the magnet schools for high achievers and other initiatives. In the early 90’s the Supreme Court allowed the Dekalb County School System to stop busing students and the court later dismissed the mandate due to the fact that the system had become a majority African-American. However, the school district remained largely divided in terms of race (Bates & Gagnon, 1996).
Even today, sadly, the DeKalb County School Board appears to remain largely divided in terms of race. Dr. Speaks read a statement last night indicating that she had been bullied by other board members to vote along racial lines on the issue of contracting a law firm. Dr. Speaks however will not vote on racial lines. Dr. Walker indicated last night also that he sees black and white. He went to an all black high school so apparently race does matter. Don McChesney also read a statement indicating the possibility of ethics being broken in situations like this. (IMO)
The issue was over hiring the most qualified attorney firm and saving the school system a great deal of money. The issue was discussed at a called board meeting last Monday. (On Common Ground News has a good report on the heated discussion). However, some members of the school board wanted the African-American attorney, Alexander and Assoc, who the county has had for many years in the past, which is part of the reason the county has such large bills to start with. The previous attorney’s office could not handle many of the cases so other attorneys were hired. It appeared to also be "warm fuzzies" verses getting the best attorney firm to represent the school system. The two attorney firms that represented us before had conflicts. Womack proposed hiring Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, LLC, a big firm downtown which had 400 lawyers who would do all the school systems work for 1.7 million dollars a year. According to Common Ground, "DeKalb County Superintendent Crawford Lewis, who was charged with negotiating the contracts, returned to the board with a figure of $2.4 million after reviewing bids from both firms. Lewis recommended that $1.5 million go to Sutherland and $900,000 go to Alexander. But Womack said Sutherland would be willing to do all of the work for a flat fee of $1.7 million."
In the end, the votes were not there and Jay recommended that the the two groups get together and see if together they would share it for 1.7 million dollars. The two groups did get together and will do it for 1.7 million dollars. However, there are still many who question if the decision of the group based their decision on race and warm fuzzies and were willing to pay an extra $800,000 just to hire the other attorney on the side.
DeKalb County is home to some of the finest leaders in the state. However, some Dekalb County School Board members continues to be stuck in the past. Could this be due to the age of some of the school board members? Could age not matter at all with other school board members? Could this be just because of the history of the Dekalb County School System? Regardless, should decisions of the Dekalb County School System be based on warm fuzzies and race? What is wrong with the picture here? Regardless of our race, our disability, our religon, should we all in Dekalb County not ban together and do what is best for our children in Dekalb County? For the Dekalb County School System to move into the 21th century do we not need to make decisions based on what is best for the school system now?