Marshall Orson for DeKalb Schools - A Better Board.  Better Schools.  DeKalb Deserves It.
A Better Board.  Better Schools.
 
Why do school boards matter?  The board members do not teach in the classrooms, lead the schools, or manage the main administrative office.  Yet, what happens at the school board affects every child in every classroom in every school.  What happens at the school board helps determine if we have high quality schools in every part of the county, or we end up with a few successful schools and struggling schools everywhere else.  The school board matters because it sets the tone, direction, and values for our schools and our children.
 
For years, DeKalb has suffered from poor leadership, particularly with our Board of Education.  Board members were focused on dividing the treasure rather than creating and maintaining great schools.  Board members did not hesitate to put our successful schools at risk while doing nothing for the schools that need stronger leadership, more resources, and a commitment to success. 
 
Things were so bad with DeKalb’s past Board of Education that our accreditation agency, SACS, placed our school system on probation.  In turn, the Governor removed six members of the Board who were serving at the time SACS put DeKalb on probation. In addition, the DeKalb District Attorney asked for the creation of a Special Grand Jury to investigate the former Board’s squandering of public funds and public trust. In just one year, we have made great progress.

What a Board of Education should do:   

 •   Commit to creating great schools in every part of DeKalb.  Set policies that require such outcomes.  Invest in schools that need improvement.  Such investments are not all about money—the right principals, teachers, and other personnel make the difference. 
 
 •   Promote and reward innovation. The Board should guide the system towards innovation and away from tired and failed policies and practices.  The Board needs to think forward and then empower the Administration to act forward.

 •   Celebrate our successful schools and clusters. Use them as a model for duplicating success everywhere else.   

 •   Be fiscally responsible.  Manage the budget like it is a precious resource.  Make sound budgetary decisions.  Do not waste millions of dollars on frivolous lawsuits—money which could instead go back into the classroom.   

 •    Insist on accountability—both fiscally and in outcomes in our schools.  This requires diligence—paying attention to details, asking the right questions, and recognizing when the answers to those questions do not add up to the truth or even reasonably plausible conclusions.   

•      Be Smart. Make wise choices.  Do not fund the legal costs of an alleged criminal, the former Superintendent, as the former Board did.  After the Board needlessly extended his contract and gave him a pay increase, the Superintendent was indicted for running a criminal enterprise out of the school system and ultimately plead guilty as part of a plea bargain.

All of our children deserve great schools, with wise leadership, and committed and effective teachers.  But, this will not happen until we change the Board of Education.  Continuing with this Better Board will help us realize and be proud of Better Schools.