Category Archives: Board Meetings

DeKalb County School District Board Meetings

Divisive Statement By Dr. Joyce Morley

I was disappointed and disturbed by the divisive statement made by Dr. Morley at our last Board of Education meeting.

Stan Jester DeKalb Schools
Stan Jester
DeKalb Board of Education

DeKalb County is home to a diverse community that embraces the rich cultural mosaic of all our friends and neighbors. Vilifying and unfairly characterizing anyone based on race is wrong and hurtful. In this stressful time, it is more important than ever to be kind and respectful to each other.

The children across DeKalb and the students in our district deserve for their leaders to demonstrate goodwill and collegiality towards one another and the entire community. I hope that this unfortunate comment will be contemplated by the Board and result in real efforts to heal the wounds it has created. Our county and children deserve nothing less.

–Stan Jester
DeKalb Schools Board of Education

Joyce Morley DeKalb Schools

Dr. Joyce Morley
DeKalb Board of Education

DeKalb Schools Board of Education member Joyce Morley said on Monday,

“You can put signs up and as Ms Turner asked, who’s going to make them go through the hallways? Because I guarantee you there are gonna be those who are going to be defiant. You give an inch and they gonna take a yard … and they’re Whites … and we know that.”

I received this heartfelt email from Angela D. and wanted to share it with you.

For the past 15 years, Angela has been a local preschool teacher and advocate for children with special needs and social justice issues. She has a multi racial family and is the mother of two children within the Dekalb County School District. She and her husband, an army veteran, are active members in the community.

Angela D. writes,

“In between helping my kids with school, trying to accomplish some work of my own, and getting dinner on the table I tried to sit down for a few minutes and tune into what I knew was going to be a very intense DeKalb County School Board meeting this past Monday.

Our new superintendent was announcing a plan to phase our children back to school. As I watched things unfold, my heart began to sink. Dr Morley, a school board member began to speak in a way that was divisive and degrading to the white members of our community. I was appalled. I have watched other board meetings and I observed that Dr. Joyce Morley is a deeply passionate woman. Passion, I can respect. You cannot sustain a career in education without it. What I saw was not a passion to advocate for every family in our district.

We are all living under a great deal of stress and trauma due to the pandemic and other things happening in our world. Our schools need to be a safe place for everyone. I was upset about the plan put forth as I feel it is completely unattainable. Over the next couple of days, though, I became even more upset about the things that I had heard Dr Morley say.

Referring to enforcing everyone to wear masks she said,
“You can put signs up…. But I can guarantee you that there are those that will be defiant. You give an inch; they are going to take a yard. And they are Whites. And we know that.”

So, in a hypothetical situation, a voting board member was placing blame on “whites” calling them defiant. This is just one of many examples that can be seen during the meeting.

If Stan Jester had thought to even utter words in a similar vein about the black community, it would have been a blood bath. Being called to step down would have been the least of his problems. I personally would have written the same letter to Mrs. Watson-Harris about him as I did about Dr. Morley. And if I am honest, it probably would have come with a lot more fury.

I have a biracial family both under my roof and my extended family. I am an active member in an anti-racism group in Dunwoody that is bringing awareness to our local community. I believe in education and training for our police department to ensure more extensive safety measures for every member in our community. I have brought my babies to Black Lives Matters peaceful protests within Atlanta. I pride myself on being an eternal optimist and giving people the benefit of the doubt. I had done that with Dr. Morley in past meetings. The way that Dr Morley could speak about the families in the district repeatedly that want and need for schools to reopen right now, though, was so hurtful. It saddens and scares me that someone who shows such obvious disdain for one race within our district is a voting member on the board.

I looked at my husband and told him I would never feel comfortable advocating for my black child or biracial child, and not my white child. When you know better, you do better. I know better.

Every single day we have an opportunity to teach our children respect, dignity, and love for one another regardless of race, sex, or religion. Our school leaders should be expected to meet these standards regardless of their own race, sex, or religion. As parents, sometimes we are also called to hold our school leaders accountable to these standards.

Angela D.”

State Attorney General Not A Fan of Mini Sessions

The budget for DeKalb Schools E-SPLOST projects is in trouble. DeKalb Schools Board of Education is having illegal, behind closed doors, meetings to discuss the E-SPLOST project budget assessment and hear new planning options. Potentially, all options are on the table including redistricting and cutting projects.

Meeting Invitation:
To: Members of Board of Education
From: Mr. Dan Drake, Interim Chief Operations Officer

This communications serves to confirm your availability for a mini-session for the purpose to discuss the increased cost estimate for E-SPLOST IV and E-SPLOST V and a few options for a plan of action to address the increased cost estimates.

Kindly, select the date and time that best accommodates your schedule to confirm your slot. Please be reminded that no more than 3 individuals per session to avoid a quorum. If your schedule cannot accommodate a face-to-face session, let us know and we will arrange for a webinar session.

• Tuesday, March 19, 10:30-12:00 p.m.
• Tuesday, March 19, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
• Wednesday, March 20, 1:30-3:00 p.m.

Richard Belcher with WSB ran a story Friday, State attorney general’s office criticizes DeKalb school board plan to hold secret meetings about spending. Belcher spoke with the President of the First Amendment Foundation who agreed that “this is a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

The Office of the Attorney General has weighed in. His office sent the school district this message earlier this week.

Open Meetings Complaints about the DeKalb County Board of Education

Chris Carr

Chris Carr
Georgia State Attorney General

Dear Ms. Gupta:

I am writing to you to follow up on the discussions we had about the “mini-sessions” held by members of the DeKalb County Board of Education. Based on the information that has been forwarded to our office, these “mini-sessions” were held to allow board members to discuss E-SPLOST (and other school district business). Board members were told that no more than three board members should attend each session in order to “avoid a quorum.” I understand from our conversation that it is expected that the information discussed in the “mini-sessions” will be discussed again by the full board in a public meeting.

I acknowledge that the Open Meetings Act does exempt some types of gatherings of board members from the definition of a “meeting” and there are some curcumstances where board members could gather without the intention of evading or avoiding the requirements of the Act. However, that does not mean I condone the actions of the board in these circumstances, particularly as it relates to the specific statements that the intent is to avoid having a quorum present. The intent of the General Assembly in passing the Act is to provide strict requirements ensuring that the public’s business is conducted in an open and accessible manner. Not only does such a requirement permit the people to know what actions their public servants are undertaking, but it also fosters public confidence in their leaders and the decisions that they make. The failure to serve those underlyning purposes leads to mistrust and controversy. Stating that the “mini-session” are being scheduled in a way that “avoids a quorum” strongly suggests to the public that the sessions are being used for discussions or deliverations that the public would expect to be conducted in a public meeting.

The Act states, in its definitions of a meeting: “This subparagraph’s exclusions from the definition of the term ‘meeting’ shall not apply if it is shown that the primary purpose of the gathering or gatherings is to evade or avoid the requirements for conducting a meeting while discussing or conducting official business.” O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(3). It is hard not to draw a conclusion that the sole purpose of the mini-sessions was intended to avoid compliance with the Act and holding these meetings in the open. If this is so, then no exception would apply in this case.

The Open Meetings Act is one of our public officials’ most valuable tools in communicating with and serving the people they represent. I am also mindful that the Act was not designed nor intended to prevent every every possible contact or conversation between two public officials outside of a formal meeting. There are certainly times when such communications may very well be appropriate. However, a public official is also a trustee of the people and must be judicious in the exercise of his or her privileges and authority. Matters that involve critical or deliberative processes on issues of public concern are best decided when they are open and available to public review. Taking steps to avoid having discussion of public business outside of a public meeting can only benefit the agency and the public it serves, in fulfillment of both the intent and spirit of the Act. It is therefore my sincere hope that the board will in the future carry out not only the letter of the law but adhere to the spirit of the law as well.

Although our office cannot provide legal advice to local governments, we are happy to discuss Open Government issues with public officials and citizens and to provide resources and information about the Acts. If you, the board, or district staff members have questions about how board members can meet with staff members while complying with the Open Meetings Act, please call our office.


Jennifer Colangelo
Assistant Attorney General