The former chairman of the DeKalb County school board, removed from office by Gov. Nathan Deal, is trying to get his job back. Eugene Walker presented his case before Administrative Law Judge Maxwell Wood in downtown Atlanta.
Video of Testimonies on YouTube
Complete video playlist
- Dr. Gene Walker
- Marcus Turk – Former DeKalb Schools CFO
- Dr. Mark Elgart – CEO of SACS
- Kathleen Howe – DeKalb Schools Deputy Superintendent
- Marcene Cooper – Parent
- Robert Freeman – Former DeKalb Schools Superintendent Robert Freeman
- Patti Reed – Director of Human Resources for DeKalb Schools
- Deloris Washington
- Ira McMillian – Parent
The AJC’s Ty Tagami covered the two-day hearing on Walker’s bid for re-instatement. He reported:
Eugene Walker says he should be restored to the DeKalb County school board for the children and the more than 40,000 voters who picked him. But Mark Elgart, the man who oversees the school district’s accreditation, thinks that would be a bad idea.
Lawyers spent more than 10 hours over two days eliciting testimony about Walker from parents and current and former school employees, but it may be Elgart’s opinion that matters most in the end.
Georgia law allows the governor to suspend school boards in districts on probation, and Gov. Nathan Deal used that authority in DeKalb. Walker and four of the other five suspended board members asked Deal to reconsider, and the law says the governor must now ask himself whether he thinks they are “more likely than not” to improve the district’s chances of retaining accreditation.
Even the judge designated to issue a recommendation to Deal acknowledged how confining that criteria is. “Whether we like the statute or not, we have to live within it, ” Judge Maxwell Wood said Friday during proceedings at the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.
Walker’s lawyer pounded away at the truthfulness and credibility of Elgart and the investigative report his agency, AdvancED, produced before putting DeKalb on accreditation probation in December and triggering suspension by Deal. Finally, the judge interrupted: “What I am interested in, ” he said Friday, “is would the return of Dr. Walker to the board be an asset.”
Elgart testified Wednesday that Walker would not. Then, on Friday, Elgart said he thought Walker would bring instability to a school board that has finally settled into business with the governor’s six new appointees.
Witnesses testified Wednesday to problems with the findings of the AdvancED subsidiary that investigated DeKalb. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools implied that $12 million in textbook money went missing, but current and former school officials said it was fully accounted for. SACS asserted that Walker had micromanaged former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson when he demanded financial reports she failed to produce, but Walker contended she had violated a disclosure policy and the state did not rebut his assertion.
“Page after page of that SACS report turned out to be blatantly false,” said Walker’s attorney, Danielle Bess Obiorah.