Describing the county’s school board as being in “turmoil,” the DeKalb County Grand Jury is calling for an investigation into the actions of the group.
One problem cited was the hiring process of county school superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. The school board “delayed and compromised the Superintendent hiring process for over 18 months,” stated the grand jury in a presentment released on Dec. 29. The panel is requesting that a special grand jury be convened to look into the school board.
In its presentment, the grand jury stated that leaks to the media about certain aspects of the selection process of hiring came “from a very limited number of persons who were mostly DeKalb County School Board Members.”
“This leads to suspicion that certain board members were on purpose working to compromise the selection process to the detriment of the DeKalb School System and the citizens of DeKalb County,” the grand jury’s presentment stated.
The grand jury also expressed concerns about the school board’s influence in the hiring and personnel evaluation process, stating that “it appears that there has been a long term culture of active or perceived influence of DeKalb County School board members on the hiring and retention of ‘friends and family.’”
The grand jury specifically mentioned the positions of parent centers and family service coordinators which, appear to have “salaries out of line with other roles within the School System.”
“While policies and procedures need to be put in place immediately to prevent issues in this area, we believe an investigation should be made to determine if past actions to hire and retain (protect) School System employees have taken place to the significant detriment to the Citizens of DeKalb County,” the grand jury presentment stated.
Other issues the grand jury wants investigated include whether senior personnel are employed in outside work that would impact their ability to perform their required duties; whether DeKalb County School funds were used to promote the recent SPLOST referendum; and whether proper procedures were followed in hiring attorneys, deciding to file a lawsuit and management of the lawsuit by the DeKalb County School Board in its case against Heery International mismanagement of projects.
In a statement, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said, “We take the recommendations of the Grand Jury very seriously and will review the information pertaining to the concerns regarding the DeKalb County School System and determine a proper course of action.”