The new members are: John Coleman, a strategic planning manager at Invesco; Michael Irwin, a professor at Georgia Gwinnett College; David Campbell, a senior manager with Georgia Power; Joyce Morley, a mediator who serves on several local and national boards; Karen Carter, chair of the business and social science department at Georgia Perimeter College; and Thaddeus Mayfield, a senior partner at a business development firm.
Deal’s appointees replace six members suspended last month after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools detailed mismanagement and other governance problems in the system. That group was in office during the time period SACS investigated. Three members elected since then remain on the board.
The law Deal used to suspend and replace the old board members is being challenged in state and federal lawsuits. Deal said that he will respect the legal process, but that the severity of the situation compelled him to act.
“The superintendent needs a functioning board,” he said.
Five of the new members were sworn in Wednesday afternoon, ending a two-week period during which the board lacked the majority required to do business. A sixth was unavailable but will assume duties as soon as possible, officials said.
The governor said all six appointees were recommended by a nominating committee that reviewed 403 applications and interviewed more than 60 people. Deal on Wednesday praised the applicants and said the “high caliber of the candidates reflects well on the county.”
He noted that the new slate restores the previous racial balance of the full board. Some DeKalb legislators and local civil rights leaders had expressed concerns that the governor, a white Republican, would not respect the makeup of majority African-American, Democratic districts. NAACP leaders were particularly critical of Deal after he hosted them in a private meeting earlier this week.
“Race certainly has to be a factor,” he said Wednesday, though he said it is only one consideration.
SACS, which is based in Atlanta, is expected to have officials visit the system in May to assess progress, though they will not likely to lift the system’s probationary status until later this year.
Deal said he’s talked to all but one of the new board members since he decided on their appointments, but not before. He said he wanted “to keep the political implications out of the picture” as much as possible.
“I have implored that they work together cooperatively to reach consensus on difficult matters,” he said. “I do not want governance to be a problem, and I do not believe it will be with the group that has been selected.”
He also said he expressed to each new member his confidence in interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “He is capable of leading this board in the right direction,” Deal said.
In a statement Thursday, Thurmond said, “Together, we will move our district in the right direction for our 14,000 colleagues and for the 99,000 children we have the privilege to serve.”
Board Chairman Melvin Johnson, one of the three members who were not ousted, said the board will immediately take up discussions on budget and management issues to address SACS concerns. He said regaining SACS approval is “only a starting point” for giving Thurmond “the tools needed to improve overall educational outcomes, addressing employee morale and undertaking the necessary restructuring to make the district more efficient.”