Gov. Nathan Deal has suspended all five members of the Dooly County school board and named a panel that will nominate replacements.
“Based on a recommendation from the state Board of Education, I have suspended all members of the Dooly County school board,” the governor said in a written statement. “These suspensions are necessary to begin work to ensure that Dooly County School System will keep its accreditation and give the more than 1,500 students in the county a fair chance at a quality education.”
The school system scored well below average in a 2015 review on governance and leadership. The nonprofit that wrote the review found that top jobs were going unfilled, that trust in at least some board members was lacking, and that there were allegations of some board members wrongly interfering in school operations.
That review, in part, triggered a state school board hearing earlier this month, and there was a unanimous vote to recommend suspensions for all five board members. The board members can ask the governor for reinstatement.
The county’s elementary school and its middle school are among the lowest performers in the state, according to Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index. That score is meant to measure how well schools are preparing students for the next level of education.
Deal also named Martha Ann Todd, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, as his liaison to the Dooly County school board and to interim Superintendent Celeta Thomas.
The suspension does not affect two just-elected Dooly County school board members. Cory Jones and Katrice Taylor are scheduled to take their seats in the coming weeks.
That leaves three more seats that Deal will fill by appointment. Deal has named a committee of six people, including including state Rep. Patty James Bentley, D-Butler, to nominate new board members.
Bentley said she thanks the board members for their service, but she also said she has faith in the suspension process.
“We need all hands on deck. We need everybody … to go to work to move that school system to a better direction,” Bentley said.
She urged members of other school boards to make sure they are following the law and putting children first.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee