DeKalb County's struggling school board selected a new leader the day before they are scheduled to make their case about why they should keep their jobs.
By a vote of 7-2, the DeKalb County School Board members elected Melvin Johnson as its new chair. He will replace Dr. Eugene Walker, who is stepping down.
Dr. Johnson and interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond will bring new leadership to the beleaguered board.
"We made a lot of progress, and we will continue to make a lot of progress, and to that end, we will present that to the state board in the morning," said Johnson.
All nine members are scheduled to make an appearance on Thursday morning before the state Board of Education, which has authority to recommend to Gov. Nathan that he remove some or all of them from office.
Earlier this week this board filed a lawsuit to prevent that meeting from taking place. But while they were attending an instructional meeting on Wednesday, members learned Fulton County Judge Kelly Lee denied the injunction to stop the hearing. The lawsuit was paid for with taxpayer dollars.
"The public and the 200,000 plus voters voted for nine board members, and to take away their Constitutional right would be something I would be concerned with," Johnson said.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools currently has the system on probation. SACS President Marc Elgart, who will also be at Thursday's hearing, told FOX 5 in a statement on Wednesday, "The legal action sought by the school system is a state matter. It has no impact on the accreditation issues facing the system."
"We are on the path to success, and, more importantly, restoring full accreditation to the DeKalb County school district," Thurmond said.
Board members say they are concerned about students' best interests
"We think that's going to help us continue to go forward and be a better board and that's what we're striving for; we've embraced totally the 11 required actions. And all we're doing…we're not trying to keep the job; we're just trying to fight for the right to do the job. That's all we want to do is do the job we're elected to do," Walker said.
Board members said that they will press on in the interim and insist they only want what's in the best interests of the systems children.
"People think we're fighting to keep our jobs; that's not it. We're fighting for the children to have the opportunity to attend colleges that they have been accepted to out of state, and if the accreditation is taken, it's going to prohibit them from going out of state to college," said Sarah Copelin-Wood, District 3 Board member.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday.