Dear Decaturish – Supporting reform in DeKalb

Posted by March 15, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

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Dear Decaturish,

In recent years, DeKalb County government and the DeKalb County School District have weathered multiple scandals and widespread corruption. Both the government and the school system have made steps toward reform – think interim CEO Lee May’s Operations Task Force and Governor Deal’s removal of DeKalb’s Board of Education members – but the bad news keeps coming.

At this point, cityhood movements, annexation proposals, and potential constitutional amendments demonstrate DeKalb citizens’ desire for change. The two concerns that are repeatedly voiced at community meetings are the quality of the school system and the ethical standards of DeKalb’s leaders.

What can DeKalb citizens do right now to support reform in DeKalb? Demonstrate support for the individuals that have been charged with helping our Board of Education choose our next school superintendent: the Community Liaison Group (or Superintendent Selection Committee).

Here is the Community Liaison Group:

William Boone, Political Science Department, Professor at Clark Atlanta University
Rick Callihan, CEO and Owner of Ameriglo
Diane McClearen, 2016 President Elect DeKalb Chamber of Commerce
John Evans, President, DeKalb NAACP
Rhina Fernandes Williams, Asst. Professor of Multicultural Education, Georgia State University
Urcel Fields, Vice President of Network Management, Amerigroup
Carolyn Finnerty, Parent
Lance Hammonds, NorFalco Account Manager – South Atlantic Region
Gwen Johnson, Citizen
Barbara Lee, Retired DCSD Educator
Katherine Kelbaugh, Principal, The Museum School
Kerwin Lee, Pastor, Berean Christian Church
Michelle Penkava, Representative of Parent Councils United
Al Tiede, CEO & Owner of Horizon Windows Atlanta
Eliezer Velez, Managing Director of Youth Programs, Latin American Association
Betty Willis, SVP Emory University

What does that support look like?

–  Pay attention to the superintendent search.  The search firm, PROACT, provides updates on the DeKalb County Schools website:

– Tell your Board of Education members that you are happy with their decision to appoint a Community Liaison Group.

– If you see a member of the Liaison Group, thank them for their service. They have a huge responsibility to help select the next leader of our District. It will take an incredible amount of volunteer time and energy.

– Do not ask Liaison Group members or Board of Education members for confidential information. Respect that their ability to successfully do their job is 100 percent contingent on their ability to maintain confidentiality. Superintendents will not consider working at a system where names and contract details are leaked. Our Board of Education learned this lesson during a previous superintendent search. Respect the Liaison Group and Board of Education members’ need to keep all candidate information confidential.

– Buy in to the process. PROACT has taken information from focus groups, community engagement sessions, and online surveys to create a Position Profile. This Profile will guide the search firm, as well as the Liaison Group and Board of Education, as they narrow the field of superintendent candidates. This is the tool that will facilitate a (hopefully) perfect match between our school system and our new leader. If you have input for the Board or Liaison Group, email PROACT’s CEO, Gary Solomon, at He has said that he will take public input (including candidate resumes and recommendations) and include it in the equitable evaluation process used for all candidates.

– Expect the best from the Liaison Group. No individual is perfect—every person on the Liaison Group has made mistakes. However, as a group, they are tasked with bringing their life experiences and good judgment to the table. Expect that they will do their job with integrity, then hold them accountable. Expect them to find us an outstanding superintendent.

Once the Liaison Group has done their job and we have an outstanding superintendent, we will also have something else that could help solve DeKalb’s problems: a group of citizens who have brought transparency, integrity, and ethics to their public work.

Soon, we will be asking them to run for office!

-Allyson Gevertz


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  • Marty

    The PROACTIVE site is way behind. Looks like last input was 2011.

  • Jeff Bragg

    Marty- The website for DeKalb’s search firm is The site is current and has links to info about DeKalb’s posting. Jeff Bragg

  • Hugh Bean

    This article was bizarre. There will be no clamor for any of these people “to run for office.” The list itself is an indictment of the superintendent selection process.

    Things were bad enough when it was described as a “Community Liaison Group,” but to see that further clarified parenthetically as a “Superintendent Selection Committee”?

    This is so typical for DeKalb. It would have been easy to make a list of 15 citizens (and no, I wouldn’t be one of them) who are competent and skilled and who carry none of the political baggage of several of the people whose names I’m seeing here.

    I don’t know several of these people, but the blanket assertion that this is “a group of citizens who have brought transparency, integrity, and ethics to their public work” crosses the line into farce. Boy this does not bode well.

  • CMR

    This selection committee unfortunately resembles another typical Dekalb County dog and pony show.

    While some of the members will likely bring a great deal to the table, I am dumbfounded at the presence of John Evans.

    One may choose to argue the necessity or outright divisiveness by the presence of the Dekalb NAACP president on this board. I will not.

    I will however point out, he is a convicted felon.

    “As part of an investigation of allegations of public corruption in Georgia, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a real estate developer initiated a number of conversations with petitioner Evans, an elected member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.”

    “Evans was convicted in the District Court of, among other things, extortion under the Hobbs Act, which is “the obtaining of property from another, . . . induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right,” 18 U.S.C. 1951(b)(2).

    You may read the facts of the entire case here :

    Mr. Evans presence on this selection committee is abhorrent. How can we feel that this selection process is not tainted?

    The selection of the next Dekalb County School Superintendant is quite possibly the most important decision we face as to the direction of our community. Mr. Evans should recuse himself and be replaced by someone who, at the very least, has illustrated the ability to avoid moral and legal transgressions. Is this too much to ask?

  • An American Patriot

    IMO, in order for the DCSS to improve, everyone working (and I use this term very loosely) for the system must be FIRED and then we can start all over.

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