DeKalb School Board holding two-day retreat to discuss Cognia review, audit findings and moreInterim HR Director Tekshia Ward Smith, Vice Chair Deirdre Pierce, Chair Diijon DaCosta, and Superintendent Devon Horton during a school board retreat in July 2023. Photo by Sara Amis
Stone Mountain, GA — The DeKalb County School Board will begin a two-day-long retreat on Aug. 23 to work through issues facing the board, including an update on the district’s communications with Cognia and a discussion about recent audit findings.
The retreat will be held at Atlanta Evergreen Lakeside Resort, 4021 Lakeview Drive, Stone Mountain, Ga on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24. The retreat will begin at 9:30 a.m. each day.
On Day 1, the board will get a progress update regarding a review by Cognia, a nonprofit accreditation organization. The board is being watched closely by Cognia because of the board’s tendency to pursue individual interests instead of working for the district as a whole. In January, Decaturish reported that Cognia hadn’t seen much progress in terms of working through its issues, but much has changed since then. The school district hired a new superintendent, Dr. Devon Horton, and also reprimanded Dr. Joyce Morley for remarks she made to the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding the superintendent search process. The board voted 6-0 to disavow Morley’s conduct in speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about matters that were discussed in the executive session.
It’s not clear how Cognia will view the board’s decision to push back on Morley’s behavior as a board member. Her controversial comments have generated headlines about the district.
In other business, the board plans to discuss recent audit findings.
A state audit of DeKalb County Schools includes numerous findings, some of which pertain to how the district spent its federal COVID-19 relief money. The audit is for Fiscal Year 2022, which ended June 30, 2022.
To see the full audit, click here. The audit findings start on page 84 of the PDF. The board already discussed audit findings at a retreat held in July. For more information about that discussion, click here.
The school board will also discuss the district’s comprehensive master plan, a document that cost $2 million to produce but remains in limbo following the school board’s decision in 2022 to remove the modernization of Druid Hills High School from a list of high-priority projects in favor of a broad mandate to make repairs throughout the district. The board reversed course on that after getting pressure from the state.
The Georgia Board of Education on June 16, 2022, approved the facilities plan for DeKalb County Schools, making the district eligible for state funds for building projects. The approval followed months of controversy created by the DeKalb School Board’s refusal to include the proposed modernization of Druid Hills High. That prompted state School Superintendent Richard Woods to threaten to cut the district off from state funds by not recommending the school district’s facilities plan for approval by the state BOE.
The state Department of Education produced a corrective action plan based on its inspection of Druid Hills High and meetings with the school district. It set a June 1, 2022 deadline for the DeKalb School Board to put the modernization project back in the facilities plan. The school board did so at a special called meeting on May 31., 2022.
On Day 2 of the retreat, the school board will discuss contracts for projects funded by the education special purpose local option sales tax, also known as ESPLOST. The board will also discuss Superintendent Horton’s 90-day plan and “enhancing communication between superintendent and board.”
To see the full agenda for the retreat, click here.
Decaturish will have a reporter at the retreat on both days, and our coverage would not be possible without the support of our paying subscribers. To become a paying subscriber for $6 a month, visit supportyourlocalnews.com or subscribe below.
Sara Amis contributed reporting to this story.
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