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Grand jury rips schools, Nancy Jester speaks up on SACS - Dunwoody Crier: News

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Grand jury rips schools, Nancy Jester speaks up on SACS

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Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 10:51 am

Petitions, blogs, television news coverage all have been combining to turn up the heat on the DeKalb County board of education after it was placed on a year of probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its parent, AdvancED.

Almost a thousand people have signed various petitions urging Gov. Nathan Deal to remove the school board (and presumably its three new members).

Long-time board member Paul Womack, who was defeated for re-election, took to WSB-TV to point to an audit by KPMG that found $200 million in spending by the school system before approvals were granted. He said he wasn’t ready to call it corruption, but said it was certainly bad management and improper procedure.

Last week, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said he would take a few weeks to consider whether to ask judges to allow him to empanel a special purpose grand jury to look at school issues.

His remarks came after a civil grand jury cited the school board for questionable policies, spending and nepotism. The grand jurors also pointed to school board influence in hiring and personnel evaluations, including friends and family with questionable salaries and senior-level personnel involved in outside work that could affect their jobs.

The grand jurors also questioned the amount of money spent on lawyers, especially in regard to the effort to recover funds from Heery International, the system’s former construction manager.

While the school board chairman, Eugene Walker, was telling the Journal-Constitution, “We’ve done nothing egregious,” the school board member from Dunwoody was having her own say.

Nancy Jester had been out of the country when SACS took action, but when she returned she wrote blog posts that were almost equal attacks on the board and SACS.

“How ironic that I may be removed from office exactly because I discovered and made public the financial misdeeds of the third largest school district in our state,” she wrote.  “What message does this send to board members around the state or to future board members in DeKalb?”

Jester reminds that she was the board member who for almost two years has identified and discussed financial issues discussed in the SACS report. She tells of having the support of only two board members in her analysis and being publicly misled by the administration.

“I have written that it appears to me that our budgets for the past six years were, at best, a weak suggestion of how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception.”

But Jester also poked a finger at SACS, asking why it didn’t discover the financial malfeasance she had.

“I’m just a mom with a calculator,” she said. Jester also is an actuary.

In a later blog post, Jester analyzed the role and history of accreditation agencies.

More details will begin to emerge Jan. 17 at a state board of education hearing (see box, page 1).

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