Bill would alter BOE makeup

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- A proposed bill in the Georgia General Assembly to require single-member districts for school boards in counties with homestead and school sales tax programs could have a significant impact on the Rockdale County Board of Education.

House Bill 63, sponsored by Republican Reps. Mike Jacobs of Atlanta and Tom Taylor of Dunwoody, was introduced to the Georgia House on Jan. 24. If the legislation becomes law, it would require counties with both a homestead local option sales tax and an educational special purpose local option sales tax to have a school board with a maximum seven members representing districts.

Only two counties in Georgia have a HOST in place, Rockdale and DeKalb, and both counties have eSPLOST programs.

Jacobs said Friday that the focus of the law is the nine-member DeKalb County school board, which has come under scrutiny recently from the DeKalb County District Attorney's office and school accreditation boards. The DeKalb County school board faces accusations of test tampering and financial mismanagement, according to news reports.

Another piece of legislation, House Bill 22, was filed by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur in November but has yet to be taken up by legislators. The bill would require new elections in 2012 to seat a new five-member, nonpartisan school board.

Jacobs contended that a smaller school board in DeKalb County was the goal of the legislation.

"It's been proven that smaller school boards are better at managing than larger school boards," he said. "Seven is set in the bill, but counties could opt for smaller boards through local legislation."

Jacobs pointed to Gwinnett County, which he said has a similar population makeup as DeKalb but has a five-member school board. The Gwinnett County School System received $1 million in scholarship funding in October as the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

The Rockdale County school board is made up of seven at-large members and is keeping an eye on the legislation.

"We are aware of the bill, and we've not taken a position on it," school board Chairman Wales Barksdale said Friday. "We're in the process of evaluating the impact of this legislation on the board if it should become law."

Officials here are proud of the system meeting Adequate Yearly Progress requirements for the fifth consecutive year and having all of its schools meet AYP for the second consecutive year.

Also, Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Samuel King was named Georgia's 2011 Superintendent of the Year by Georgia School Boards Association and the Georgia School Superintendents Association.