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February 25, 2013

Gov. Deal suspends DeKalb school board members

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed an executive order to suspend six of nine DeKalb County School Board members, as the state's third-largest school system tries to avoid losing its accreditation.

"We didn't take it likely; I thought about it very seriously," he said Monday after taking the weekend to weigh the state school board's unanimous recommendation that the officeholders be suspended.

The move, which could still be subject to the outcomes of lawsuits in state and federal court, is the latest in a high-profile controversy over the management of the metro Atlanta system that serves more than 100,000 children.

Calls to a DeKalb schools spokesman rang unanswered.

The DeKalb school system was put on probation through the end of 2013 and risks losing accreditation. An audit of the school system found evidence of fiscal mismanagement and unethical practices. The six affected board members were those in office during the time period at issue.

The governor appointed a five-member panel that he charged with selecting potential replacements that Deal, a Republican, could appoint to serve until special elections in the heavily Democratic county.

The suspended board members have 30 days under Georgia law to apply for reinstatement.

Deal issued the order despite a federal judge's weekend ruling temporarily preventing the governor from replacing board members until after a Friday hearing in a lawsuit challenging the law that empowers Deal to remove certain elected officials.

The governor, who is an attorney, said he doesn't believe his action conflicts with the court's order. Deal said U.S. District Judge Richard Story blocked the permanent removal of the school board members pending the upcoming hearing. Deal argued that the members wouldn't be permanently removed until after an appeal period that extends well beyond the next hearing in Story's court.

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