Nathan Deal uses his power to oust Dooly County school board

Nathan Deal did not get his Opportunity School District, but he may get a diluted version via the Legislature. (AJC photo)

The state Board of Education last month recommended suspension of the Dooly County school board; the south central Georgia district was at risk of losing its accreditation by AdvancED over board interference in school operations.

Today, Gov. Nathan Deal complied, suspending all five members of the Dooly board.

In his comments at the all-day hearing last month on the plight of Dooly, AdvancED CEO Mark Elgart said board members continued to meddle in day-to-day operations and failed to act on changes his agency outlined a year earlier to improve governance.

The 1,500-student system has been struggling with staff turnover and parent frustrations, and even the acting superintendent admitted to the state board at the hearing that she had tried to quit to go elsewhere.

Two of Dooly’s schools were on the list for state takeover had Georgia voters passed the governor’s Opportunity School District. Only 7 out of 159 counties in Georgia voted for the OSD; Dooly was one of them, as Deal has pointed out.

Deal has the authority to oust boards that jeopardise accreditation, using this same authority to remove two-thirds of the DeKalb County school board in 2013, when they fell short of AdvancED’s standards of conduct.

From the Governor’s Office:

Acting on the recommendation of the State Board of Education, Gov. Nathan Deal today suspended five members of the Dooly County school board. Deal announced that he has appointed a panel to nominate replacements and has tapped Martha Ann Todd, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, to act as his liaison to the Dooly County school board and Interim Superintendent Celeta Thomas.

“Based on a recommendation from the State Board of Education, I have suspended all members of the Dooly County school board,” said Deal. “These suspensions are necessary to begin work to ensure that Dooly County School System will keep its accreditation and give the more than 1,500 students in the county a fair chance at a quality education. I have the utmost confidence that the members of this panel will help put the Dooly County schools back on track by nominating replacements who will work effectively with Martha Ann and Interim Superintendent Thomas to provide the best outcomes for the children of Dooly County.”

 Martha Ann Todd, liaison to Gov. Deal

Todd was appointed the executive director of GOSA in February 2013. She was previously the associate superintendent of teacher and leader effectiveness at the Georgia Department of Education. Todd has more than thirty years of experience in education, in both public and private schools, working with students in kindergarten through 12th grade. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Emory University, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus State University and a specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College and State University. Todd and her husband, Robert, have two children and two grandchildren. They live in Greenville.

 Nominating committee

 Helen Rice, chair

Rice is a former classroom teacher with more than two decades of teaching experience in Georgia. She is past chair of the State Board of Education and has served on the board since 2011. Rice has also served on several boards and community organizations, including the Troup County Council on Child Abuse, the United Way Board of Directors and the West Georgia Health Foundation. She is a graduate of Leadership Georgia. Rice earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in Education from Valdosta State University. She and her husband, Bill, have one son and three grandchildren. They reside in LaGrange.

Patty Bentley

Bentley represents the 139th District in the Georgia House of Representatives and owns Bentley Montford Mortuary LLC. She serves on the Agriculture, Higher Education, Intragovernmental Coordination and Retirement committees. Bentley is also a member of the Black, Rural, Women, and Working Families caucuses. She is a graduate of Leadership Taylor and Leadership Georgia. Bentley previously served on the Taylor County Commission and the Taylor County Board of Registrars. Bentley is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development and the Basic Course for Economic Development at Georgia Tech. She was featured as a “40 under 40 Rising Star” in Georgia Trend magazine. Bentley and her husband, Darryl, have five children and one grandchild. They live in Butler.

William “W.T.” Henry Sr.

Henry retired as headmaster of Deerfield-Windsor School after working in public and private education for 45 years. He has served on the Georgia Accrediting Commission since 1997 and Henry is a former member of the State Board of Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Board of Trustees. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Troy State University and master’s degrees in Physical Education and Administration Supervision from Florida State University. Henry and his wife, Ruth, have three children and three grandchildren. They reside in Albany.

Greg Kirk

Kirk represents the 13th District in the Georgia State Senate, where he is the deputy whip for the majority caucus. He is a vice chairman of the State and Local Government Operations committee and the secretary of the Government Oversight committee. Kirk is also a member of the Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committees. He is a past president of the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia. Kirk previously sat on the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services Board and the board of directors for the Georgia Association of Community Care Providers. He earned a master’s degree in Psychology from Troy State University. Kirk and his wife, Rosalyn, have seven children and four grandchildren. They live in Americus.

Gregory McClendon

McClendon is the founder and pastor of Christ Chapel Unadilla (CCU). He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He also worked as a South Carolina state trooper and investigated federal crimes as a special agent for the FBI. After retiring from the FBI, McClendon joined other retired law enforcement officers to start a consulting company, Brothers Keepers. In 1998, he started CCU, which has become a haven for children of all ages. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Studio Art from Limestone College. McClendon and his wife, Geraldine, have three children and four grandchildren.

Hobby Stripling Sr.

Stripling is the mayor of Vienna. He retired as the state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. Stripling also served as district director for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop and U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall. He and his wife, Ann, have three children and live in Vienna.

Appointment recommendations may be submitted to the Governor’s Office for consideration.


Reader Comments 0



What happens when they hold elections and the same ousted board members are re-elected?


@Lee_CPA2 I would think it's part of the job of the nominating committee to prevent former members from re-applying.

Steve Dunbar
Steve Dunbar

The name of the acting superintendent is ?

The names of the five board members who were removed are ?

The AJC - short story journalism at its best.


Interesting that there are zero voices from Atlanta on the nominating committee. Only time Atlanta votes/opinions matter to Deal is when his daughter in law needs to meet some fundraising goal. Why wasn't she "put" on there? Maureen you could have done a great service to the nominating committee. Or, the guy from Athens who speaks critically of Deal's educational platform. Never mind.


@chaunda I doubt Atlanta has much in common with Dooly County.  Perhaps that's why no one is on the list.

David Phillips
David Phillips

Advanced ed was formerly the southern association of colleges and schools. They determine if a school system is accredited. If a high school is not accredited colleges and universities will not accept graduates to their institutions. Anytime a BOE member (their job is to make policy) meddles in day to day school operations Advanced Ed will immediately intervene.

Kamau Mason
Kamau Mason

The question that you should be asking is why the advanced ed CEO has so much power so as to be able to recommend that a board ( and your constitutional rights to elect a board) be suspended?


Why, exactly does Dooly County, population 13,000, and not well off, have it's  own school system?  Constitutions can be amended. Fix it.


Good.They needed it.

Maybe this will wake the voters up down there.

MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig Not sure about that. Voters in DeKalb did not re-elect one of the strongest Deal appointees, Thad Mayfield, last year. 

It was suggested Mayfield's vote in support of the Druid Hills charter cluster led to his defeat. However, it may have been that his opponent was a more effective campaigner. She may have gone to more church suppers and knocked on more doors.

But Mayfield was a great loss as he was smart and thoughtful. 


@Astropig They are awake piglet.......they just don"t agree with people like you! Come on Hillary the vote is over.