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Three DeKalb County school board members to begin term
by Nicole Dow
November 14, 2012 08:35 AM | 4174 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>
From left, Jim McMahan, Melvin Johnson and Marshall Orson.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
From left, Jim McMahan, Melvin Johnson and Marshall Orson.
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One third of the DeKalb County Board of Education will be made up of fresh faces in January when three new members are sworn in. As a result of this summer’s school board elections, Marshall Orson will replace District 2 board member Don McChesney, Jim McMahan will replace District 4 board member H. Paul Womack, and Melvin Johnson will take over the vacant District 6 position left by Thomas Bowen.

The newly elected members said, along with advancing educational success for children, their priorities for the board include creating unity among members and improving fiscal management.

“I think this board has been very divided,” Orson said. “And so the result is, everything that comes before the board becomes some sort of battle.”

He said he will focus on finding common ground with his fellow members. McMahan echoed those sentiments. One of the reasons he ran for the board position was that he was tired of the infighting.

“I want the board to have a single unified vision,” McMahan said. “I want the board to come together and be one supportive team.”

Johnson said transparency and focus need to be the objectives for the board moving forward. He added mismanagement of funds has been a distraction to student achievement, and the board needs to lift community morale in regards to the school system.

“We have to re-establish the trust,” Johnson said. “We have to involve the stakeholders in a way that would be positive … and be accountable.”

He said accountability to the public and transparency will be top priorities to him as a board member when addressing the findings from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ recent investigation into DeKalb County schools. Orson said he is awaiting the publication of the SACS report and knows the board he is joining will need to address the association’s concerns.

“[The board will be] responding to the specific decision they make and responding to the concerns they’ve expressed … which have to do with fiscal management and the board’s involvement in day-to-day operational matters,” he said.

McMahan said he believes one of the biggest issues the school system faces is balancing its budget.

He said he hopes his experience in the financial industry, as a residential mortgage loan officer, will serve to help the board.

He also feels he is qualified for his new position because he has been heavily involved in the school system, local school councils and parent teacher associations. McMahan is the father of a fifth grader at Sagamore Hills Elementary School and a seventh grader at Henderson Middle School.

Orson is the father of a fifth grader at Fernbank Elementary School and a seventh grader at Druid Hills Middle School. He has served on the boards of local and national public school advocacy groups and is involved in school councils in DeKalb County.

Johnson is a retiree of the DeKalb County school system. He retired in 2004 after serving 37 years, working in various roles from teacher to principal to deputy superintendent.
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