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Monday, February 25, 2013 - 2:55am

Judge Complicates Deal's DeKalb Decision

A federal judge is temporarily preventing Georgia's governor from replacing DeKalb County school board members who were recommended for suspension by the state Board of Education.

Gov. Nathan Deal had scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday to announce whether he would follow the recommendation to suspend six of the nine board members. The order from U.S. District Judge Richard Story doesn't restrain the governor from suspending board members, but it enjoins him from implementing any decision pending a court hearing Friday.

The judge's ruling was in response to a request from the DeKalb County school board. The school board is challenging the Georgia law that allows the governor to suspend board members at the recommendation of the state Board of Education.

During a roughly 14-hour hearing Thursday, the Georgia Board of Education voted to suspend six of nine school board members. Suspensions were not recommended for the board's three newest members, who were hired after problems within the district began surfacing.

An audit of the school system found evidence of fiscal mismanagement and unethical practices. In a report, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools officials said despite attempts, costs and resources used to change the board's culture, the effort appears to have been a waste.

The school system was put on probation through the end of 2013 and risks losing accreditation.