Posted by Media Outrage on September 24th, 2010
Bishop Eddie Long is in the battle of his life to save his reputation and free his name of some extremely damaging accusations by former members of his congregation. Long before any of these allegations made headlines, Bishop was doing plenty of good in the community. Peep game
Bishop Eddie Long has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to DeKalb County schools, but that doesn’t mean he has influence over the district, school officials said Thursday.
Schools officials said they have no plans to sever ties with Long, but the system began distancing itself from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church months before the lawsuits filed this week.
Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson said she is not a member of New Birth and has had no contact with Long since she took over the district in February. That includes not supplying school buses for a New Birth camp, like in previous years.
In addition to cost cutting, the school system is trying to preserve its accreditation, officials said. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ standards for accreditation require district to avoid outside influences. DeKalb schools are already under scrutiny from SACS for allegations of conflict of interest, nepotism and other ethical concerns.
“We’re trying to remove all outside influences from the district and hold the district to a higher ethical standard and to be very transparent to the public,” board chair Tom Bowen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “No one person or group should be able to influence the district more than any other.”
However, the school system does have existing contracts with the church, including a lease for the Leadership Preparatory Academy, a K-5 charter school that opened last month. The district pays $122,050 a year for rent, along with maintenance, security and insurance costs, according to a lease.
The Destiny Academy Of Excellence, which is also housed at the church, was previously a DeKalb charter school. The school lost charter status, but has since reapplied for charter status.
“Our primary connections with the church are the use of the church as one of the district’s graduation venues and the charter school located at the church. To the extent that the allegations are determined to impact either of these, the district would assess the facts and take the appropriate action,” Bowen said. “Prior support from the church to the District would not impact our fiduciary duty to well being of the district’s children in any way.”
Long’s spokesman Art Franklin and his lawyer Craig Gillen did not return phone calls Thursday.
The school system has already signed a contract to hold the Stephenson High graduation in May at New Birth, the largest seating venue in DeKalb. Stephenson, along with Miller Grove and Lithonia, has held graduations and baccalaureate ceremonies at the church over the past several years, said Robert Moseley, deputy chief superintendent for school operations.
Students at those three south DeKalb high schools also have contact with New Birth youth ministers and volunteers, who assist the schools at football games and during bus arrival and dismissals.
In addition to the dozens of volunteers, Long would meet with principals and deposit money into their school accounts to use at their discretion for building operations, Moseley said.
School records also show New Birth bought championship rings for the Miller Grove basketball team, football and basketball uniforms for Miller Grove and Lithonia, meals for students in evening classes, and prom attire and school supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims.
DeKalb schools aren’t alone. Long and New Birth has donated to numerous DeKalb organizations and politicians’ campaigns. County Commissioner Lee May is an elder at the church and friend of Long’s. Sheriff Thomas Brown serves on the LongFellow Youth Academy board and has been a church member for more years, he said.
They, along with school board member Eugene Walker and former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, all said they are praying for Long.
“I’m praying for my church, my pastor, his family and the young men who have made these allegations. Now is not the time to rush to judgment on either side, but to allow these cases to proceed in the judicial system,” May told the AJC.
A target of criminal charges years ago Jones, who does not attend New Birth, said he knows what Long is going through.
“My prayers are with him, his family, the church and all those that may be impacted by this revelation. I know what it is like to be falsely accused,” said Jones. “I consider the bishop and many other ministers, my friends. He has helped and inspired a lot of young men to go on to college, make their community and parents and their church proud of their achievements.”
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Buddhist and resident of south DeKalb, also offered prayers and said its a “trying time for our entire community.”
Long was one of the founding members of DeKalb Police Alliance, which provides $100,000 life insurance policy for every officer in the county and municipalities. Carolyn Rehling, the alliance’s chairwoman, said Long is still a member of the board, but has not been active in several years.
However, he did donate to the reward fund and the funerals of DeKalb Police Officers Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant Jr., who were killed in the line of duty in 2008.
Rehling said she has received no calls from officers since the lawsuits were filed, despite officers calling for his removal on a police blog.