DeKalb names a new leader. Is she the right one?

DeKalb has a new school chief, Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio.

DeKalb has a new school chief, Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio.

Earlier this week, a DeKalb parent called to tell me that Cheryl L. H. Atkinson would likely be named DeKalb school chief. The parent was disappointed because Atkinson, a finalist for the APS job that went to former Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis, led such a small system in Ohio.

I pass the tip onto news here at the AJC, which is now reporting that Atkinson will take over the troubled DeKalb system next month. She leaves the Lorain City Schools, an Ohio system of 8,000 students and one high school, to manage DeKalb with nearly 100,000 students.

She is making quite a leap. Clearly, Atkinson is impressive to have also been a finalist for the APS job. But there is reason to be concerned about her lack of experience leading a mega system, especially one with an entrenched bureaucracy, a recent history of chaos and a frustrated parent base.

(An interesting side note after witnessing the recent school chief search in not just DeKalb, but in several other metro counties and in some out-of-state districts: It seems that all the systems operate out of the same list of potential candidates. I am not sure why any district wastes money on professional headhunters to generate a list of such obvious names. Just read about the candidates being considered by other districts and approach them directly. Districts would save hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

Here is her bio:

Dr. Cheryl L. H. Atkinson has been the Superintendent of Lorain City Schools since August 2007. During her tenure, she has implemented a comprehensive reform model, Success For All, which has increased Ohio Achievement Test scores in reading for all elementary and middle schools. Dr. Atkinson has also moved the district forward technologically by implementing an electronic grade reporting system, Progress Book, giving parents daily access to their children’s grades. In addition, all students in grades 6 through 11 have been issued E-books instead of traditional textbooks. Students now have all their textbooks loaded electronically on a laptop, which enables them to access the current learning tools and technologies they need to compete in the 21st Century workforce.

Dr. Atkinson was formally Deputy Superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri School District, a district with more than 38,000 students and more than 70 schools. She also served as Associate Superintendent for School Administration and Regional Superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, a district with over 125,000 students in over 150 schools.

Dr. Atkinson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Learning and a Master of Education in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned her Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She has been married for 21 years to Terrence L. Atkinson, Sr. They have three sons.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

227 comments Add your comment

d

August 13th, 2011
10:35 am

The more I read, the less I like this choice.

Wondering

August 13th, 2011
10:42 am

I’m wondering abou the E books. It seems to me that when a leader boasts about something in their own biography they want to boast about something they have accomplished. I haven’t read anything about how well her students can read those E books.

Maureen, do you have any information about how well the students and schools performed during her tenure?

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
10:45 am

If you had only done your homework Dekalb. She was just in Federal Court for grade fixing. And ordered by Federal Court to change grades back. Did she just tell you she improved scores or do you actually have proof. We went from 4 benchmarks at the state to 1 and in Academic Watch and she can’t pass a levy to save her life. We are dead last in our entire state because of her. I wish you the best although you are going to need more than good wishes and luck on this one.

PatDowns

August 13th, 2011
11:01 am

What makes Dr. Atkinson a better qualified superintendent than former candidate, Dr. Lillie Cox? Oh, how dumb of me – Dr. Atkinson is “of color.” Just more of the same with further erosion of the DCSS.

Discriminatoin

August 13th, 2011
11:03 am

Another.

Black.

Woman.

Grrrrreat. Just what we needed.

Let's be honest

August 13th, 2011
11:03 am

The photo indicates she meets the only criterion that actually mattered.

Dekalb taxpayer

August 13th, 2011
11:10 am

She speaks like Beverly Hall. If I hear “stakeholder” one more time . . . .

Jimmie Dean Willis

August 13th, 2011
11:22 am

More of the same. Another Beverly Hall? Hold on, DeKalb teachers! Buckle up! Button your chin straps! Here we go again! Did we wait this long for Atkinson?

What makes this lady a better candidate than Dr. Sam King right next door in Rockdale County? Oh, I see. Perhaps Tom Bowen has a better chance of controlling her…than of controlling Samuel King.

Bowen…more weak leadership in an already weak DeKalb County.

Ho hum. Ho hum. Here we go again.

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
11:24 am

Get use to “stakeholder”. She blamed our poor academic status on our poor our minorities and our kids. Oh and let’s not forget the parents. This woman is a disaster. I’m sorry you got her! She’ll do absolutely nothing with a smile. She is everything that is wrong with Public Schools in America today. She’s a PR person. She smiles while you get screwed.

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
11:29 am

I think you folks just hired “your” Beverly Hall!

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
11:41 am

Another “grad” of the Broad Foundation. In fact, she looks a bit like Beverly Hall when Hall first arrived in Atlanta in 1999. This lady will be a disaster. Wow…school boards keep learning dumber.

By the way, she appears to have been applying for any and all jobs throughout the country…since, I suppose, she has gotten her professional ticket punched by Eli and Edyth Broad. I agree with cousin Jimmie Dean Willis. Jimmie Dean was always very prescient…even as a kid. She predicted that Lester Maddox would end up riding bicycles backward while in office.

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
11:51 am

Does no one on the DeKalb Board of Education know how to do a good Google search? It took me two or three minutes at the most to see that this lady was a disaster in Lorain, Ohio. I never cease to be amazed at how school boards can be “fed” pure cr-p from search firms and then they just gobble up the cr-p like it is good dog food.

Lynn43

August 13th, 2011
11:57 am

Dekalb Board Members, If you have not taken your final vote, considering all the negative comments and information, you might want to reconsider where you stand on this issue.

Dunwoody Mom

August 13th, 2011
12:05 pm

I cannot say that I am happy with this choice.

David Sims

August 13th, 2011
12:27 pm

You know, whites outnumber blacks in the United States by a ratio of about six. How, then, does it happen that we’re seeing a parade of black candidates to top education jobs in Atlanta? Is being black a job requirement down there? If so, then what could be the reason? It can’t be the shining example of previous blacks in top education jobs, because, although we have plenty of examples for our inspection, none of them shine. I think that perhaps there’s some racial preferencing going on down there.

chillywilly

August 13th, 2011
12:27 pm

Dekalb Board of Education Members, all of you are crazy as hell for hiring this woman. You all are failures and should step down immediately. I agree with Dr. Trotter; this woman even looks like Beverly Hall and that’s enough to scare the sh#! out of me!

DeKalb mom

August 13th, 2011
12:36 pm

Lorainite: please provide the citation to the federal court case about grade changing to which you refer. I would like to read the allegations. I found the federal law suit filed by an employee, which has since been settled. But employment cases are a dime a dozen. Every governmental entity has tons of these.

I cannot locate a suit involving Lorain schools and grades.

John Adams

August 13th, 2011
12:38 pm

I’ve got to give an “amen” to Dr. Trotter’s comments. Why go all the way to Ohio to hire someone who is currently running a relatively tiny district when compared to Dekalb? Is there no one in GA ready for the job, e.g., a successful asst. supt. in a huge metro district or maybe a veteran supt. from a medium sized district nearby (Sam King?). This now means that Cobb, Fulton, and Dekalb all went out of state for their new supers, with APS likely to do so too. What’s wrong with our GA folks?

Wow, just wow...

August 13th, 2011
1:06 pm

…every single comment so far (through 12:38pm) is negative. And most hit the nail on the head with the only requirement for thehire being that she be “of color”: As a proud graduate of Dekalb County Schools (Clarkston High – 1971) I can only say that I really made the right choice to move away in 1995 so that my kids could have a real, color blind, education…

How sad for this once proud school system that at one time was the beacon for all school systems in the state, until 1969, when the desegregation lawsuit was filed, and never really settled, even after the court order said the lawsuit had failed, back in 1999…

Fred

August 13th, 2011
1:08 pm

John Adams: What’s “wrong” with Georgia folks is that they KNOW who they would be working for so they don’t apply.

DO

August 13th, 2011
1:18 pm

No, Dekalb made the wrong choice… as usual.

Angela

August 13th, 2011
1:20 pm

I hope and pray that the new “super” works out. Try and be positive about this situation. DeKalb schools was once one of the best school system in the country. Hopefully, it will be again one day. We have to start somewhere.

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
1:21 pm

Lawyer was Avery Freidman, the famous CNN Fair housing lawyer. The federal suit was just settled.

Google: citizens 4 better Lorain schools for the rest of the story!

Lisa

August 13th, 2011
1:26 pm

I really feel the AJC is racist. I wonder would the headlines be the same if the finalist was a white person. HERE ARE THE FACTS. African Americans are capable of leading districts, cities and yes, even America. Give her a chance!

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
1:28 pm

Michael Hinojosa (trouble in Dallas), Edmond Heatley (trouble in Chino Valley, California and two years of teaching experience), Robert Avossa (disliked in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and hasn’t even finished his doctorate at Wingate College/University; I think he has a Specialist from NOVA), Sister Tsunami from little Loraine, Ohio, et al. What do most have in common? Glenn Brock and the Broad Foundation. I am not sure if DeKalb finally went with Brock and Clay Associates (isn’t this the name of their search firm?), but the pattern of Cheryl Atkinson really looks so much like Hinojosa, Heatley, and Avossa.

Discrimination

August 13th, 2011
1:30 pm

Angela, we do have to start somewhere. We don’t have to start at the bottom.

Darryl Mattthews

August 13th, 2011
1:32 pm

I don’t know why anyone would want to come here to work for a gang of morons, based on the remarks given here today, who seem to dominate this discussion. Apparently parents don’t take responsibility for their own children’s education anymore, nor do they encourage them by engaging in meaningful educational pursuits at home. You expect to pack your kids up, send them off to school, which has by unfortunate circumstance, become a publically funded daycare, and or halfway house. You then expect someone else to magically educate your poorly prepared kids; kids who spend more time playing video games, tweeting, texting, and enjoying other non educational related activities than they do reading. Considering the environment of ignorance in which they are being raised, it is no wonder they are unable to learn. They have no examples at home from which to model, just a bunch of bellyachers and whiners. SMH.

Dnice

August 13th, 2011
1:33 pm

Now I see why they chose someone from Ohio. Do you all see the racism on this blog???? I have no idea how well she will be but reading the bio kind of changes the whole small school because she has been in leadership in larger systems than the current. Seeing some of the literature coming out of your mouth’s then it makes it a miracle that a woman of her credentials would want to take on such an arduous task. Remember what they say about the apple right??????

I dont know much about the race but I do agree with one comment about saving taxpayers money and using the same list. I think the state should take over headhunting searches and pull that out of the budget because clearly if 3 different systems used the same candidates then we really wasted our time and resources.

At the end of the day this is all about the kids and no matter how good the system maybe it still boils down to parents being involved and if you can be as involved in finding a “Supt.” then use that same vigor in teaching your kids.

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
1:34 pm

We’re celebrating in Lorain today. You kept us from having to remove her.

Discrimination

August 13th, 2011
1:35 pm

Lisa, she already had a “chance” in Lorain. This isn’t recreational teeball here where we give everybody a “chance.”

Dnice

August 13th, 2011
1:37 pm

Wow Darryll you and I were typing the same thoughts. I wonder why you and I can see it so clearly. Maybe the kids will keep moving onward and upward with people like you and I not allowing racism to enter our hearts..

Lorainite

August 13th, 2011
1:39 pm

Uncle Joe

August 13th, 2011
1:43 pm

There’s not enough information here to know what to think of the new superintendent. What I would like to see is how many years she was at each job and why she left (which is probably confidential). Its ridiculous to assume that any ONE person can fix all a public school district’s problems. If someone does fix everything miraculously, they are to be suspected of cheating. The problems in school districts like DeKalb are family problems. How many children in DeKalb have their two birth parents supporting them? Where do they go after school? To a day care center? When they get home is Mom or Dad there? How much TV and video games do these children expose themselves to daily? No school or superintendent can be a good substitute for good parents. God bless those good parents in DeKalb who are the real solution.

pray?

August 13th, 2011
1:44 pm

You pray that it works out? Are you serious? I pray that I win the lotto. Blind faith gets you nowhere. You can’t pray America back to morals and great leaders. Praying is for those who believe in failure. Hard work, morals and integrity is what will bring Dekalb and America back. Stop being foolish.

Ben

August 13th, 2011
1:50 pm

She qualifies for the job. There is only one factor that qualifies one to be elected or appointed in the DeKalb County political picture. You have to be black and fit snugly under their thumb. I think she will fit nicely in that circumstance. DeKalb parents should not expect improvement over what they are accustomed to. Give her a couple of years and Atlanta will hire her away from you.

kgray

August 13th, 2011
1:57 pm

I have a problem with the Governor’s report and the reason I take issue is because, the was a school on the northside of Atlanta and they had teachers said they cheated and the report stated that there was no way the principal could have known there was cheating. However, she has to accountable for her schoo, just as they said Superintendent Hall had to be held accountable If there was no admittance to cheating at some of the school, but there was a small spike in their test scores the Governors report automatically deemed that school and principal as a cheating and stated the principal should have know their was cheating with any proof. In essence what the Governor and the report is stating is that Black children can only learn if they cheat or attend a white school and not cheat. I take issue with that report and I read it throughly and if some of you parents really believe that former Governor Sonny Prudue cares if a Black child pass the CRCT test, then I want to sale you some of my prime real estate that I have on Hilton Head Island for $1.00 an acre. Let’s call it what it is and that it’s all political and now that more Whites are moving back in to the city of Atlanta, they want the district back and the money.

Fo What it worth

August 13th, 2011
2:05 pm

I guess there was absolutely no White qualified candidates? Do I smell the rotten smell of reverse-racism…By any name it stinks. Why when the blacks get in power only blacks are qualified for ‘any’ positon…..Sad. Tell me it ain’t so Jo.

J.B. Stoner

August 13th, 2011
2:06 pm

The same old broken record.Hire an affirmative action,grossly overpaid individual that lasts about 2-3 years.The state,federal agencies (white man) that have the real power,authority over sub cultures starts looking with their microscopes,evaluating the school district,performance,finds nothing but a waste of humanity that costs taxpayers millions.Not to mention,kids flunking out,dropping out at accelerated rates,teen pregnancy, way beyond the national,regional (Cherokee,Cobb,Forsyth) averages.
Of couse if a white,highly qualified superintendent from Idaho,Utah,or Montana got hired,there would be a real legitamate chance for success.But then,that would not happen because of affirmative action.
Cynthia Tucker,Cynthia McKinney would have a fit.

Mr Charlie

August 13th, 2011
2:12 pm

She really does not bring a lot of diversity to Dekalb.

Doug

August 13th, 2011
2:13 pm

How many black people have to be hired in a row in DeKalb and Fulton until we are allowed to conclude that whites simply need not apply?!

Stop it

August 13th, 2011
2:14 pm

This blog is a perfect example of White Right. You think you have a right to everything and anyone not of your kind is unfit to lead. Stop with the racism on here. Our students need good people who know how to work with all races to teach them. Some of you adults are raising a new generation of children who will hate based on skin color. Let’s work together to make things better for all and stop with using race to justify why you don’t like a hire. Grow up.

Ali

August 13th, 2011
2:20 pm

The same people complaining about her not having enough experience are the same people who voted for gw bush. The worst president this country has ever seen. A bunch of teabaggers that want to ruin this country the way they did when they voted gw in office.

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
2:22 pm

Whites need not apply in DeKalb, Clayton, and Atlanta.

Blacks need not apply in Forsyth, Cherokee, and Paulding.

Is it racism? Sure. Does it cut both ways? Sure. The fabric of our country was and is woven in racism. It is a shame. People ought to just be able to see people as people, but this usually does not happen. I am about to leave for Columbus. I look forward to seeing both of my newly-born grand nephews. One is white, and one is racially mixed like my children. Damn! I like diversity! But, let’s not get so high and mighty about the DeKalb Board of Education not hiring a white person; the Forsyth County Board of Education likewise would not think of hiring a black person. Institutionalized racism is a very difficult thing to overcome. Maybe this is one reasons I like traveling to Brazil so much. This is land of great diversity, but even there, people of a darker hue are discriminating against, ever how subtly.

Janni

August 13th, 2011
2:22 pm

So she has the same credentials as our current president had… Going from not leading much of anything, with bad experience with contact that would keep him from getting a security clearance, and yet he is in charge of our entire country. It’s the same thing here only on a smaller scale. At least from what I can see.

George

August 13th, 2011
2:25 pm

You people are really a bunch of sick nuts.Give the woman a chance race please What a nerve to even that word being white WOW.They made the right choice just like every other choice.The woman is not even here yet and here you go.Children are the lowest on the pole and should be at the top.This system needs a cleaning from top to bottom and this is only the being of change.Gwinnett has a white leader and they should have the system is white do not be a fool all of your life D.

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
2:25 pm

@ starlight: You are seeming to confirm my immediate suspicion of Ms. Atkinson. This is why I immediately started calling her “Sister Tsunami.” Most of these “national” appointed superintendents and candidates are cut from the same cloth. That’s your problem when you go “national.”

Dr. John Trotter

August 13th, 2011
2:26 pm

Maureen: What’s wrong with Mr. Filter today? I have another post caught in the filter.

Sam in GA

August 13th, 2011
2:26 pm

Many of these remarks come from a bunch of un-informed individuals who want to spread a negative agenda. I have lived and worked in DeKalb County for many years and remember when DeKalb was operated by some backward thinking leaders. Guest what – they were not people of color and those leaders made many mistakes.

Georgia has been ranked near the bottom of education for the past 60 years and remember who was in charge of the county and state during this time. Therefore, give me a break on all the great things from the past.

You can receive a good education in DeKalb County, but the primary efforts must begin in the home. I will await to pass judgement on the newest school chief. Give the woman a chance to lead.

Remember to vote in the next election.

RustHinges

August 13th, 2011
2:30 pm

A 11:01 a.m. PatDowns asked what made Dr. Atkinson, who is coming from an even smaller school system, a better choice than Dr. Cox. Since no one has come up with any other credible reasoning, I will agree with Pat. It is because she’s black and add that the BOE believes they can keep her under control.

As for those of you on here claiming racism, where were you when Dr. Cox was the candidate? You trashed her for every reason that you are now remaining silent about Dr. Atkinson’s qualifications. The racism exhibited on this board is reverse-racism.

teacher reader

August 13th, 2011
2:31 pm

These headlines and articles in a blog about Loraine tell it all. DCSS will have more of the same.
The friends and family plan will continue, as will our over paid, abundant administration. Nice one School Board.

*Failed Lorain Shool’s head gets job in Georgia

Administration says approve administrators but we aren’t telling you what they get paid.

Administration slants information on spending to get levy passed

Administrator, oblivious to responsibilities, says she’ll start watching quarterly at academics

Another 5 years at $180K

CT-School Board sues BOE over failed levy

Failed District Gives Head 5K Bonus

Lorain not a “Top School”

One Big Conflict of Interest

Report Card Showing Failing Grade

Spending Woes mean levy in November

Superintendant’s Landlord named Lorain City Schools Legal Counsel @ $6K a Month

Superintendent claims improvement even though state indicators drop

Voters show no trust, 4.9 mill levy fails