DeKalb issues clear statement: Cheryl Atkinson steps down today from school chief’s post

DeKalb just issued this statement: The DeKalb County Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson have mutually agreed to end their relationship effective Friday, February 8, 2013.  The Board and Dr. Atkinson each determined and believe that it is in the best interest of all concerned that there be a mutual separation and they wish each other well in all their future endeavors.

Here is the separation agreement between Atkinson and the board that will be voted on later today.

Here is part of the AJC story by Ty Tagami:

For the third time in three years, school officials in DeKalb County are set to name a schools chief to oversee the third largest student population in Georgia.

While the school board was in another of a string of private sessions to discuss “legal and personnel matters” Thursday afternoon, officials advertised a public meeting for Friday afternoon. The purpose: to vote on a separation agreement with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and to approve the employment agreement of an interim superintendent.

The interim wasn’t named, but on Monday former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond emerged from a similar closed-door meeting and said he’d been asked about his leadership philosophy and that the words “interim” and “superintendent” had come up. Thurmond could not be reached for comment Thursday.

This will be a crucial transition for a district in crisis. In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed DeKalb on probation, alleging financial mismanagement, nepotism and meddling by the school board. On Feb. 21, the Georgia Board of Education will hold a hearing to decide whether to suspend the DeKalb board. A state law from 2011 allows the governor to remove boards in school systems on probation, if the state board recommends it.

Atkinson could not be reached for comment. A district spokeswoman said Atkinson has been on leave since her father’s death on Jan. 23. Jeff Dickerson, a district spokesman through whom Atkinson has relayed messages to the media, had no immediate comment.

The unexecuted separation agreement gives her $114,583, plus payment for any unused vacation. Assuming the board approves it Friday, it will take effect at midnight Friday. The agreement calls on the board and Atkinson to work together to produce a “mutually approved joint public statement that is brief and non-disparaging.”

After Thursday’s closed-door meeting, school board Chairman Eugene Walker told reporters that Atkinson and the board had a “mutual understanding of separation” and that “she’s had some sadness in her family.”

Atkinson, 54, has been earning $275,000 a year since starting in September 2011. She’s also gotten insurance and retirement benefits, home Internet access and a $2,600 monthly allowance for expenses. She was hired by the school board under a mandate from SACS. The agency wanted the system to replace its interim superintendent with a permanent leader.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

59 comments Add your comment

The Deal

February 7th, 2013
6:25 pm

Ding-dong, the wicked witch… Now onto the BOE, March, Howe, and anyone else Atkinson hired.

The Deal

February 7th, 2013
6:30 pm

I want to see Thurmond’s contract ASAP. If this BOE is unseated by the Governor, the appointed board should have the right and duty to hire either an interim (cleanup) superintendent or a permanent. I don’t want whatever contract they have signed to prevent us from getting a (good) new one!

Beverly Fraud

February 7th, 2013
6:37 pm

No fault to find here; now that she’s achieved Victory In Every Classroom what else was left for her to accomplish?

Lazy Principals&Nepotism&Sororities Run DekalbSchools

February 7th, 2013
6:55 pm

I am on the fence! I don’t think we gave her time. Such chaos and confusion! It trickles down to the teachers….such chaos and low morale! Reduce County staff now! We’re top heavy. How do we manage nepotism and sorority’s control at the school level. It’s rampant! The county’s whistleblower hotline is edited. One cannot be anonymous! What confusion! I am leaving! I have had enough!

Oh goody

February 7th, 2013
7:03 pm

Please tell me this does not mean we will be paying for FOUR superintendents simultaneously: Lewis (think we are still paying his legal fees), Tyson (isn’t she still getting the salary of interim superintendent?), Atkinson (getting paid through June) and now this new guy? No wonder DCSS can’t afford to buy soap for the bathrooms at my kid’s school.

Not Surprized

February 7th, 2013
7:06 pm

She didn’t last a year in Kansas City before she was asked to leave and she was only around for five months in Charleston SC. The Board was negligent in properly vetting background, or as I was told she was successful in wooing certain members!

It's long overdue...

February 7th, 2013
7:12 pm

Wonder if Ramona Tyson’s moved her things back into the Chief of Staff’s office in expectation of once again being the “right-hand gal” for the superintendent. She was allowed to move back into the suite by Atkinson (much to March’s displeasure) a few weeks ago. I’m sure those two ladies will be tripping over one another to be extremely helpful next Monday when Thurmond shows up. Here’s hoping he can see through their nonsense and show them BOTH to the door.

I hear the Service Center has some vacant offices…

bootney farnsworth

February 7th, 2013
7:18 pm

hell, they can ask me to resign for a lot less than $150,000.

bootney farnsworth

February 7th, 2013
7:21 pm

@ oh

is that all? just four?

seems like DCSS could borrow an old USG trick and reassign her to a demeaning and useless position until she resigned on her own accord.

say, custodial at Columbia?

bu2

February 7th, 2013
7:24 pm

5 months severance. Not as bad as I feared. Basically paying her to the end of the school year.

living in an outdated ed system

February 7th, 2013
7:43 pm

This changes nothing. Seems some hi-stakes brinksmanship is going on. I pitty the board if they name an interim who may not even serve for two weeks! They are trying to force the governor’s hand. Remember that this is the same board that couldn’t even elect a new chairman.

This whole situation is a circus and it is disgusting. I feel sorry for the children and residents of Dekalb County, for this situation should be feasted on by academics as how NOT to govern an organization.

catlady

February 7th, 2013
7:55 pm

Well, gee, don’t see how the Governor and SBOE can say anything bad about the decisions of this board! T firmly in C. What a total mess! Get rid of them all. Clean house!

Crawford Lewis

February 7th, 2013
8:01 pm

Remember kids…. “Victory is in Every Classroom”…..even though the money isn’t……

Lee

February 7th, 2013
8:09 pm

I think the military has an acronym for this: SNAFU

Atlanta Media Guy

February 7th, 2013
8:09 pm

It is amazing that Tyson can go over budget 49 million over two years, for the Palace Gang and continue to be the true person pulling all the strings for the Friends and Family. DCSD Mired in the Corrupt Muck of Mediocrity for 11 Years! Walker and his gang must be laughing all the way to the bank, while the teachers get NO step increases or TRS matching funds. What an absolute joke!

Taxpayer and Teacher

February 7th, 2013
8:15 pm

Run for the hills comrades!!!Hurry before our checks start bouncing!

Atlanta Media Guy

February 7th, 2013
8:25 pm

Lee, I think you mean FUBAR!

Melanie

February 7th, 2013
8:41 pm

Melanie

February 7th, 2013
8:45 pm

David Schutten ODE) should go and hide under a rock as well as refunding our dues. He is a major supporter of Atkinson. Maybe he will leave also!!!

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 7th, 2013
8:52 pm

Kudos to @Oh Goody…This was exactly my thought. MY CHILD HAS EXPERIENCED TWO TEACHING CHANGES THIS YEAR due to salary cuts. At this point, I’d be fine if the BOE packs up too.

Dr. John Trotter

February 7th, 2013
8:59 pm

I wonder if Mark Elgart is happy. Wasn’t he pleased when the board hired Atkinson in 2011? She had SACS connections, didn’t she? He has blessed all of these dubious appointments…Atkinson, Heatley in Clayton, Hinojosa in Cobb, and Avossa in Fulton, right? Folks, if you are waiting for SACS to solve anything, you will be waiting a long time. The SACS’s cures are always much worse than any ailments within a school system. SACS only wants to keep the school boards in line so that these jokes for superintendents can call all of the shots without any oversight. That’s the job of SACS…Still Advocating for Cronies and Superintendents. SACS is the union for superintendents, and it is apparently helping drive the globalist agenda that one of the bloogers on this blog so ably points out. I believe this blogger is right on target when she contends, with ample documentation, that the accreditors are really running the school systems, and the supes think that they have to answer only to SACS and the other private accrediting agencies, not to the school boards. Just look at the regular comments on this blog…What will SACS think? Will SACS approve? Will this satisfy SACS?

Disgusted Dekalb Graduate (c/o 89)

February 7th, 2013
9:25 pm

Just one more chapter in the continuing saga of the People’s Democratic Republic of Dekalb County. I’m sorry, but this place is run like a third world country….

AnonMom

February 7th, 2013
9:27 pm

The controlling BOE members, I think, have had an agenda that is very different than what you (as a parent or, maybe as a teacher) or I really have in mind (read “Weapons of Mass Instruction” for some confirmation of this but my ideas were cemented before I read the book) — take a hard look at how DCSS has been run since Dr. Brown was in place and at how he was “departed” – really ask the questions about that 2004 audit and about what happened after the 2004 audit and to those salaries… where do the dollars really go? Who really gets the dollars? who really accounts for the dollars? The “power structure” isn’t about what we want it to be about.. they are interested in other things, most notably, the “jobs program” but I think that there’s more to it than that and why Ms. Tyson “survived” and Dr. Lewis held on as long as he did and Dr. Brown and Dr. Atkinson did not has more to do with the “power structure” and those “goals” than the “accomplishments” you or I want vis a vis “goals” for actually educating children.

Moderation

February 7th, 2013
9:53 pm

@ The Deal
Atkinson could not be reached for comment. A district spokeswoman said Atkinson has been on leave since her father’s death on Jan. 23.

It is possible to express your opinion about the situation and show
a sense of proper home training in your comments given the article
stated why she was on leave.

The Deal

February 7th, 2013
10:11 pm

Moderation, you believe what you want to believe about her reasons, and I’ll believe what I want to believe. I was not in favor of her hire, and I have been critical of her (lack of) actions ever since. The timing of this departure has more to do with the state BOE hearing than with her father’s death. I don’t feel sorry for her. Did she show the same sympathy you show her to any teachers whose fathers die? Teachers get a whopping 3 days off each year TOTAL for bereavement.

Atkinson not only knew what she was getting into, she was paid handsomely for it. Not only that, she will continue to be paid handsomely for it until our children’s disaster of a school year is over, even though she won’t be doing anything except coming back when required to testify at the multitude of trials she is or will be involved in.

She should crawl out of town with her tail between her legs and never show her face here again. She wasted almost 2 years of our children’s school lives, destroyed any number of good employees’ lives, and accomplished zero in the way of moving our kids’ academic achievement forward.

“Proper home training”? Direct that to our BOE and administration, please.

Dekalbite

February 7th, 2013
10:11 pm

Anon Mom

Iu for one would love to see that 2004 Compensation audit from Ernst and Young that showed 2500 non teaching personnel being overpaid by $15,000,000 a year. And that was before Lewis created so many more departments and added so many highly paid non teaching personnel. DCSS has been stonewalling on that audit for years saying it got lost, they don’t know where it is, etc. Ernst and Young was paid $341,000 for that audit. Of course they still have An electronic copy of it. How can the school system refuse to obtain it from Ernst and Young? Taxpayers paid for it. How much would $15,000,000 a year over 8 years amount to? $120,000,000. No one can get them to produce it. Why not ask Melvin Johnson about it? He was the Senior Advisor to the Superintendent (and at $145,000 a year second only in pay to Dr. Brown). He must have seen it.

Home-tutoring parent

February 7th, 2013
10:35 pm

I loved Prof’s figuring out me. Adjunct faculty, on the mark. Good! Elitist. yeah maybe. Actually, I did go to Harvard, and got into Stanford and MIT. i

I didn’t take faculty positions, I liked doing something different. “Here come the dolphins, you can either watch them and get wet, dive under the gunwale.”
I have this son, his wife wants to steal her parents’ sailboat and cross the world. What kind of DIL is that?
I have another son, “The winds gust to 40 mph, you have to do it, you’re 16 years old, it’s your first season in a boat, you can do it.”

I pushed my kids over the limit, theI were terrorized,. They had a blast. We took our son off-trail, he landed in a deep-tree-hole in Britiish Comlbiaa We dug him out . Wow!

We took him and his wife skiing at 10 degrees below zero F, of course they had fun.

She’s off the charts. She forced my son to buy a small boat, and fix it up.

Mandella1099

February 7th, 2013
11:03 pm

@ The Deal

Do you really believe that everyone new is bad? What about the Principals that she brought in that hired the Teachers? Should these Principals and Teachers all go as well?

Atkinson is gone, the Board may be next, so start talking about the future and what needs to be done to right this ship. You and the rest of your DeKalb School Watch mafia wanted a Superintendent from outside the state – you got it. You wanted new Board members – you got it. You wanted SACS to step in – you got it. You wanted central office staff that had been around with Lewis removed – you got it (for the most part). Are you better off? Nope, and you know what will happen when a new leadership arrives? You and DSW will come up with a cute nickname and then demand they and everyone they hired gets fired. You will spend your life posting about every possible minutia and not letting a single error go to waste in your drive to prove some arcane point as if you and your DSW friends and family are some kind of half-witted Woodward and Bernstein (can you believe they even ask for a “Deep Throat” to come forward on DSW!!!). And for what purpose? Nothing more but to give meaning to trivial, meaningless lives that have nothing but complaints and no solutions.

Trust me, I am very happy that Atkinson is done and it sickens me to think how she will be able to steal that much more money from the taxpayers. Nonetheless, its time to start looking forward. One of the many reasons why no great leaders will come to DeKalb is because of you and the DSW mafia. I know you don’t want to believe it, but trust me, its true (great idea for a blog Maureen – “Does DSW truly help or hurt DeKalb?”).

If you are such a genius with all of the answers, run for school board or get certified and apply for the Superintendent’s position. It appears that there may be some openings coming up soon, especially for one that knows-it-all….

The Deal

February 7th, 2013
11:33 pm

Mandella, either you can’t read or you can’t remember. I never advocated for anyone from out of state. I advocated for someone with experience in a large system, no one with ties to the criminals here in DeKalb, and a reasonable contract. I was NOT in favor of Cheryl Atkinson, and the activities of the past 18 months are, unfortunately, a big I TOLD YOU SO. Do you have sour grapes because you didn’t see the writing on the wall sooner, or do you just not like being wrong? As for wanting to be rid of the people Atkinson hired, you would have to be an idiot to not know this is in reference to her “cabinet”, not every teacher, janitor, and assistant.

With respect to DSW, if it weren’t for the “DSW Mafia”, many details of the corruption and incompetence would not have been brought to light. It may be negative, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of positive to report on. The goal of DSW is to not need a DSW. If people who were handsomely paid to do their jobs would actually do them, it would be a very boring blog, and I would be HAPPY to not have to report the malfeasance I see to it, read it, or post comments.

I don’t have to be a school board member or a superintendent to care about the fact that the children of DeKalb County are getting screwed in terms of an education. I don’t have to want to be in those positions to have higher expectations of people who draw salaries of $150K+ on my taxpayer dime. I have expectations as a parent, taxpayer, PTA president, Governance Council member, and I don’t need to be employed by the school district to have those expectations.

I, as much as you, want this system to move forward, but I do not wear rose-colored glasses or forget the past. Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it. DCSD has been stuck in a repeat cycle for the past 6 years. Those of us who have been here through all of it do our best to make sure we eventually stop repeating it.

Dekalbite@Mandella 1099

February 7th, 2013
11:35 pm

DeKalb has the lowest student achievement rate in the metro area even compared to demographically similar school systems. From a system that paid our teachers the highest compensation in metro area we now pay our teachers the lowest salaries even as we have the highest property tax rates in the area. Our students are packed into classes that reach to 40 students in many high schools. We have spent tenfold on security, legal fees and parental involvement programs compared to other school systems. We have spent close to $100,000,000 for expensive educational programs that have produced no educational results. We have made teachers a minority in number while we have increased the non teaching side exponentially. We pay our mechanics that require a high school diploma more than our physics teachers with PhDs. Many students go to schools with no soap or toilet tissue in the bathrooms unless parents pay for it and teachers and students are asked to use glue and tape to repair their textbooks even as money was “allocated” for the books but no one knows what happened to them.

Is it any wonder that parents and students are upset?

Here is a thought. Lower the pupil teacher ratio to under 30 students for every middle and high school teacher and under 25 for elementary teacher in grades 4 and 5 and much lower than that for primary grades. Ensure the classrooms are clean and the toilets work and have soap and toilet paper. Allow teachers to spend Title 1 funds on what works for their classrooms. Place our teachers’ salaries on par with the other metro systems and reinstate the TSA contribution.

After the classrooms that contain the students and teachers are adequately funded, hire the administration and any other ancillary positions.

Milton1960

February 8th, 2013
1:05 am

Wow. Seems like Mandela and The Deal need to be appointed to the DCBOE when the current one is replaced by the governor.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

February 8th, 2013
6:21 am

I am…excited isn’t the word…relived, perhaps, that DCSS (can we go back to that now?) will have the opportunity to hire someone who has experience and, perhaps, WANTS to shake things up and change a system that has no hope of survival unless something radical is done.

Change is an opportunity, not a guarantee. I feel like this school year has, in many ways, been wasteful for some of my children (5 or 6 weeks of testing in KINDERGARTEN, class sizes upwards of 22 in KINDERGARTEN with no teacher support…). This could be the beginning of improvement…or, it couldn’t.

Sorry for the negative tone…just beaten down. And I don’t even teach in DeKalb.

Pardon My Blog

February 8th, 2013
6:31 am

This BoE should not be allowed to make any hiring decisions, period. We are paying through the nose for their mistakes. Garnish their wages for all these “separation” agreements!

@ disgusted wrote – I’m sorry, but this place is run like a third world country…. Well just look who people keep putting in office! It is reflective of how things are being run in Washington!

mountain man

February 8th, 2013
6:31 am

Good – Atkinson down. Now just get rid of the Board that Hired her.

concernedmom30329

February 8th, 2013
6:53 am

As I said earlier… it will have been a very good week for Walker. Reelected chair, developed a strategy to fight state removal at taxpayer’s expense, punished a woman who had the audicity to demote anyone related to Frances Edwards and to fire Marcus Turk and hired “his man” as superintendent. Walker must be sleeping like a baby these days.

Someone else said Walker 1 — students 0

Atlanta Media Guy

February 8th, 2013
7:06 am

As long as Tyson and the remains of the Clew Crew hang around nothing is going to change! The Palace must be cleaned out of everyone! As long as there are folks who think they are more important than our kids education nothing is going to change. Why is Tyson still around after her inability of doing what the BOE directed her to do. She is responsible for the loss of 49 million dollars and yet she is rewarded and has moved back into the office next to the interims office.

Ladalang

February 8th, 2013
7:17 am

I’m from her former district. We Told you she was awful! You didn’t listen.

Mountain Man

February 8th, 2013
7:32 am

“If you are such a genius with all of the answers, run for school board or get certified and apply for the Superintendent’s position. ”

Sorry, I can’t. I am the wrong color.

Mountain Man

February 8th, 2013
7:33 am

Just like Cox was.

Concernedmom30329

February 8th, 2013
8:04 am

@ladalang

We did listen — the dang Board didn’t.

Don

February 8th, 2013
8:07 am

The problem is Atkinson didn’t have a BOE worth working with. The Governor needs to replace the board, and Eugene Walker should be the first to go. He had no idea about what was going on in the school system, including that money for school books had gone somewhere – he had no idea where.

alm

February 8th, 2013
9:19 am

Yes, she needed to go but the board should have waited. We pay her off for $114,583 and will pay an interim more than that! All this before the February 21 SBOE meeting. I think it would have been cheaper to keep her for the next couple of months. We don’t have enough money to pay for her, the new interim, Tyson, Lewis’s defense and God knows what else not related to students and their teachers.

AnonMom

February 8th, 2013
9:24 am

Tyson did what “power players” wanted (needed) her to do (as did Brown) — hence — certain “levels of protection” — that explains much of what you’re (various comments) are asking — one of the best things done, and then latter un-done, by Gov. Barnes, was mandatory max class size — it made sure certain dollars actually reached the kids. We’ve been over and over that 2004 audit — why does it matter? it only matters because it was deliberately surpressed — it was deliberately surpressed for a reason — and then the salaries of non-essential teaching personnel escalated and those of many in the audit also went up and up and up but the kids lost out and the test results plummeted. No other audit (and no forensic audits) were done after that — even though required — and even though it’s billions of taxpayer money — and even though these are kids needing futures on the line. Adult’s lining pockets are more important in this world.

Home-tutoring parent

February 8th, 2013
9:34 am

Can I make some suggestions?

Georgia’s teachers’ colleges aren’t very good. This isn’t to say they are worse than their other-states’ counterparts. The nationwide teacher-training model is corrupt

For science and math teachers, and building, district and state leadership in education, Tech is Georgia’s best school, by far. Its alumni should be leading Georgia schools’ pioneering migration into the 21st century. To lead children, you need really smart people at the helm.

Georgia has a multitude of talented people for teaching. Young-minded oldsters would love to teach small classes in which they could connect with youngsters as individuals. These gray-hairs don’t need or want $50k salaries, they’d do the job for free, if someone would say, “Your talents are needed by the community.”

A lot of them would want money for teaching materials, but the costs amortized per student would be quite affordable. For example, envision that a teacher wants a two-pan balance to teach algebra equations (The lesson is to keep pans level, manipulating masses on each side.) A geometry teacher wants an electronic scale to teach areas. For example cut a paper circle of a specified radius. Weigh it. From the same paper stock, cut a circle of doubled radius. What happens to the weight? If the paper’s thickness is the same, what does that imply as to area?

Many boys want to launch things into the air. Should I teach boys to make birthday-cake-candle-heated dry-cleaning-bag hot-air balloons?

Ask the Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory guys who designed the Mars Rovers, “Did you ever launch birthday-cake-candle-powered dry-cleaning-bag hot-air balloons that could have or may actually have started forest fires?”

Private Citizen

February 8th, 2013
10:27 am

If this is like most things political, it means the core group lost the window dressing,the cake lost their icing, the tv channel lost a talking head.

How much money did you say? And where did it go? Who stands to gain when checks are being written from DCSS? Hmmm, Are any of these attached to the governance of DCSS?

Private Citizen

February 8th, 2013
10:29 am

Georgia’s teachers’ colleges aren’t very good. This isn’t to say they are worse than their other-states’ counterparts. The nationwide teacher-training model is corrupt

Swoon. I think I’ve just fallen in love with you. Will you please occupy all of the political offices and also run the school system and colleges where I live?

Teacher, Too

February 8th, 2013
10:30 am

I’m just wondering… why did she get a month of bereavement time? In Cobb County, teachers get a maximum of FIVE days of bereavement for the death of a family member. She received a MONTH. Really? And now she’s stepping down and getting paid 23,000.00 dollars a month for the next five months?

Private Citizen

February 8th, 2013
10:50 am

bump and repeat Trotter’s comment. this really shows you what “SACS connected formula candidates are made of, installed for someone’s else very-difficult-to-see agenda.

I wonder if Mark Elgart is happy. Wasn’t he pleased when the board hired Atkinson in 2011? She had SACS connections, didn’t she?

DeKalb Inside Out

February 8th, 2013
10:54 am

Michael Thurmond, Cheryl Atkinson, Ramona Tyson, Crawford Lewis – The pattern isn’t changing.

Why is Dr Atkinson leaving?
She’s trying to stay out of jail regarding the text messages and the lawsuit. She destroyed evidence and hired back that teacher quid pro quo. She’s ditching hoping these lawsuits won’t go any further. That’s the mutual agreement between her and the BOE.

How long before Michael Thurmond is sued for illegal activity? Given DCSD’s Superintendent record, I’ll give him 9 months.

Brian Reinhardt

February 8th, 2013
11:13 am

Two years ago, I tried to tell you people about Cheryl Atkinson, but you didn’t listen.

Now will you not only go through the recruitment process all over again but you will have to undo the damage Atkinson has done and pay her while doing it.

Like I said before, educated people are some of the dumbest people on the planet.

Maybe this time when looking into a potential superintendent’s qualifications, you’ll look at the WHOLE picture instead of the one falsely put forth by the candidate.

Your children deserve it, and frankly, so did ours.