Former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will be DeKalb interim chief. “Guts, vision and passion,” says Roy Barnes.

DeKalb Schools just issued a statement announcing that former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will be appointed interim superintendent

Former Gov. Roy Barnes, at the AJC today for a meeting with reporters, praised Thurmond, with whom he worked for years in state government.

“Michael Thurmond is one of the most inspirational speakers I’ve ever heard. If DeKalb can be brought over with guts, vision and passion, he can do it. For an interim to kind of stir things up, Michael would be an excellent choice,” said Barnes. (More later on Barnes’ view of where Georgia is on education issues.)

Michael Thurmond (AJC photo)

Michael Thurmond (AJC photo)

Here is the official DeKalb statement:

“We are delighted Mr. Thurmond has agreed to serve as our interim superintendent,” said Board Chairman Eugene Walker. “Our school district is facing significant challenges, and we need a leader with a strong record of making fundamental changes in large, complex organizations. Throughout our state, you’ll find almost universal agreement that Michael Thurmond has consistently demonstrated those abilities.”

“The board is committed to working with Mr. Thurmond,” said Jim McMahan, vice-chair of the DeKalb board. “Under his leadership, we will work to ensure that every child in DeKalb has equal access to a quality education.”

“I welcome the opportunity to serve the 99,000 students of the DeKalb County Schools,” said Mr. Thurmond. “By all of us coming together across our county – parents, employees, citizens and businesses North and South – there’s no limit to what we will accomplish for our schoolchildren.”

Thurmond is credited with transforming two unwieldy state agencies, first as director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and then as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor. At DFCS, Thurmond instituted a shift away from a culture of dependency for welfare recipients to a new focus on employment, job-training and personal responsibility. The Department of Labor underwent a similar change under his leadership, from a department that administered jobless benefits into a statewide resource for Georgians seeking career opportunities and training at newly created Career Centers throughout the state.

“We think that fundamental change is what our parents and stakeholders are demanding,” Dr. Walker said. “We are  confident that Michael Thurmond is the leader with the track record and the ability to improve education for all of our schoolchildren.”

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

229 comments Add your comment

mountain man

February 8th, 2013
4:25 pm

“Former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will be DeKalb interim chief. “Guts, vision and passion,” says Roy Barnes”

Plus he is the right color, too!.

The Deal

February 8th, 2013
4:28 pm

Are we going to have to file an open records request to see his contract? On the other hand, maybe I don’t want to see it…

Shawn

February 8th, 2013
4:33 pm

I am lost…what happened to Dr. Atkinson?

Dekalb Teacher

February 8th, 2013
4:34 pm

Here we go again……friend and family! What a joke!

Joe

February 8th, 2013
4:34 pm

Walker and Thurmond are very good friends with a long history. . Friends and family continues it seems.

Maureen Downey

February 8th, 2013
4:35 pm

gsmith

February 8th, 2013
4:36 pm

im sure he is going to do a great job. !!!

Middle School parent

February 8th, 2013
4:38 pm

@gsmith……..let’s hope and pray so. This is getting ridiculous!!

Insider

February 8th, 2013
4:38 pm

I would have much rather seen Brad Bryant selected as interim superintendent.

Bryant was interim state schools superintendent, so he knows how to deal with a huge education bureaucracy (which DCSD certainly is.)

He knows DeKalb County – having lived and having sent his kids to school here.

And he knows the inner workings of a BofE – having been on the DeKalb BofE for years – including stints as chair.

Brad would clean house… starting at the top – which is what DCSD needs. Unfortunately, as long as this board is in place, DCSD will never get what it needs.

help_me_understand

February 8th, 2013
4:39 pm

@ Mountain Main & The Deal —

Interestingly you had no comment when Governor Deal “appointed” his croonie to run the Ga. Lottery when she had NO experience but she had the “RIGHT COLOR” but it was okay for him to do that…

@ The Deal, did you request and Open Record request to see the contract regarding the landfill in North Ga or the deal Sonny Perdue did related to the forestry? Probaly not!!!!!

But let it be known, you guys are not racist and you believe in equal treatment to all…

Tell that to someone else

Lynn43

February 8th, 2013
4:39 pm

I have heard that his sister is President of Georgia School Board Association and on the Board of Education of Decatur City Schools. Was I given correct or incorrect information.

Here We Go

February 8th, 2013
4:40 pm

While Thurmond might be a good administrator, I see this as nothing more than a desperate bunch of DeKalb BOE hacks trying to save their own necks. They figure they have scored some points with the state by hiring a “Big Name Good Guy” as the interim superintendent. I only hope this bunch of bozos can stay awake long enough at the next state meeting to hear the words, ” the entire Dekalb County School Board is being removed from office.” The DeKalb BOE needs to start over and lose the “black versus white” and “north county versus south county” stupidity before anything will change for the better.

the good doctor

February 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

Ok… I guess having a background in the educational profession is not important. I think I am going to apply to lead the “Georgia Trial Lawyers Association,” I do not have any experience in law, but I did stay at Holiday Inn Express?

Eugene Walker Must Go

February 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

If Roy Barnes and Eugene Walker are behind this you can be 100% certain he is the wrong person for the job. Incompetent,corrupt and fraudulent people can find each other anytime….anywhere.

gsmith

February 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

can the General Assembly pass a law in Georgia to give tax credits or a property tax credit to those who put their children in private schools ? if so why have they not done this if there is a republican majority in the state legislature and a republican Gov.

USMC

February 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

It seems as though Dekalb County needs some DIVERSITY. Diversity doesn’t just mean BLACK.

Lynn43

February 8th, 2013
4:43 pm

I will say that he is one of the most dynamic speech-givers on education that I have ever heard, and I have heard many.

alm

February 8th, 2013
4:43 pm

I’m skeptical at best.
12 more days. 12 very long days.

Pardon My Blog

February 8th, 2013
4:44 pm

He may be great at giving speeches but I really do not see any substance at all (sounds like someone else we know)! I agree with @Insider, what we need is someone who has the actual background to make the hard decisions that will be good for the students! This is a joke and the State should step in immediately!

Person

February 8th, 2013
4:48 pm

Nepotism is rampant throughout Government…

Here We Go

February 8th, 2013
4:55 pm

I figured Thurmond had ties to someone and it seems it is “Foghorn Leghorn” Walker. Why am I not surprised? I am praying the state does the right thing and gets rid of this whole bunch. The BOE is more rotten than an apple that fell off the tree and has been sitting on the ground for a month.

DeKalb Inside Out

February 8th, 2013
4:56 pm

Nancy Jester is sharp and concise with her latest post

Dr Atkinson and Michael Thurmond

I want to be on record as opposing both action items on today’s DeKalb BOE agenda. My observation is that the board, as a whole, does not fully appreciate the reality of our current circumstances. As I told the state board, we have three deficits: academic achievement, credibility and financial. With the actions today, I see no evidence that the board will improve on any of these deficits…

http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/02/08/303/

RCB

February 8th, 2013
4:57 pm

Yes indeed it’s been a very good week for DOCTOR Walker.

The Deal

February 8th, 2013
4:58 pm

I really want to be positive about this change, but, honestly, our kids have spent years waiting to see how some unknown works out. This has included Ramona Tyson for 18 months, Atkinson for a year, the various new board chairs, the various new board members. Our track record is not good, and there are too many of the same players involved for it to not repeat itself (plus a few new ones who seem to have political aspirations themselves).

It does not look good that Thurmond has such strong political connections to two of our existing board members. The BOE should have known that this would not sit well, given all of the history.

Why didn’t this BOE look at the candidate list Don McChesney spoke of that had applicants that the entire board agreed had very good qualifications? They apparently exist; we just didn’t go very far with them. I admit I do not know the law on whether the system can exist without an interim, but it seems like we rushed into this.

Notice (read: Mandella), I am not bashing Thurmond personally. It just doesn’t look like our board gave much effort in going out to find someone who has experience with a school system. Education is a different beast.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:04 pm

I knew they would do it, but had hoped not. kinda like the Obama re-election

Good Job

February 8th, 2013
5:08 pm

Nice pick. Now let’s see what happens with the sharp new board members and someone capable in the driver’s seat.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:08 pm

-he’s the right color
-he’s the right party
-he has the right patrons
-he isn’t fit for the job
-Walker likes him
-KIng Roy likes him

only in DeKalb.

I imagine APS and Clayton are loving this. they don’t rule the bottom anymore. DCSS just took the nationwide lead in plunge thru the bottom.

DunMoody

February 8th, 2013
5:12 pm

Well, that’s that. Now we all duck and cover, waiting to see what Mr. Thurmond will do. Rainmaker? Crony? The proof will be in his actions. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll step away from personal relationships and do what has to be done.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:14 pm

crony or co-conspirator

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:16 pm

I’ve met Mike. I personally like Mike.
but I would rather see Homer Simpson in the post

One foot out the door

February 8th, 2013
5:20 pm

If they were going to hire a non-educator, I would have rather seen a business person than a politician. I will keep my fingers crossed and continue with my child’s private school applications.

Betsy Parks

February 8th, 2013
5:20 pm

Yep, its just unbelievable and another 275K. What, are we up to paying 3 now! Please join our growing community. SIGN and SHARE our petition to GABOE ans Gov Deal to REMOVE DKBOE http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board

Angela Palm

February 8th, 2013
5:21 pm

@Lynn43
The GSBA President is not Michael Thurmond’s sister. When she referred to him in a speech as her brother, she meant her brother of the heart. This question came up earlier today in conversation, so I hope this clears it up.

Burroughston Broch

February 8th, 2013
5:26 pm

Just the perfect spot for a defeated Democrat lawyer and politician to hang his hat until the next election cycle, and earn a big salary + benefits in the meantime.
No history, no credentials, no experience – the perfect interim. Now the Board can kick the can down the road for a while.
“Guts, vision, passion” – notice no mention of integrity or education.

Not Johnny Brown

February 8th, 2013
5:29 pm

Some advice Mr Thurman, with all due respect:
1) Don’t pack all the teachers in Dekalb on school buses out to Georgia Perimeter for our annual whatever it is, to swelter in the sun for 45 minutes until you decide you come onstage and lead us all in a cheer three days before school starts.
2) Don’t try and make all the teachers go to New Birth Baptist church for the some more rah rah the next year, even though he may be a friend. We are state-That is church.
3) Don’t skim through schools with your bodyguard in tow, looking like your’e on tour of how the other half lives.
4) Try asking the teachers what they think. I know, revolutionary concept. Maybe then you won’t give out the new Lenovo laptops to a bunch of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders next year to….take back and forth to school each day! I know its enticing, buy and give problem solved. But, if you see what the textbooks look like, that is what the laptops will look like. How about keeping one at each desk in the classroom instead? All nice and charged up. Think about it, thats all we ask, just…….think……..about it.
4) Find an IT person, please. First there was Test Trax to monitor my students CRCT, ITBS scores over the years. The only thing was that 40% of the students listed under my name on Test Trax, I had never had before. (The little Test Trax icon is still there one First Class. Ready and willing).
The central office person told me I could cull students out I never had, find the ones I did have under other teachers names, and make my own spread sheet!
So, I will know how I am doing with my students, I guess, but will anyone else?
Is it really so hard to actually be able to easily see the students progress that I have each year?
5) I know, IDMS was supposed to fix that. Sit down next a teacher and plow through that turkey with them. See how intuitive it is. Bottom Line: I cannot get the information I need.
Hear me: I can’t get the information I need.
(By the way, neither can you).
6) Now its PD 360. wow. exciting. I think its gonna do it this time. Sure of it.
7) Evidently the buzzword is “Differentiation.” Fine. I sure will. Inter- and intra-class differentiation. Heres the deal: I will if you will. I will differentiate my instruction to students if you will differentiate yours to me and the rest of us teachers. This lowest common denominator business has got to go…OK, I will if you will.
8) OK, got the right students with right teachers. Great. Now when YOU look at the “Test Results” do two things: 1) look at the repeating variation from year to year over a subject. Example: there is a 10%-15% county-wide and state-wide CRCT drop from 7th grade to 8th grade science. (Every year. Its not that complex to figure out-its Harder). Factor that in. Find someone who can.
2) Look at the variation of the student year on year. (Keep in mind the big trends Factor from #1; use a scapel, not a cleaver) and see which teachers they seem to do better with. 3) And keep in mind, you cannot compare horizontally from school to school. Meaningless. 4) And remember, you have to factor in that it is harder to go from 89% successful to 91%, than it is from 48% to 55%, and natural variation may add or subtract % year on end. Little things that…you know, uh, statistics.
9) What Im trying to say is….just Be Smart. Thats all. Find someone, anyone, who is SMART. Please.

Numoney

February 8th, 2013
5:31 pm

Thurmond did NOT transform the Labor Dept. Joe Tanner gets the credit for that before Thurmond got there.

Fats Domino

February 8th, 2013
5:35 pm

agree, Thurmond is a nice man and I have met him but either Homer Simpson or Ubu the Clown maybe a better choice. More corruption and this guy will get 200K a year.

Flabberghasted4sure

February 8th, 2013
5:39 pm

If you know your constituents want transparency and a break from Friends and Family, wouldn’t you go out of your way to find someone that fulfills that simple criteria? That would send a message about the possibilities for a new future, not more of the same. The BOE failed again.

Baron DeKalb

February 8th, 2013
5:42 pm

@Burroughston, maybe you a ought to take a crack at being a school superintendent if you think it is such an easy job. Thurmond may not be the best choice, but he does not have integrity issues compared to people like Linda Schrenko (R) now inhabiting a Federal Penitentiary, or Pat Swindall (R) felon, or several Gwinnett County ex- Commissioners, all R’s and doing prison time.

indigo

February 8th, 2013
5:46 pm

I wondered if the DeKalb Schools would hire a white person.

But then, I often wonder when conservatives will fall down and worship Obama.

paulo977

February 8th, 2013
5:49 pm

Mountain Man ..” Plus he is the right color, too”
________________________________________________
In what way has that color on the board really helped the kids in the south end?Do read “BLACK SKINS WHITE MASKS ‘ by Frantz Fanon and try to understand it!!!!!!!

Bob Morris

February 8th, 2013
5:51 pm

I agree with Insider, Brad Bryant would have been the best choice. I don’t know if applied, but if he did and Thurman was selected over him the, DBOE are really a sorry bunch and ought to be removed.

bu2

February 8th, 2013
5:52 pm

@Baron
You musn’t leave out Campbell (D) who’s now out of jail. Add to that Lewis, McKinney, Hall…. Most of the ethically questionable Republicans at the state level were Democrats until they opportunistically changed parties about 10 years ago when Dems became the minority.

Old timer

February 8th, 2013
5:52 pm

B. Fransworth…too true. I will add about speeches…giving good speeches does not always result in good actions.

LittleLady

February 8th, 2013
5:53 pm

Old timer

February 8th, 2013
5:53 pm

I bet there are qualified retired folks in many areas of the state without friends and family ties.

Lynn43

February 8th, 2013
5:55 pm

Thanks, Angela. Both are fine people, and I hope he does well in this position.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:56 pm

@ indigo

you’ve not met my extended family. keep in mind even if every black person in the US voted for Obama and white people sat out, he would have been a very distant second, maybe third.

Chris Matthews legs are still tingling.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
5:59 pm

bu has a great point. Bill Campbell needs a job. maybe he can do for DCSS what he did the Atlanta. Munson Steed can sell vendor space in the hallways.

bootney farnsworth

February 8th, 2013
6:00 pm