Dear Mr. Thurmond: Let nine school board members fight own battles. You have 99,000 other people to consider.

Michael Thurmond has been getting a lot of advice these last few days since he accepted the job of interim school chief in DeKalb County.

Let me add mine.

Mr. Thurmond, Do not confuse the DeKalb County Schools with the DeKalb County Board of Education. They are not one and the same. Your focus must be the schools and the children, not the troubled school board.

You are beginning to worry parents with your focus on nine adults who should be able to make their own case to the state Board of Education to keep their jobs.

Today, you announced to DeKalb lawmakers that you’re going to be the lone voice speaking on the board’s behalf next week when the state Board of Education considers again whether to recommend the board’s ouster to the governor.

You said: “I will articulate the facts and make the case on behalf of the DeKalb school district at the hearing on Feb. 21. I look forward to the opportunity.”

Stay home and stay out of it. Those nine people aren’t your responsibility. Focus instead on the 99,000 other people in DeKalb Schools counting on you, the students.

Put them first. Someone has to.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

97 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
3:30 pm

the students are the least important cog in big education.

nice if he’ll do it. time will tell.

Dunwoody Mom

February 12th, 2013
3:32 pm

Amen, Maureen!!!

“I will articulate the facts and make the case on behalf of the DeKalb school district

Is Thurmond confused? The reason for SACS probation was the BOE, not the school district.

Mom of 3

February 12th, 2013
3:36 pm

To me it sounds like he is acting as their attorney. Even his statement sounds like something a defense attorney would say. Nothing to do with the schools or students.

Dunwoody Mom

February 12th, 2013
3:39 pm

I agree Mom of 3…it seems he’s focused on the BOE, not the school system. This is not good and a straight road to loss of accreditation.

Shar

February 12th, 2013
3:39 pm

Ms. Downey, you are absolutely right. If those nine adults can neither justify their own actions nor articulate specific remedies, they need to be removed. Mr. Thurmond cannot and should not either stand in the way or act as their mouthpiece. Let their sins fall on their own heads; the children and teachers of DCSS need and merit all the attention, thought and support he can muster.

Prof

February 12th, 2013
3:44 pm

I predict that yesterday’s approved House Bill 115, amending the Code provisions relating to suspension and removal of local school board members, is going to get fast-tracked through the Senate just as it has the House.

marm

February 12th, 2013
3:46 pm

No, no, no. Mr. Thurmond, this is not the way to start. These people created the mess they are in. Let them extricate themselves. You should be speaking for the students, if you give support to these grown men and women who have brought DCSS to it’s knees with their selfishness, you will be no better than they are.

Bernie

February 12th, 2013
3:53 pm

There is an Old Georgia Political saying,”Never Bite the Hand that FEEDS YOU!”
Mr. Thurmond is a politician first and foremost or did Dekalb County overlook that bit of reality? OOPS!

Pardon My Blog

February 12th, 2013
3:57 pm

Okay, I think the parents and the taxpayers have had enough of these shenanigans. He has no shame in revealing the real reason he was hired, not for the good of the school system or its students, but to save Walker and Company’s job! Now we are bound to another contract which I think should be null and void based on fraud. Not only should the Board go but so should he.

Old School

February 12th, 2013
4:10 pm

I agree with most of those on here. Saving the jobs of the BOE should not be youis not ioobf

muddy waters

February 12th, 2013
4:11 pm

Could it have taken less time for Thurmond to reveal himself as a tool?

Citizen Dave

February 12th, 2013
4:11 pm

From the AdvancED report, page 7

“The email [containing the subject line: Candidate for TAPP Program] from the board chair [Gene Walker] to the Superintendent read in part, ‘This is the individual I referred to the program that I asked you about, with his strong background and personal demeanor I feel that he would be a great candidate. . . . Please know that I have met this young man and he is a brother of one of our Board…. I would appreciate any assistance that you could provide.’”

Dr. Walker, did you send this e-mail? Do you think it is appropriate? Superintendent Thurmond, instead of lobbying to keep the ax from falling, can you talk some sense into the Board Chairman? It’s stuff like this, and the belief that this is ok, that has gotten things so messed up.

alm

February 12th, 2013
4:16 pm

Betsy Parks

February 12th, 2013
4:18 pm

Principal Skinner

February 12th, 2013
4:20 pm

MD,

I just wanted to tell u that I have sensed your passion in the last couple of posts re DCSS. Thank you.

Old School

February 12th, 2013
4:24 pm

Michael, I hope you or someone close to you reads this blog. Saving the jobs of the BOE is not your priority; saving the accreditation of the system is. I am in favor of Gov Deal removing the entire board and then individually considering reinstating some of them. However, Gov Deal has his own issues with cronyism, so I’m scared to death of who he might appoint.

In any case, Michael, this is not where you should be spending your time. I suggest your start by meeting with principals (just principals, no central office staff) and find out what they need and let them tell you who in the central office provides value. If some central office departments don’t provide value, get rid of them. Spend the money on the kids, not on staff. Next, let the principals build their teams. Find a way to get rid of incompetent teachers. This is a large problem in the schools, and it seems almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher. There are lots of other things that need to be done, but just these two actions will have a positive effect on budget and teaching.

Fed Up

February 12th, 2013
4:29 pm

Nice thought Thurmond would concern himself with the welfare of DeKalb County students. Sadly, it has become very apparent that will not be the case. He was hired by a desperate bunch of hacks so he can help cover their backsides and keep their jobs.
I knew the moment the announcement was made on Friday when former Gov. Barnes and many other state politicians came out if favor of Thurmond a possible “fix” with the state board was in the cards. Then, Thurmond himself said his priority is keeping the current board in place and “maintaining” SACS accreditation.
Wow. The board is smack in the middle of the issues SACS quoted when they put the DeKalb School System on probation. Keeping the cause of the problems in place is a priority? Really? DeKalb parents should be outraged!

Disgusted in Dekalb

February 12th, 2013
4:30 pm

Concise and on target, Maureen.

Claudia Stucke

February 12th, 2013
4:32 pm

Mr. Thurmond made national news with his successful innovations at the Georgia Department of Labor, and I hope that he brings with him that same energy to improve the school district. Many of DeKalb’s educators, however, are concerned that he was simply brought on board and feel blind-sided by his interim appointment. Furthermore, his friendship with board chairman Gene Walker has also raised concern about Mr. Thurmond’s objectivity. Let’s hope he has the good sense to take the sound, practical advice he’s been offered here and gets down to the business of educating DeKalb’s students–not saving the school board members’ jobs.

Long Suffering

February 12th, 2013
4:36 pm

Sorry folks, but it just ain’t happening. We all know why Thurmond was “annointed” by this board based on his own words. He was brought in to influence the state board to allow this dysfunctional mess to continue while trying to get SACS off of their backs.
We know where Thurmond’s focus is and I now feel very strongly the state board will not remove the DeKalb BOE. Just chalk it up to politics folks. It has never been about the kids.

Wilbur

February 12th, 2013
4:46 pm

If Thurmond is defending the BOE, he is the wrong guy for the job. It seems to me that he cut a deal with the BOE to get a job. Defending the DeKalb County BOE is a sure way for Thurmond to destroy any hope of a future political career. I agree that the stink of Roy Barnes and the “fix” is all over this deal.

Dr. John Trotter

February 12th, 2013
4:46 pm

Who hired Senator/Commissioner Thurmond? Was it SACS or the DeKalb County Board of Education? It only makes sense for him to try to make a case for the school board. Otherwise, I would consider him an ingrate.

Perhaps no one writing on this blog has been as critical of the DeKalb Board of Education as I have been. On the streets with picket signs and everything. But, I am a constitutionalist first, and I believe that the school board was duly elected by the voters of DeKalb County and that the school board is set up by the Georgia Constitution. It appears to me that when certain people can’t get their people elected, then they run to the governor to get around elected politics.

Dr. John Trotter

February 12th, 2013
4:48 pm

Who hired Senator/Commissioner Thurmond? Was it SACS, the Bilderberg Group, or the DeKalb County Board of Education? It only makes sense for him to try to make a case for the school board. Otherwise, I would consider him an ingrate.

Perhaps no one writing on this blog has been as critical of the DeKalb Board of Education as I have been. On the streets with picket signs and everything. But, I am a constitutionalist first, and I believe that the school board was duly elected by the voters of DeKalb County and that the school board is set up by the Georgia Constitution. It appears to me that when certain people can’t get their people elected, then they run to the governor to get around elected politics.

Frustrated Dekalb Parent

February 12th, 2013
4:48 pm

I am fuming beyond belief at reading this. The appearance of the connection between Thurmond, Walker and Johnson was bad enough when he was selected but now his actions are showing his true colors. WHEN WILL THE KIDS BE PUT FIRST?!?!?

Spedteacher

February 12th, 2013
5:06 pm

to answer Frustrated Dekalb Parent’s question – not until politicians are taken out of the equation and educators are put back in.

Parents for DeKalb Schools

February 12th, 2013
5:14 pm

DeKalb Schools stakeholder? Join over 700 followers: http://www.facebook.com/Parentsfordekalbcountyschools
There’s always a conversation going on here.

Parents for DeKalb Schools

February 12th, 2013
5:16 pm

Joe

February 12th, 2013
5:19 pm

Thurmond should know better. He works for the DeKalb County School System now. The Board is a separate entity. He owes all his time now to the school system and its students. Time that he spends advocating for the Board is time spent not doing his job (and grounds for dismissal I would think).

DeKalb Educated

February 12th, 2013
5:19 pm

Dear Maureen,
Thank you for voicing the frustration of every DeKalb County parent.
If a red flag did not go up when someone (Thurmond) with no experience in education was appointed as superindent, his statements about preserving the board certainly should have raised that flag. Thurmond is a politician who knows how to work the state system and the media to achieve whatever public relations and reactions he needs. If there was ever a doubt how the board could hire an unqualified superintendent, Mr. Thurmond totally dashed those doubts by stating his priorities right away. It is totally unbelievable this board has been allowed to continue to operate being guided by nepotism, corruption and politics while every DeKalb student and teacher continue to suffer.

Flabberghasted4sure

February 12th, 2013
5:19 pm

Flabberghasted, distraught and feeling pretty darn hopeless. We have 7 Board members to thank for continuing our downward spiral (We have crashed and are certainly below ground now – it is getting pretty hot down here.) Let’s start by thanking with our newly elected BOE member Marshall Orson who is taking credit for recommending Thurmond. Does this action please the Fernbank parents? Thought you were smarter and cared at least a little about other kids in DeKalb but it really is about the politics and a new Fernbank, not DeKalb’s kids, isn’t it? Otherwise, you would reign in your Prince Charming. Then there’s Gene, Sarah, Jay, Donna, Melvin, and Jim to thank. Voters in District 4 are definitely upset with their new BOE member – how quickly McMahan forgot his campaign platform (transparency and accountability) and the constituents that elected him. Very sad for the children.

Maureen, you are absolutely right. Thurmond’s job is the day to day work of the school system for the academic success of all the children, not saving his employer. So, so disappointing.

Pardon My Blog

February 12th, 2013
5:33 pm

Even though I still lhave a child in the system and it pains me to say this, this should be the final nail in the coffin and DeKalb should lose accreditation immediately. SACS should send a strong message that they mean business because this Board is giving them the middle finger. It also appears that Thurmond was named “Interim Superintendent” solely to serve the needs of this Board and not to serve the needs of the students which indicates to me that the Board committed fraud. Also, the State Board should not wait until the next scheduled meeting. The should convene immediately and yank this Board and so-called Superintendent before anymore harm can be done.

paulo977

February 12th, 2013
5:37 pm

The School Board responsible for the ills of the DCSS ?…..How gullible have we become??

Pam Maxson

February 12th, 2013
5:54 pm

Amen, Maureen! Thank you so much for saying this simple truth! Why does everyone try to repair things from the top down? Especially in schools? He is NOT there for the board. If he makes this move, no one will trust him to put the children first.

10:10 am

February 12th, 2013
6:11 pm

Mr. Thurmond: Consider opening the door to more charter schools.

Especially if you find yourself with temporary powers to decisively move DeKalb onto a bold new path that favors parents and children instead of entrenched bureaucracies and teachers’ unions.

STEM Mom

February 12th, 2013
6:17 pm

When I read “You said: “I will articulate the facts and make the case on behalf of the DeKalb school district at the hearing on Feb. 21. I look forward to the opportunity.”

I thought: what a vague statement! Mr. Thurmond does not use the term board, just “DeKalb school district”, and depending how you read it, you can interpret it one way or the other.
Sounds very diplomatic… enough to make sure the DeKalb board will not fire him outright, but such vagueness makes me uncomfortable.

DunMoody

February 12th, 2013
6:23 pm

MD. My hero.

Beverly Fraud

February 12th, 2013
6:33 pm

None of this would have happened if we had embraced the clarion call of the triumphant return of Beverly Hall.

For all her selfless giving to be cast aside without even being given the chance to share her knowledge and expertise…shameful; just shameful.

I’m extremely disappointed in Andrew Young, and Shirley Franklin for not embracing the clarion call.

Private Citizen

February 12th, 2013
6:48 pm

There are literally thousands of teachers in Georgia who have recently adjusted to life without their school teaching job. A friend call me a day ago and shared the news of their resignation. Another one bites the dust-tah! Anyway, life outside the grid is doable, maybe even healthful. Although, after this reign of craziness, it is rather apparent? some school board members have sank their teeth into steak dinner, jaws clamped.

Here’s an observation, every characterization I see of the Debalb County School Board is voiced in a collective way. They get a free pass on individual accountability. This is an error and it is wrong, it is morally wrong. One of them can threaten teachers and principals and such and they are not held accountable, their actions are under the umbrella of “The Board.” It’s ridiculous. It is completely crazy, this indulgence. And it is completely lame for the state or the law to be set up this way.

Private Citizen

February 12th, 2013
7:00 pm

DeKalb, that is.

Beverly Fraud

February 12th, 2013
7:04 pm

MD. My hero.

The same person who sat idly by while a decade’s worth of academic genocide happened in APS, only to suggest that person at the helm of the atrocity remain in power for the sake of “stability”?

I guess it’s never too late to get schooled after all.

Todd

February 12th, 2013
7:46 pm

This hearing next week may turn out waaaaay better theater than I could have hoped for. The DBOE members have been ordered to be there and give testimony under oath. If Thurmond is the only one to speak, are the DBOE members going to refuse to testify? If they do, are they going to plead their 5th amendment protections? That would pretty much seal their fates (assuming the past two weeks worth of shenanigans hasn’t already done so). I just hope someone subpoenas Dr. Atkinson…..

living in an outdated ed system

February 12th, 2013
8:07 pm

@Maureen – AGREED!

Old timer

February 12th, 2013
8:07 pm

Maureen, you did a good job. He does not need to spend his time protecting the school board. I do not think the governor should remove them. Unfortunately, Dekalb will have to suffer for their stupidity it just shows you you cannot keep voting for the same people. These folks run the system like their kingdom. Maybe, a recall or two are in order.

mary riley

February 12th, 2013
8:34 pm

Well, well, well. Here we go again. Another amoral incompetent political hack put in place by the gangsta’s of Dekalb County School Board. Every single member of that board is a crook, I hope thatyou all get burned for the horrific crimes you have commuted against our children. You Sara, Eugene the whole lot of you should go.to jail for fraud. Disgusting.

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
8:44 pm

still think the citizens of DeKalb should just sit back and give him time? or a chance?

well, well, well.

dekalbite

February 12th, 2013
8:54 pm

Please email Michael Thurmond your concerns about his representing the DeKalb Board of Education at the upcoming State Board of Education meeting. If you feel his defense of the DeKalb Board of Education is a conflict of interest and/or he could better spend his time developing a budget that ensures students have reasonable class sizes and competent, well compensated teachers, then express those sentiments to him. After all, he may have been hired by this Board of Education, but his salary is paid by the taxpayers of DeKalb County.

His email address is:
michael_l_thurmond@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Mr. Thurmond needs to hear from the taxpayers of DeKalb.

Para in DeKalb

February 12th, 2013
9:24 pm

We want to give Mr. Thurmond a chance, but this is not a good start. Those board members have failed us – the staff and our kids. It is not his responsibility to defend the DeKalb BOE. There are too many other things going on in this county that need his attention.

worried about the numbers

February 12th, 2013
9:27 pm

Thank you for making this statement. I completely agree. He does not seem to understand what his job is.

DeKalbMama

February 12th, 2013
9:36 pm

Dr. John Trotter, please stay the hell out of this. If you’re not a citizen of DeKalb County then this has zero to do with you. Yes, we may have elected the idiots serving on our BoE, but it was with the expectation that they would serve and act on behalf of the best interests of ALL DeKalb County’s students. They have failed to do so. We have the right to recall elected officials when they fail to live up to their duty and in fact do real harm to those they are supposed to serve. So, please shut the hell up and stay out of what doesn’t concern you.

dekalbite@Dr. Trotter

February 12th, 2013
9:42 pm

No offense. But your opinions do sound like you are more concerned with “adult” issues than “student” issues. That is not acceptable to most parents/taxpayers. If you are interested in getting teachers in DeKalb to join MACE, it doesn’t seem wise to defend the personnel (the BOE after all are personnel) who have made their jobs untenable.