The task facing Michael Thurmond: Save the system from taking a nose dive

David Schutten

David Schutten

David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, wrote a column on the challenges facing new superintendent Michael Thurmond from an educator’s perspective.

His essay will be part of a package in the Sunday op-ed pages on DeKalb Schools. Please check out the entire package Sunday.

By David Schutten

Michael Thurmond is a proven and accomplished leader who has undertaken a daunting, difficult and perilous job as interim superintendent of the DeKalb County School System, a system that appears to be in a tailspin.

Much like the passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 crashing into the cold waters of the Hudson River, I feel as if I am on DeKalb Air Flight 2013 crashing into the granite face of Stone Mountain.  In the midst of the tailspin we have switched pilots.

As  Stephen Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and former Fulton superintendent, stated, Michael Thurmond possesses three of the qualities of a successful Superintendent: 1. Great leadership skills; 2. Political savvy; and, 3. Excellent management skills.

I am personally not bothered by his lack of experience in education.  There are examples of great and successful superintendents like the late General John Stanford, who had little or no experience in education before he became the Fulton and later Seattle school chief.

He faces many daunting tasks.  The first is leading the school board and the school system off of probation.  To accomplish this he must have the full cooperation of the nine members of the DeKalb school board.  The board members must learn to work together.

I heard each of them testify before the state Board of Education that they would and could work together to move the system off of probation.  However, three weeks later, they were unable to muster a simple majority to elect a chair.  What I find disheartening is that Dr. Gene Walker, who remains chair on a 4-3-2 vote, does not recognize this as a symptom of their inability to function as a whole.  He and any other board member that do not understand the nature of the problems DeKalb faces should resign immediately.

Employee morale is at an all-time low. We are hemorrhaging good teachers and administrators to other school systems.  People can go to some neighboring school systems and receive significantly higher pay checks.  DeKalb teachers and other employees are working harder with fewer resources.  This is not an easy problem to fix given the current dismal financial state of the school system.

But if something is not done soon, DeKalb will have few veteran teachers left.  Employees are making far less than they did five years ago.  Couple this with the loss of the Tax Sheltered Annuity promised to employees when DeKalb left the Social Security system, and you have a looming disaster that has already started.

We must find a way to bring class sizes lower. Students, parents, and teachers are frustrated by the increase in class size.  Kindergarten classes of 29 without a paraprofessional will result in long-term negative consequences for our children.

Students, parents, and teachers are also frustrated by the myriad of tests to which students are subjected.  There needs to be far more time devoted to learning, and far less time devoted to testing.

School administrators must be encouraged and rewarded for using shared decision making.  Morale is much higher in those Title 1 Schools where many staff members had input into the Title 1 as opposed to those in which the principal and a few people developed the budget.  The knowledge and experience of professional educators must be honored, nurtured, and valued.  Encourage people to express their opinions and give suggestions.

We must impress upon students and their parents the importance of coming to school, and coming to school on time.  There are too many parents who do not see the importance of this. Also, a little bit of time teaching younger students to become organized will pay off later.  Have you looked into the lockers of middle school students recently?  Students must also be taught to value their textbooks and other resources.  When you walk into many high schools and middle schools, you see text books laying in front of the school, in the hallways, gym, and cafeteria. Parents must play a role in this.

The sooner we realize that young children cannot sit still for long periods of time, and adapt our teaching methods to take this simple fact into account, the more successful they will be.  This is another reason class sizes must be lowered.  We set up children for failure when we do not give them time to move around.  Also, parents must help in teaching children self-discipline. In too many classrooms, one or two students disrupt the learning environment for twenty or more other students.

One issue that is out of the control of anyone in DeKalb is the TKES evaluation system for teachers.  The sooner the Georgia Department of Education realizes it is impractical and unworkable, the sooner administrators and teachers can concentrate on delivering quality instruction instead of spending so much time on window dressings such as posting the standards.  Is a kindergarten student or first grade student capable of reading them?  How is the time spent on this improving instruction?  And the evaluations are far too time consuming.

The promotion policies and procedures must be fair and transparent.  Former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson made strides in reducing the nepotism, but questions still haunt the school system about the fairness of promotions. The school councils must be brought back into the process of selecting school administrators.  They should not have the final say, but they should have input and the opportunity to meet the candidates. Too often the assignment of school administrators appears arbitrary and capricious.  All prospective administrators should be required to be required to take and achieve a high score on a writing test before being eligible for promotion.

Finally, the citizens of DeKalb need to take a break from cynicism, negativity, and constant criticism.  It appears that we have a large percentage of people who are hoping leaders, teachers, and students will fail, instead of rooting for them and helping them to succeed.  Instead of constantly pointing out what is wrong, take some time to make things right.  Stop believing everything you hear.  Stop taking everything anonymous bloggers post as the truth.  If their opinion has merit, they would be willing to put their real names behind their statements. Volunteer to read to students and tutor them.  Help a primary student learn their basic math facts and vocabulary.

It will take everyone in DeKalb to come together to bring the system out of the tailspin in which we find ourselves.  We all bear responsibility.  Each of us must do our share.  If you are not willing to help, stop constantly criticizing those of us who are working each day to make a difference in the lives of DeKalb’s children.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

167 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
5:26 am

Let’s analyze shall we?

“Stop taking everything anonymous bloggers post as the truth. If their opinion has merit, they would be willing to put their real names behind their statements.”

@David let’s look at the logical implications of your statement. (You’ll probably wish you had after reading the following, once you realize how foolish your statement looks when you see its implications)

Bloggers, looking to use the power of the Internet come to Get Schooled and say APS should be investigated for erasures. But a “real name” Kathy Augustine says, “We see no need to investigate; we expect outliers every year.”

So David would claim that Kathy Augustine’s opinion on whether or not APS should be investigated, has more merit, because she attached her real name?

Seriously David?

The bloggers who came to Get Schooled and implored the governor to get involved had less merit that the Blue Ribbon Whitewash Committee because they used their name?

Seriously David?

Lachandra Butler-Burks who hid evidence of cheating has “more merit” because she attached her name to the Blue Ribbon Commission report, than those bloggers who opined that it was a cover up?

Seriously David?

Sounds more like a way to dodge legitimate criticisms of your own organization. Rather than state them, I quote someone by name Dr. John Trotter, who says you have an inherent conflict of interest in trying to represent teachers and administrators.

By your own admission you represent administrators who were promoted, not on merit, but on “arbitrary and capricious” criteria. Yet when they act in arbitrary and capricious manners toward teachers, who feel the need to exercise their legal rights for self-protection, you at the same time have to represent the best interests of these “arbitrary and capricious” administrators.

How is this not an inherent conflict of interest? And does this conflict limit what you are willing to say on behalf of teachers and students?

Peter Smagorinsky

February 15th, 2013
5:43 am

I’m with David. Sign your name so that you are accountable for your opinions, instead of hiding behind a fake name.

Ms. Fraud, Beverly Hall is out of office. The AJC’s investigation is among the reasons she’s gone. You won. No need to keep posting, regardles of the content of an essay, on what she did several years ago. She was terrible, and an embarrassment to APS. We get it. Today’s essay is about Dekalb, not APS. Many of us are interested in other districts, other issues, other kids and teachers. You might take note that we find it tiresome to have Beverly Hall raised on a daily basis, regardless of an essay’s content. Can we move on?

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
5:45 am

Let’s analyze further

One issue that is out of the control of anyone in DeKalb is the TKES evaluation system for teachers. The sooner the Georgia Department of Education realizes it is impractical and unworkable, the sooner administrators and teachers can concentrate on delivering quality instruction instead of spending so much time on window dressings such as posting the standards. Is a kindergarten student or first grade student capable of reading them? How is the time spent on this improving instruction? And the evaluations are far too time consuming.

Don’t need a name attached to recognize the validity of this statement. The instrument actually allows teachers to be downgraded for reminding a students to stay on task! (Yes people it sounds completely stupid but really, really does do that-read the evaluation rubric) But has GAE taken an unequivocal stand? (I don’t know, maybe they have)


February 15th, 2013
5:47 am

This is a good essay, similar to one that ran yesterday.

Dr. Walker’s attitude is a big reason that DCSS cannot move forward. Getting rid of Paul Womack was a big step (though his replacement has been a bit of a disappointment) and Walker needs to go as well. His believe that everything is OK and will be OK is part of the reason we have so much poor decision making.

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
6:02 am

ah, David…?

I would be happy to give my name except for one thing. I KNOW what happens to the politically unprotected who speak out.

I’m not willing to destroy my career to pander to you. I’ve seen what happens when someone tries to confront the system up front without patronage. the system locks in on the critic and works to destroy them and their credibility through harassment, slander, and punishing anyone who supports them.

at GPC I watched the blood sport which ran rampant under the last administration aimed at people who dared speak out. lives and careers destroyed.

until there is a legitimate voice for the unprotected and unconnected, masks are all we have.

Silence Dogood was good enough for Ben Franklin. Bootney Farnsworth is good enough for me.

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
6:06 am

@ Pete and David

how many times in the recent past have you seen somebody from the custodial staff or the switchboard operation, or the office manager challenge someone at your level and survive it?

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
6:07 am

BTW: you may not be bothered by his lack of experience in education. I am.


February 15th, 2013
6:52 am

Non sequitar. No matter what name a poster uses that does not mean that they are incorrect. There are alot of folks on this site who only post knee-jerk emotional posts. Using a name to protect your privacy does not equate with bad or no ability to THINK.

My concern is that Mr Thurmond, no matter how high his hopes, is not qualified for this position. This is one of the top positions and in a troubled School system.

I still think the entire Board must be replaced and then the system cleaned up.


February 15th, 2013
6:59 am

Didn’t Thurmond say he thinks the board should stay put? If so, then there’s your answer on whether or not anything good will happen. Stupid people.


February 15th, 2013
7:27 am

inch by inch it’s a cinch; this struggle has to be incremental: kids, parents, educators. all have to pull their weight. the economic disparity cannot be excuse for poor performance. maybe if anything, mr. thurmond can bring a renewed mindset and serve as role model for many in the county. let’s wish him well. maybe he could serve two years for the price of one.

Private Citizen

February 15th, 2013
7:36 am

Anyone wish to say why Benjamin Franklin posted as “Poor Richard” with his almanac? It made little difference in the long run, even after Franklin saved the American Revolution, the political class still made an unfriendly climate for him and left the country for his latter years. Seriously, if you expect a Georgia government schools administrator to be well-read, you best keep looking. For some reasons in the USA, careerists tend to be occupied with current power, not tradition of knowledge, sequence or foundation. Philosophy (people’s thoughts and opinions) is basically banned in the scripted curriculum. Go teach Plato, Rene DeCartes, Michel de Montaine (inventor of the essay) in Georgia government schools and you just put your head on the guillotine, get ready for some professional harassment from the professional administrators with their catalog of a hundred motivational acronyms, many of these recycled and in conflict with prior use.

Confidence in the goodness of another is good proof of one’s own goodness.
Michel de Montaigne

Private Citizen

February 15th, 2013
7:39 am

Good essay by Schutten. Covers the basics. Keep saying it, if from a hundred sources. Keep saying it.

Dr. John Trotter

February 15th, 2013
7:45 am

Didn’t Pete have this discussion the other day about blogging anonymously? I use my real name…like I did the other day when I responded in detail to his essay about whether schools were out of control. I never got a response from my rather long, detailed and name-attached post wherein I stated unequivocally that most urban schools are out of control for lack of discipline.

Discipline – or the lack thereof – is what Commissioner Thurmond should pay close attention to, but he won’t because it is not sexy enough. In fact, no superintendent that DeKalb brings in will pay attention to the real and egregious problems in the school system. The problem is not the teachers and the need to use some dumba$s evaluation form to “improve” their teaching. The problem are the lazy, spoiled, defiant, and disruptive students (not all but a sizeable number of the students), the irate and irresponsible parents (again, not all but many parents), and the angry, myopic, petty, small-minded, and abusive administrators (the clear majority). These are the real problems which hardly anyone or any group (with the exception of MACE) will address. I can see why David and ODE will not address the latter because these administrators are his members. I think that I know why the AJC won’t address these real problems…because it is not politically correct to do so. But, hey, has anyone ever accused me of being politically correct? Ha!

As far as blogging anonymously goes, Pete and David are clueless if they think that it is wise for teachers to use their real names on this or other blogs. What world do these guys live in?

Clutch Cargo

February 15th, 2013
7:48 am

For once, I agree with Bootney and Beverly- Posting under your real name is career suicide and the author knows it. It’s not like the school system listens to anonymous bloggers (or even their own employees) anyway.

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
7:55 am

@Peter it wasn’t about Beverly Hall, and I think you know that’s a disingenuous dodge. It’s about the proposition that the name (or lack thereof) on a blog post makes the poster’s opinion not valid.

The logical implication is that Kathy Augustine’s contention that there was “no need to investigate” was somehow more valid than those who screamed “THIS IS CHEATING!” because her name was attached.

It’s simply not a logically defensible position; add to that Dr. John Trotter who gladly signs off on his own name, and when he buttresses other bloggers, with his name, yet the response is still not forthcoming it tends to render the “anonymous blogger” meme as nothing more than a red herring, does it not?

Facts and logic should rule the day not “names” such as Michelle Rhee, and Arne Duncan.

Cindy Lutenbacher

February 15th, 2013
7:59 am

David Schutten makes a lot of good points, and I’d like to highlight a few:
DeKalb is losing good teachers and administrators. My guess is that this fact has less to do with money and more to do with another point Schutten makes–class sizes have become so large that teachers know they’re not able to do what they love in the ways that they respect and love. I have only a wealth of stories from teachers to back up this statement.
The focus on standardized test scores has hobbled good teachers and good pedagogy. Schutten notes that young ones cannot sit still for long periods of time, and I believe such is true for all of us. Sure, many jobs require lengthy focus…but without stretch breaks? Coffee breaks? Movement of some kind? We’ve got to end this standardized testing dementia and let good teachers teach.
The TKES evaluation system, as I’ve read it, is absurd. Other school systems have implemented much more authentic assessments of teachers; let’s study those, rather than flushing more taxpayer dollars down the next corporate commode that has the biggest payola for politicians.
And…I have to honor teachers who do not wish to use their real names for fear of reprisals or job loss. [I'm not sure that particular caveat applies to most of the folks who post here.] But my real point is that all of the posts here should be viewed openly and skeptically, including mine. Let’s have reasonable, civil, and well-considered conversation here, so that we can thoughtfully do what Schutten requests–come together to take action, for the sake of our kids.

Married with (School) Children

February 15th, 2013
8:02 am

Here is how the second-to-last paragraph should have read:

“Stop taking everything anonymous bloggers post as the truth. If their opinion has merit, they would be willing to put their real names behind their statements. Volunteer to read to Mr. David Sutton and teach him about the concepts of RETALIATION and CAREER SUICIDE.”

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:03 am

From Dr. Trotter

“I never got a response from my rather long, detailed and name-attached post wherein I stated unequivocally that most urban schools are out of control for lack of discipline.”

@Peter, two bloggers questioned your essay and you (best I can recall) choose not to answer based on two justifications:

1) they are anonymous
2) they can’t document they’ve been to “hundreds of schools” like you can.

Yet Dr. Trotter also questioned the validity of your assertions; and we can document A) he uses his own name and B) he’s been in numerous schools in multiple systems.

So why not engage him in legitimate debate, when he meets your two criteria for doing so?


February 15th, 2013
8:03 am

Didn’t the school system just lose a lawsuit to a teacher who had the audacity to speak out at a board meeting and was promptly riffed? Although that suit cost the system over $300,000, they continue to intimidate – so, no, many absolutely cannot use their real names when posting. So, is the solution then to stay silent? That seems to be what many are doing – at the insistence of David and others.

This would have been a good essay if David could have gotten over his sensitivity to the criticisms he has suffered from blogs and chosen not to bash those with an anonymous opinion of how he performs his very public job. And perhaps left off the rambling about middle schoolers’ messy lockers… Mentioning those kinds of side issues take the conversation off into irrelevant discussions like you see here.

Just hammer the basics David and leave the ‘rest’ off the table – randomness muddies the waters.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

February 15th, 2013
8:11 am

The problem I have with David’s letter is that if people just had a better attitude things could get better. Well, no. I was born in the metro area and remember Dekalb before it went off the rails. Both Dekalb and Atlanta aggressively adopted the Standards for Teaching and Learning put out in the 90s and the sociocultural learning push instead of knowledge transmission. APS was already weak but it destroyed the schools in Dekalb that did work. And in both systems the administrators who knew what they were pushing and the disconnect with what they were telling taxpayers and parents seem to be prone to corruption. Not necessarily bribes although that is clearly a problem in Dekalb. It’s more a matter of greedy or mediocre people who will push anything that will get them a bonus or another promotion. All at absurd rates of compensation for what these people actually know or can do.

Now we are nationalizing what broke Dekalb as the real Common Core implementation. Except this time we have poorly understood performance assessments that will mask the anti-intellectual consequences of what is to be actually going on in the classroom. Beverly Hall almost made it to the alternative assessments the urban school districts have lobbied for so long. lays out how these performance assessments are actually group work with ill-structured tasks designed to deliberately enforce collaboration as there is no right answer.

On anonymity, I use a pseudonym here because I always have for consistency. But I am not anonymous. I do reserve the right though to blur which of my observations are from personal experience and where they occurred vs all the experiences that now get related to me. I think it’s important for parents to have an outlet. I deal with people close to hysterics many days. In shock on what is coming to their always high-performing suburban schools. Because the goal is not to make APS or Dekalb better. The gap is to be closed by destroying what works anywhere.

And if that seems fantastic, following up on the Positive School Climate docs yesterday led to the acknowledgement that is is the Technical-Rationalist mind being targeted by the schools. Which again puts what has gone on in Dekalb and APS in a new and accurate light.


February 15th, 2013
8:16 am

Not sure if this is worth posting or not (but I do know to post under my real name would lead to….nothing good), DeKalb County – there are many teachers in many different systems watching to see if things can be turned around in your district. If it can be done there, then it gives the rest of us hope that it can be done where we are – that we can truly put the students needs first and make meaningful changes like lowering class sizes, making administration work for the students and teachers rather than against, and begin to have real conversations about abandoning all these ridiculous testing, curriculum and evaluations that the vast majority know won’t work before they are even implemented. Don’t ask teachers to “buy in” to anything else – systems need to “buy in” to their teaching staffs ability to make the right decisions for their students! We’re all watching DeKalb….make it worth the wait.

Dunwoody Mom

February 15th, 2013
8:23 am

David had some good general points, but his op-ed didn’t delve deep enough into the problems facing the school system – but, then again, that would take a novel.

I do disagree with his point on Thurmond’s lack of education experience. If Mr. Thurmond was coming into a “healty” DCSS, both academically and financially, and all that was needed was a “placeholder” until a permanent Super could be hired, then I would be okay with his selection. DCSS is in crisis and it will take someone who understand education and finance to even begin to address the myriad of problems facing this system.

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:24 am

If David and Peter won’t address people like Dr. John Trotter and Invisible Serf (who makes no secret of her real name) can’t we pretty much dismiss the “anonymous blogger = no validity” meme for the red herring it so obviously is?

And I would strongly suggest listening to Serf, for the rest of the education debate may devolve into, “Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?” territory if we fail to heed the warnings.

To think the Texas legislature may be actually right in its educational concerns…

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:26 am

@Serf, lacking an otherwise effective rebuttal, what would you say to those who dismiss you as having a merely ethnocentric western civilization point of view, unwilling to address the multiple wrongs wrought by unfettered capitalism?

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:30 am

The AJC’s investigation is among the reasons she’s gone. You won. No need to keep posting, regardles of the content of an essay, on what she did several years ago.

@Peter, an investigation that may have never happened if the blogsphere and “off the record” comments to reporters hadn’t lead reporters to shed some light on the darkness…

And Peter, I would encourage you to read Invisible Serf; if she’s correct, Hall might be gone, but the war isn’t over…it hasn’t even begun yet!


February 15th, 2013
8:31 am

Ah, the great liberal mindset. And I’m a liberal, mind you. But this crap about kids not being able to sit still? It’s not that kids can’t sit still, it’s that parents don’t make them. Been in a restaurant lately? Little Johnny finishes his meal and either destroys the table or runs around. Oh, he’s so cute! Teaching methods that have worked don’t need to be changed, the kids do. Yet you’re proposing we throw out what has worked because parents refuse to be parents? Are you kidding me?

And the talk of only title 1 schools. I guess only the kids who are poor in DeKalb need great teachers? Here we go again – the majority of DeKalb is black and poor, so let’s just focus on that shall we while the rest of DeKalb gets forgotten. Wake up! There are Asian kids and white kids and Hispanic kids (and families) trying to get educated.

It gets old after a while, hearing the same old same old…

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:37 am

If you think the problem is merely local clowns masquerading as board members read the following:

AUSTIN, Texas – Parents of school children across Texas now are gaining access to a previously secret public school curriculum, according to an announcement from a state lawmaker.

The CSCOPE program, an online offering that until now has prohibited, under penalty of law, teachers from sharing the lessons with parents, stirred up controversy because of its various lessons – some that were taken offline after the questions arose.


Common Core is already looking into using the curriculum to bypass those who would reject RTTP. What does it say that the makers want to impose criminal penalties for even detailing what is being taught to children? Red flag if I ever saw one…

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:39 am

Disclaimer: the link is not an endorsement of WND; just a link

Dr. John Trotter

February 15th, 2013
8:40 am

@ Beverly Fraud: I rather enjoy reading the Serf’s blog and postings here at Get Schooled. The Common Core Curriculum is an attempt to water-down the intellectual rigor in exchange for group or project work. The schools need to get back to the requisite memorization of facts and information, viz., content. You know…the same stuff that is required in law school, medical school, pharmacy school, etc.

Dunwoody Mom

February 15th, 2013
8:45 am

I would also disagree with David Schutten, the system has already taken a nose dive. It’s about to crash land without some type of drastic intervention – and the appointment of Mike Thurmond, alone, is not that drastic intervention.

Decatur Guy

February 15th, 2013
8:45 am

Hey Maureen, did you hear that the school that Obama visited was not even open yesterday and that all those people who were there were asked to be there for the photo op?

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
8:52 am

@Dr. Trotter my first thought was Serf was wacko suggesting educrats actually extolled the virtues of Chairman Mao as an “effective leader” and suggesting systems like Fulton create educational outcomes to reflect that “effectiveness.”

Only to find out it’s actually true!

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
9:03 am

this reminds me of the Scarlett O’hara approach.

don’t bother me with things I don’t want to hear.

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
9:10 am

I have no problem taking stands in my own name. I do it constantly, and continue to do so often. However I’m not gonna commit career suicide so David can feel good about himself.

posting as much as I do here under any name is risk enough.

plus, it seems David and possibly Dr. Pete are missing the point of the irony which goes into the selection of some of these names. even the names themselves are statements.

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
9:13 am

the more I think about it, the more bothered I am that David isn’t bothered by Mike T’s lack of experience in education.

in what other area (besides government) are people with zero experience in said industry put in charge of it.

and lets not kid ourselves. this is an audition for Mike T to get the job on a full time basis. its his to lose, unless Walker and co are removed from their positions.

Beverly Fraud

February 15th, 2013
9:19 am

@bootney I think we’ve already exposed the red herring aspect of Peter’s and David’s “anonymous” complaint, as they both apparently beat a quick and hasty retreat when it was pointed out Dr. Trotter is more than willing to post his name as well as his experiences in the schools.

They thought they had a trump card, til Dr. T. pulled the ace on the river!

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
9:21 am

@ beverly

re: Maoism

you should try higher ed. we make primary schools look like pikers in this area. the cult of personality we build around presidents and coaches is downright scary.

frustrated dekalb teacher

February 15th, 2013
9:27 am

dave’s bully-ish demand that people afraid of committing career suicide by not putting their names on comments shrieks to why i do not respect or support the man. he is another career non-teacher telling everyone how teaching should be done. i have taught in dekalb for a long time, but must consider going to another system or career just so i can keep a roof over my head and pay my bills. teachers at our school are reprimanded for being out sick, even with doctor’s notes; teachers are routinely threatened for speaking up; dekalb is not about educating children. if your child has a caring teacher who is at least trying to teach them, count yourself lucky; most of what i see at our school is a dog-and-pony show. pathetic. and now we have another non-teacher getting a huge salary to come run things.

bootney farnsworth

February 15th, 2013
9:29 am

@ beverly

agreed, but the kiss butt-ness of the comment is telling in so many ways, and I think illustrates in stark detail why education is in free fall in Georgia and elsewhere.

-don’t criticize me, I know better.
-don’t challenge me, I am better
-own it when you do, so I can punish you / ruin your career for the audacity to think you matter
-stop being negative and bask in my brilliance
-join hands and sing the praises of my brilliance

an in the style of Obi Wan Walker. “these are not the problems you’re looking to solve”

Michelle-Middle School

February 15th, 2013
9:34 am

Mr. Thurmond, I wish you only the best in your new, daunting position. Personally, I believe your lack of experience in education just may be the key to success for you. You will be able to look at everything within the system and see problems others may not see. Atlanta needs you. Everyone should appreciate you for accepting this challenge.


February 15th, 2013
9:56 am

Hey Peter, what say all bloggers use their real name the day a student gets less than an A in your class?

Maureen Downey

February 15th, 2013
10:00 am

@To all, Want to remind you that the AJC is shifting blog platforms and registration will be required to comment. You can use a screen name but an accurate email — not visible on postings — will be required by the AJC to register to make comments. This blog will likely shift next week or so. Many blogs, including sports blogs, have already migrated.

John Smith

February 15th, 2013
10:06 am

I can tell you why I choose not to blog under my own name. I have two children in the Dekalb County school system and I fear retaliation and retribution against my children if it is revealed that I am one of the harsh critics of the system. I did not come to this conclusion on my own, but after discussions with two or three teachers over the past year it became apparent that I needed to make a change.

Pardon My Blog

February 15th, 2013
10:09 am

I think the most glaring problem with Mr. Thurmond, other than no experience in the education field, is that fact that he is spending his time not addressing the problems with the system but he is campaigning at the State Capitol on behalf of the Board so they can keep their jobs! That seems to be his priority, saving the jobs of his friends and not addressing the mismanagement! Mr. Schutten seems to forget this and that is why most of us are so frustrated. It is the same old, same old.

As for posting anonymously, I have seen first hand what happens to a parent (and teacher) that spoke out and had the audacity to voice their opinion that was not what the Board and the Superintendent wanted to hear. Not only did they suffer, but their kids suffered in the classroom from teachers who did not agree with that individual.


February 15th, 2013
10:10 am

“Taking” a nose dive? Who has wanted to work there in the last 10 years? Who has gone home and said ‘holy smokes, I finally got hired by DEKALB!’ ?

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 15th, 2013
10:11 am

“though his replacement has been a bit of a disappointment”

@concernedmom Hasn’t McMahan been in his seat for about 30 days? How can he be judged a disappointment on 30 days in office?

Anonymous in DeKalb

February 15th, 2013
10:27 am

As the teachers’ union rep acknowledges in his article, the system is in a tailspin. After decades of over-hyped education theory and “innovation,” test results remain where they were. Or worse.

But his article’s a plea to maintain the status quo. So are the comments from other education establishment mouthpieces we hear regularly from in this blog.

Mr. Thurmond, let DeKalb parents decide who is talking the most sense in offering solutions. Give parents more choice options — starting with more charter schools — and let a free marketplace lead us out of the morass yesterday’s leaders have consigned our children to.

William Casey

February 15th, 2013
10:41 am

@MAUREEN: I am very pleased to hear of the blog shift. Long term, I believe that it will improve the quality of our discussions. As for using real names, though I would choose differently, I can understand why a DeKalb employee would choose to use a screen name in fear of retribution. Anyone else? You’re simply gutless and your opinions have little credibility.

William Casey

February 15th, 2013
10:42 am

Good luck to Michael Thurmond. Monumental task.


February 15th, 2013
10:44 am

Anonymity issues aside, it is an excellent commentary.

First priority is keeping accreditation. Graduating seniors need their diplomas to count. Dr. Walker needs to see that his position as head of the board is an impediment to that.

We need to put more resources in the classroom. We need to help students with their organizational skills. We need to not treat 1st graders like adults and realize that sitting in a desk all day is not conducive to maximizing their educational experience. If you have a student who can’t sit still and punish them by taking away “wiggle” time, the teacher is cutting off her nose to spite her face. We need to understand everyone learns differently, and adopt innovative ways to teach, including allowing students to move a little more. And yes, don’t run with as fact anything you have read on the internet. I’ve seen so many flat out lies (and not just rumor mongering, but things the poster should know is not true or things they just totally made up) posted as fact on school issues, its amazing. Remember the commercial about the blonde and her “French model” date who she met on the internet?

Finally, the mentality that things have to be this way needs to be changed. They don’t. Communities can work together. Things don’t have to continue on a downward spiral. The administration doesn’t have to present controversial issues Friday at 4pm on a holiday weekend because they are afraid of the public response. There can be communication and respectful feedback. Dekalb’s never going to be the best school district in the state, but it can be a model for urban districts. There are pockets of strength throughout the county.