Michael Thurmond is the new interim superintendent of DeKalb schools.
By Michael Thurmond
The citizens of DeKalb County have placed great trust in me. They are looking for solutions, and I am determined to meet the challenges that face us. Those challenges are great, but our opportunities are greater.
Many have asked if one person can make a difference. This isn’t a job one person can accomplish alone. We must come together as a community and commit our energies and resources to restoring full accreditation for the DeKalb County School District. This must be our prime objective.
Our students have worked hard to win acceptance to some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities. They have qualified for admission to top-flight technical colleges and military academies. Others are graduating directly into the world of work. No “adult made” obstacles should stand in their way – especially when the threat of losing accreditation has nothing to do with their hard work and academic achievement.
All of us, in north DeKalb and south, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, conservative and progressive, must coalesce behind this single goal: winning unconditional accreditation and becoming a world-class educational institution.
No insurmountable obstacles stand in the way of achieving that goal. Our diversity has engendered disagreement, but our diversity is a strength, not a weakness. I am confident that the DeKalb County community will rally to the goal of improving education for 99,000 schoolchildren.
Just two years ago, citizens and parents pushed aside parochial concerns to approve a massive redistricting plan because it provided the best outcome for the district. We must regain that sense of togetherness and unity. We must cast aside “my school, my neighborhood, my district” parochialism and work together for what is best for the entire district.
We will get our financial house in order. It is not enough to blame the state — or the state of the economy — for our financial woes. We will squeeze every ounce of educational efficiency out of every dollar. We will embrace best practices – not just in classroom expenses but in legal fees, central office budgets or workers’ compensation costs – to ensure that every conceivable dollar that should be going to a classroom is getting there.
How can we do all that with a board of education that AdvancEd has said is a major part of the problem? Prior to accepting this job I asked each board member if they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to lift us off probation and bring fundamental change to our system. All nine board members stated without reservation that they were ready and willing to meet the standards set by our accreditors.
They have 99,000 reasons to put “my district” concerns aside. They are determined to work together and make hard decisions – political and otherwise – in order to rebuild public trust.
With a new vision to fundamentally transform the DeKalb County School District, we will earn full accreditation. The quest to build a great public school system has already begun.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog