DeKalb’s Michael Thurmond: Getting our house and priorities in order

Michael Thurmond (AJC photo)

Michael Thurmond (AJC photo)

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

130 comments Add your comment

waltbellamy

February 16th, 2013
2:57 am

@ MT

Get back to me when you have eliminated 50% of the bloated central office staff. I look forward to coalescing behind your efforts at that time. Good luck!

Bernie

February 16th, 2013
3:04 am

Mr.Thurmond, many will appreciate your coming forward with your proposed plans for improving the status of the current Dekalb County School System we do welcome that information from you. However during one of your first ON camera comments to a WSB-TV reporter prior to accepting this responsibility, you clearly stated you were called upon to “HELP”. And that you were willing to honor that request on behalf of the many children and parents of Dekalb county. one can only take you at your word given after those remarks.

What surprised many in the community and myself was that you were quickly hired in short order. The other most surprising occurrence, was the lucrative pay package that was offered and accepted by you. We all are aware of your many successes as a public servant and we thank you for it. However, you have taken on a position as school superintendent in a school system in a crisis situation.

As the school superintendent in a good system where there is no crisis requires a whole different skill set of knowledge and experience when things are going well. what concerns me and many in the community are what guarantees are you willing to assure to the community,parents and employees that under your Leadership things will improve and to what level. Right now many see you as just another political opportunist Georgia politician getting a favor from some hidden inside deal.

To put it bluntly, Many feel YOU do NOT Have any SKIN IN THE GAME! but yet you are being compensated handsomely and quite well even after you have departed voluntarily or requested. You are currently being compensated as if you have all of the necessary required qualifications for that position as clearly stated in the school employment policy for employment for all others who came before you and will come after you. There is clearly a sense of unfairness as you might expect. There is a sense of YOU being given a free ride and special treatment at taxpayors expense, when in the REAL world such a compensated deal would never be offered or expected.

I and many others in the community would like to see a little balance of parity. You may very well be successful and with good intention as you stated and we all hope that process will occur as stated. However, what are you willing to offer in return, if it does not?

Many of the parents,employees and taxpayors of Dekalb County would certainly feel better if you have some financial skin in the game. After All, the risk primarily rest 100% with them. As it stands, you will be paid an above average compensation even if you fail and without any taxpayors recourse.

Being that you have actual very limited real life experience and expertise in the management in the education arena, why not offer a reduced salary compensation package for now, until those proposed results materialize as you expect or plan to occur. This offer would go a long way with all parties that you are serious and know that you are sincere with your offer to “HELP” as you stated. We are not asking you to take a zero sum pay package because we like you must make a living for our families. However, unlike you we would never see such a pay package without experience in the private sector. That type of arrangement NEVER happens! EVER!

So Sir, I would like to challenge you to be true to your word when you stated that YOU are being called upon to HELP and that you are more than truly willing and able to provide that HELP. Think about what you may offer to the Taxpayors,community and employees concerning this very important issue regarding compensation. I would say wee can start with a 50% reduction of salary with an incentive’s built in, stating if you succeed as stated and as you expect you will be paid the full contracted rate at a later date. However if you fail, to forgo all the unpaid amounts along with the pay amounts after termination or resignation. A offer that every taxpayor of Dekalb county currently expects from his or her would employer as well as any other Dekalb county education employee.

I would say set some measurable goals to be reached clearly, easily understandable with actual results produced. This requests seems only fair many would say certainly in light of the above circumstances as stated by you and as well as this comment. This peace offering, if you will would go a long way of instilling confidence and sincere belief to all involved that you are serious about this challenge and you too are willing to put some real skin in the game. What do you SAY?

Ugh Platitudes

February 16th, 2013
3:34 am

Can we have some specifics please?

Beverly Fraud

February 16th, 2013
5:11 am

“winning unconditional accreditation and becoming a world-class educational institution.”

Nobody who has honesty and integrity would utter the words, “world class” in regard to DeKalb. It’s completely inauthentic, and nothing more than pandering to the lowest common denominator.

DeKalb will not be anywhere remotely near “world class,” and to utter otherwise is to be nothing short of a liar.

Pardon My Blog

February 16th, 2013
5:58 am

@ Bernie – though I RARELY agree with you, your comments above are well said and actually should be sent to Mr. Thurmond because I think it captures what we feel. I, too, could not believe the compensation package given to someone who is basically a temp employee with no experience.

One thing I would add; however, is that he should keep his focus on the students and let the Board handle their own issues with AdvancEd. They have had plenty of chances to do the right thing and to change their ways but bottom line, it will not happen because there are many on this Board starting with Walker who just are not trustworthy.

@Beverly Fraud – yeah, it seems we get all this lofty talk and it is one thing to set goals but they should be realistic goals. Start with achievable goals and go from there.

gdfo

February 16th, 2013
7:05 am

” We must come together as a community”

$275,000.00 a year for this? No Mr Thurmond! The Dekalb School Board is SUPPOSED to be in charge of the school system. Thats what they are PAID for.
Why bring ‘diversity’ into the picture? The problems with the Dekalb School board is WITH how they run things. They FAILED. This is not about diversity or race but FAILURE.
If this is the level of MR Thurmonds thinking and reflects his ability to act, then his efforts will not suffice.
The Dekalb School Board has members that do not belong to one race. The Board has FAILED.

Principal Skinner

February 16th, 2013
7:07 am

“World Class”? Why does that sound so similar to, “Premier DeKalb”? I roflmao every time I hear a new line of bull from a progressive. Wish Fulfillment is no way to run a Billion $$$$ a year school system.
If the DBOE is not removed next Thurs, then all hope is lost for DCSS.

Married with (School) Children

February 16th, 2013
7:07 am

“The citizens of DeKalb County have placed great trust in me.”

No, we have not.

Principal Skinner

February 16th, 2013
7:19 am

Here’s a haiku:

Administration
Bloated and incompetent
No chance for, “World Class”

Principal Skinner

February 16th, 2013
7:27 am

Another:

Mister Thurmond, PLEASE
Fight for the real stake-holders
NOT the B.O.E.!!!!!!

LOGIC

February 16th, 2013
7:32 am

Platitudes will get us nowhere. Thurmond needs to come in hitting hard because the issues are well documented but Tyson didn’t do the heavy lifting as interim, Atkinson had her own agenda,and this Board is a disease epidemic of epic proportions.

The fact that Thurmond isn’t coming in championing the removal of this Board and the fact that he took the job presumably knowing the circumstances speaks volumes. The “smart” board members needed to do the right thing and either not vote or figure out a way to push the right decisions within legal bounds or raise such a stink to prevent such actions. The fact that this Board did not hold Tyson, then Atkinson accountable for results and has been allowed to get us a 3rd super on the payroll is enough to show their poor negotiation experience and complete ineptitude, even with a lawyer on there now!

Letters to the State BOE and Governor, folks. This isn’t about race or where you live in the county; this is about being held hostage by a bunch of very bad people who continue to inflict damage on our children and neighborhoods. Legally, they know they can’t be stopped because we have no checks and balances, so they continue to pillage the taxpayers without any accountability.

Cindy Lutenbacher

February 16th, 2013
8:16 am

I have to wonder what has happened to “A real leader leads by example.” We must tighten our belts while those in power loosen theirs.

catlady

February 16th, 2013
8:16 am

I am guessing the board sees the handwriting on the wall, and some of them wanted this one, final instance of control with someone who has some connection with them. It is a win-win for some members of the board; if they are dismissed, they have “their man” in there, and if the are not dismissed, well, they have “their man” in there.

Wilbur

February 16th, 2013
8:19 am

The “people” of DeKalb County did not place their trust in Mr. Thurmond. The board did. The board hired Thurmond and they can fire him. The “people” are going to wait and see what they get.

Parents don’t care much about the system or the district. They care about their children. If you would garner their support, you need to care about them too. So far there is not much evidence that the BOE does. Caring about the kids not the system, not the front office or the politicians is the only way to move this forward

To be successful the leadership is going to have to stand up to the race driven parochial interests of some groups in the county. You will likely have to call them out in public and truly speak truth to power. Your biggest problem is going to be finding courage for your board. Heaven knows they have not had any yet.

BTW, SACS is your friend. It’s the only hammer you have to force the board to act constructively. Without the pressure from SACS, this situation would be infinitely worse.

MiltonMan

February 16th, 2013
8:20 am

Thurmond will take the money and run. The accreditation agency has already stated over and over again that the current BOE members are the big problem yet Thurmond is already sucking up to them???

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
8:21 am

the citizens of DeKalb did not place great trust in you. Gene Walker did.

you can try to kid yourself, but you can’t kid us

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
8:23 am

much of this letter is vintage Hosea Williams, but without the character.

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
8:26 am

@ pardon

running interference for the board IS his job.

Beverly Fraud

February 16th, 2013
8:29 am

Prior to accepting this job I asked each board member if there was enough money in the bank to make sure my check cleared they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to lift us off probation and bring fundamental change to our system.

Beverly Fraud

February 16th, 2013
8:46 am

@Beverly Fraud – yeah, it seems we get all this lofty talk and it is one thing to set goals but they should be realistic goals. Start with achievable goals and go from there.

@Pardon this isn’t about poor goal setting because nobody in their right mind would set “world class” as a goal for DeKalb. This is about, at the very fundamental core of your being, exposing yourself as one who is willing to blatantly lie to the public, because you are getting paid well to do so.

Pure and simple, it’s a lack of integrity.

Teach

February 16th, 2013
8:46 am

Give the teachers a step increase…otherwise, were outta here.

Dunwoody Mom

February 16th, 2013
8:57 am

Where is the plan? I feel like I just read a “stump speech”.

Mom of 3

February 16th, 2013
9:10 am

Words, words, words….

Diane Loupe

February 16th, 2013
9:12 am

Make gof on your promise of fiscal efficiency by firing all the folks on the payroll who have jobs because I’d their relatives. Start with Philandria Guillory, who makes a six figure income in a job for which she is unqualified, and which she got because her mother, Frances Edwards, was on the school board. She isn’t even n the board, and yet, she still has a patronage job.

It is a time for dramatic gestures. Enact a nepotism policy, immediately. Let the public and the accreditors know you are serious. Nothing less will work. We have heard the platitudes for years. Lets see if you are serious about reforming this system.

Diane Loupe

February 16th, 2013
9:12 am

Make gof on your promise of fiscal efficiency by firing all the folks on the payroll who have jobs because I’d their relatives. Start with Philandria Guillory, who makes a six figure income in a job for which she is unqualified, and which she got because her mother, Frances Edwards, was on the school board. She isn’t even n the board, and yet, she still has a patronage job.

It is a time for dramatic gestures. Enact a nepotism policy, immediately. Let the public and the accreditors know you are serious. Nothing less will work. We have heard the platitudes for years. Lets see if you are serious about reforming this system.

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
9:23 am

Mr. Thurmond,

Allow me to state up front I was opposed to your appointment. We have met a couple of times and I found you to be very engaging and funny. I have no doubt you would be an asset to most places. Regretfully, not here, not now.

Yet here you are, and be default, here we are as well. In the spirit of facing life head on, I accept you are now the man on the ground. I will list my concerns about your appointment below. Not to be critical (yet acknowledging these items are) but to outline them in just so many words. It’s my hope you will face these challenges head on with deeds and not more buzzwords.

1-you were appointed by a board the community has no trust in. Further , you seem to have a strong political connection to them, and to Dr. Walker in particular. It sends a very strong signal you are there to protect the failed status quo, not correct it.

2-you have no educational experience. Law firms, for example, are rarely run by people who are not lawyers. This sends a loud signal the board who appointed you has no intention to allow someone in place with the background to scrutinize their actions correctly.

3-like any good politician, you use platitudes where actual nouns are needed. Particularly the ever popular “diversity”. “Diversity” is not what DeKalb needs now – it has it already. What it needs is excellence and leadership. The ethnic and political divisions within the board are a matter of record.

4-in your early statements, you seem to be confused as to what your role is supposed to be. You are not supposed to be there to assist, support, and advocate for the board. Yet you have already spent a disproportionate amount of time doing exactly that. Since even SACS has stated the board is at the heart of the worst of the DCSS problems, your actions indicate you will contribute to these problems, not work to improve them.

5-I can not stress enough our concerns about your connection to Dr. Walker. To the average observer, this seems like an episode of the Sopranos. If you are to have any credibility, you must act quickly and decisively to disprove this notion.

6-please do not lecture us on “parochialism” considering how you got this position. To be very blunt, sir, until your actions show otherwise, your appointment is the height of parochialism.

7- it is easy to say we must get our financial house in order. Deeds are called for, not words. Outline a plan, make it public, act on it. For it to have any resonance with the community it must start with cutting the corrupt and bloated central office. It must also include a forensic accounting of
the last several years, and must be done by an agency with no ties to the system, the county, or any member of the board. I would encourage you to formally request the GBI to do this, since it very probably will end with some people being escorted out in handcuffs.

8-your appointment is classic nepotism. This must end, and since the administrative structure can’t help themselves, it needs to be codified in writing. In short, stated rules.

9-call for all the board members, including Dr. Walker to voluntarily step down over the summer so a new board can be chosen. The current board is a cancer, and must be completely removed if the DCSS is to survive.

I bear you no ill will sir. You are simply the wrong man in the wrong position at the worst possible time. But even this stated openly, you have the opportunity to prove us wrong. It will require courage, audacity, and leadership. It will not be easy, and probably will get ugly.

Can you be that man?

Barb Lucas

February 16th, 2013
9:32 am

Mr. Thurmond: If you really want the taxpayers/parents to have faith in you, would recommend that you start by requesting that your pay package be lowered until you have proven you can bring this school situation up to par (as it once was). We, the taxpayers, are cash strapped as it is, between your astronomical pay and shelling out untold amounts to attorneys. The current Board has succeeded in making us of poor quality and that is not fair to the students who will ultimately pay for the incompetence of the Board. You should review what funds are going out to attorneys’ fees; namely, cut off Crawford Lewis’ free ride and quit paying attorneys and “consultants” to figure out what the Board SHOULD be able to figure out on its own. I should think the taxpayers are tired of funding these ridiculous decisions made by the Board. Last, if you have some sound and logical ideas to improve the system, man up and stick to your guns if your incompetent Board members want to strike them down. Enough is enough—time to get this right.

Lee

February 16th, 2013
9:54 am

Well, everyone knew Thurmon was an adept politician and a good speaker. Let’s meet again in 90 days and see if these are platitudes and empty words or if Mr Thurmond has any substance.

…and I think most folks are of the opinion that any plan by Thurmond that doesn’t include a wholesale cleaning of the central office staff is merely more of the same “business as usual” that has plagued Dekalb for the past 20 years.

dekalbite@Mr. Thurmond

February 16th, 2013
9:59 am

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 in the last decade for expensive educational programs (High Schools that Work, Read 180, Springboard, America’s Choice, Success for All, etc.) that have produced no positive educational results. We are still spending $3,000,000 on Fernbank Science Center for 21 non teaching positions to support 20 teachers who are almost always in the schools. We spend tens of millions a year for non teaching personnel who are certified to teach but do not teach – e.g. Coach, Coordinator, Supervisor, Manager, Director, and Superintendent, etc.. There have been no studies showing all of these non teaching positions have had any impact on raising student achievement in DeKalb.

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. 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.

Here are some positive ideas:
1. 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.
2. Ensure the classrooms are clean, the toilets work and have soap and toilet paper, and students have textbooks
3. Allow teachers to spend Title 1 funds on what works for their classrooms
4. Make sure the technology we have spent so much money on works for teachers and students
5. Place our teachers’ salaries on par with the other metro systems and reinstate the TSA contribution
6. Update the DCSS website to post :
a. The titles and Salary Schedules for all non teaching positions
b. An Organization Chart with titles and personnel names
c. An online check registry

In short, after the classrooms that contain the students and teachers are adequately funded, hire the administration and any other ancillary positions. Make all positions, salary and expenditures transparent to taxpayers.

Lewis, Tyson and Atkinson came out of their time at the DCSS helm with their reputations in tatters because they could not move students forward. All of this budget talk is meaningless unless you can do your MAIN job – increase student achievement. That is why the school system exists. Please use the INVESTMENT (tax dollars) you have been given to create a decent RETURN (increased student achievement). You will truly be a hero if you can do that.

Dekalbite@Mr. Thurmond

February 16th, 2013
10:12 am

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 in the last decade for expensive educational programs (High Schools that Work, Read 180, Springboard, America’s Choice, Success for All, etc.) that have produced no positive educational results. We are still spending $3,000,000 on Fernbank Science Center for 21 non teaching positions to support 20 teachers who are almost always in the schools. We spend tens of millions a year for non teaching personnel who are certified to teach but do not teach – e.g. Coach, Coordinator, Supervisor, Manager, Director, and Superintendent, etc.. There have been no studies showing all of these non teaching positions have had any impact on raising student achievement in DeKalb.

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. 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.

Here are some positive ideas:

1. 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.

2. Ensure the classrooms are clean, the toilets work and have soap and toilet paper, and students have textbooks

3. Allow teachers to spend Title 1 funds on what works for their classrooms

4. Make sure the technology we have spent so much money on works for teachers and students

5. Place our teachers’ salaries on par with the other metro systems and reinstate the TSA contribution

6. Update the DCSS website to post :

a. The titles and Salary Schedules for all non teaching positions

b. An Organization Chart with titles and personnel names

c. An online check registry

In short, after the classrooms that contain the students and teachers are adequately funded, hire the administration and any other ancillary positions. Make all positions, salary and expenditures transparent to taxpayers.

Lewis, Tyson and Atkinson came out of their time at the DCSS helm with their reputations in tatters because they could not move students forward. All of this budget talk is meaningless unless you can do your MAIN job – increase student achievement. That is why the school system exists. Please use the INVESTMENT (tax dollars) you have been given to create a decent RETURN (increased student achievement). You will truly be a hero if you can do that.

PatDowns

February 16th, 2013
10:16 am

@ bootney farnsworth
February 16th, 2013
9:23 am

Well stated, bootney. Sadly, it will fall on deaf ears.

Dunwoody Mom

February 16th, 2013
10:19 am

@bootney…totally agree…but this is DCSS and you know this will not happen.

Centrist

February 16th, 2013
10:22 am

Bringing in an overpaid politician with ties to the existing failure. What could possibly go wrong?

dekalbteacher

February 16th, 2013
10:23 am

When we have an illness, we expect a doctor to give us the truth and tell us what can be done.

Dekalb has an illness. I don’t want to hear about trust, opportunities, and obstacles. I want to hear about specific actions.

No matter how much we citizens and employees in the county come together, only the super and the board can do the following:

1. Eliminate Tyson’s position and save us almost a quarter million.
2. Dismantle the Leadership Academy and salvage the small amount of RTT funds we still have for things students need: textbooks, translators, after-school programs.
3. Implement a fiscally and environmentally responsible calendar. If we needed to reduce last summer’s central office work schedulte to a 4-day work week to save $250,000 in electricity fees, then we absolutely cannot afford the extra cost incurred in running busss and cooling schools at the end of July and in the first week in August.
4. Reduce class sizes by putting all certified educators back in the classroom. Right now all academic data coaches and instructional coaches can begin working with small groups of students. We should already have the “data” to offer this “differentiated instruction.”
5. Dismantle professional learning. We can partner with Georgia State, Mercer, Emory, Oglethorpe, and Agness Scott.
6. Eliminate any PR contracts. Thurmond is a gifted orator, and our students’ success is all the PR we need.
7. Give teachers back one work day this semester. Have academic data coaches, instructional coaches, and the army of instructional supervisors teach classes by rotating schools or disciplines.

living in an outdated ed system

February 16th, 2013
10:25 am

If Thurmond speaks at the hearing next Thursday on behalf of the board, then it is plainly clear that this situation is a complete disaster. If Governor Deal does not remove the board members, then he is equally at fault here.

I feel sorry for the children, most of all, because i just don’t see this situation being fixed the way that it has gone down, going against all logic in how governance is supposed to work.

Anonymous in DeKalb

February 16th, 2013
10:28 am

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.

You have 99,000 reasons to ensure DeKalb won’t continue along the road to failure.

living in an outdated ed system

February 16th, 2013
10:30 am

And @Bootney, I actually found your letter well written, sir! Only exception is #2. Part of the problem with many superintendents is that they are devoid of any meaningful managerial experience. In many ways, it is equivalent to being a CEO. But a good leader has a strong team and thus a superintendent needs a COO or similar ilk that has exception education experience. My own career has been about succeeding when I didn’t have the tangible experience. But other than that, I support everything else in your well-written letter.

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
10:58 am

@ outdated

that’s (IMO) a problem overdue to be dealt with. it is possible to have supers who also have teaching experience. we just have to demand it – easier said than done, I know.

I have long called for a standard of x-many years in the classroom before qualifying as Vice Principal, Principal, ect. same should go for supers.. ideally it would be a teacher or principal who has an MBA to get the best of both worlds.

if I follow correctly, a good leader doesn’t necessarily need experience in anything but how to lead. step one is surround yourself with competent, quality people. step two is to let them do their jobs.

which is why there are so very few good leaders and so many crappy mamagers

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
11:01 am

@ maureen

any chance we can invite Mike to come and have a session with us? address these issues head on?
we’ll promise to be polite. can’t say we won’t be pointed, but will be polite.

whadda ya say?

Just Sayin

February 16th, 2013
11:06 am

Wow, not one single positive comment. The man has been hired less than a week and has not had a chance to do anything and every single comment is negative or in support of something someone else said negative. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be held accountable, but for god sakes stop making him already accountable for what other people did. He can’t get rid of the school board. All he can do is ask them to step down. They hired him, not the other way around. Why don’t the parents try to go higher in the state to get rid of them. Heck sue them. People sue for everything else. Sue them for fraud and financial mismangement. Now I don’t know if he is the best person for the job, but at least let him take a seat in his office before blaming in for the continuation of past ills.

@ Bernie..while what you said was well stated, it was a little aggressive towards someone that hasn’t really done anything to you or the system. Yes I know the situation is abysmal…. but dang.

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
11:12 am

@ just

if you can point out a single positive thing he’s done which merits praise, I love to see it.
any goodwill he might have had was tossed aside in his first moments when he began praising the exiting board.

if MIke were the Grand Dragon from Stone Mountain and appointed by Walker and co he’d not get the benefit of the doubt. why should Mike just cause he’s articulate and well connected?

bootney farnsworth

February 16th, 2013
11:14 am

sorry, existing, not exiting. wishful thinking on my part

George

February 16th, 2013
11:17 am

Give the dam teachers a raise and no more lost of pay.You want young no nothing ass teachers with these go ahead.TAKE CARE OF THE TEACHERS IT IS PAST TIME.

bu2

February 16th, 2013
11:25 am

@dekalbteacher
I agree that we need specific actions. Thurmond’s letter is a bunch of platitudes. We had 18 months of drifting with Tyson and the last year with Atkinson has got us nowhere. We need actions, not feel good speeches. He needs very quickly to come up with priorities and actions for next years budget. Where’s the beef?

RCB

February 16th, 2013
11:25 am

Today is auspicious indeed, because I really like the thoughtful responses from @Bernie AND @bootney!! That has never happened before, so I’m going to buy a lottery ticket today for the 3rd time in my life. Ha!

Grasshopper

February 16th, 2013
11:32 am

Lose the French cuffs Mr Thurmond.

They make you look like a dandy.

ShooShee

February 16th, 2013
11:34 am

“The citizens of DeKalb County have placed great trust in me. ”

No. The majority of the Board of Education placed their trust in you. The citizens had no choice. We are all just praying that your words are not as hollow as the words of your three latest predecessors. We are all taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. Actions speak. We’re waiting for action.

dekalbite

February 16th, 2013
11:46 am

DeKalb Schools is vortex that could easily suck Mr. Thurmond’s political aspirations under if vocal taxpayers/parents see no budgetary or student achievement results. If he has any future political aspirations, he needs to ensure the success of this appointment. Public relations does not impress parents when their children are sitting in overcrowded classrooms, and the teachers are telling them that they need soap and toilet paper and textbooks and working computers. There is nothing more vocal or organized than parents who are upset over their children, and no amount of PR can counter that. If he has any doubts about the need to deliver on student achievement and fiscal responsibility, he need only to look at the reputations of the last three superintendents of DeKalb. Even actions that showed they meant well were overlooked when DeKalb Schools could not get its fiscal house in order and show academic progress at the same rate as other school systems.

Maude

February 16th, 2013
11:59 am

Why now is he talking about the children when his first statements was about saving the jobs of the board members? He is now trying not to look like a paid spokes person for the board members.

hopespringseternal

February 16th, 2013
12:16 pm

Seriously, is it logical to ask this man to bite the hand which feeds him? I have a fondness for dealing in reality, not fantasy. So we can probably move on from calls for him to ask his employer (the board) to resign. Now for the reality – since no one believes that the central office is not top-heavy, start all over again with examining it and culling it. The smartest person can’t figure out the net effect of last year’s “cuts” to the CO, especially when many of them were moved to the schoolhouse in the name of “pushing resources closer to the classroom”. If class sizes are still large, what good did it do to “push resources”? We need an answer to this.

The district has no money. It will take a long time to recover from this blunt fact. Even if the picture becomes rosy this FY, the district will have to satisfy the prior year’s red ink first. That doesn’t bode well for restoring much of anything, sadly. The teachers’ backs are being broken. Assuming we can’t touch the prior years of TRS take-away because it is in litigation, maybe there can be a budgetary goal of putting it back, if only by a fraction, for upcoming years. And I hope that somebody is at the capitol and in the Finance office figuring out how to keep teachers from absorbing any potential health and welfare benefit increases. This is budget season. In a matter of weeks a budget will be presented – as will teacher contracts. We don’t have time for fluff. Be realistic. It’s all about headcount. Reduce headcount. And do it without touching actual teachers in actual classrooms. By week’s end, there will be 50 different definitions of “classroom teacher”. For example, Interrelated is classroom – and we must follow the law. But get the definition of classroom and protect it – then cull everything else.

To examine instructional programs is to state the obvious. Look at the various scheduling models and make a decision which is sound for students and don’t believe what hype is fed about how things are working so well. Give counselors and API’s time in their schedule to plan the semester – and stop allowing schedule changes sometimes as many as four weeks into the semester.

Student discipline. Where to begin? We need to face facts. No one can legislate parental involvement and eliminate apathy, but we can ensure the right of the learning student to have an uninterrupted day and we can stop putting teachers in a pickle when they insist that Johnny disrupts their class. I know it is difficult. But there MUST be some way to balance this. People aren’t running to schools out of their neighborhoods because they are so much worse, whatever that means. They run because their children deserve to be in a learning environment where their peers don’t torture them or otherwise interrupt – well – everything. I’ve run into a few mean and hateful teachers who really need another career path – but the vast majority is made up of caring teachers who deserve to not be insulted by having to put up with bad behavior. Try looking at some of the shuttered properties and repurposing them as “alternative school lite”. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but stand firm. In the end, parents will need to face hard facts about what their babies really do in school. I’ve seen some heinous behavior toward adults in the buildings. It’s really a shame that the adults have become so conditioned to this behavior that they don’t bother to call the kids on it. Whip us parents into fervor with helping out at home. If the district doesn’t have the resources to provide critical services, partner with those who can (Dept of Community Health, etc.) The school district partners with Juvenile Court but in the wrong direction. If a student incurs an infraction and you have him hauled into Juvenile Court, then the DA (or the parent!) should pay for his “program to get him back on the straight and narrow”. (STARS) Not the district.

Finally, be willing to lose your job. It’s the only you can do your job.