Michael Thurmond to DeKalb: Avoid rumor and speculation. Focus on the welfare of the students.

In his comments to the state Board of Education Thursday, new school chief Michael Thurmond intimated that he was uncertain he would stay at the helm in DeKalb if the board that hired him was replaced, but it sounds like he is staying put.

Dear DeKalb County Community,

Our district is undergoing a tremendous amount of change. From my appointment as interim superintendent to the election of a new Board of Education chairman, Dr. Melvin Johnson, to the legal proceedings involving our Board, 2013 has been full of new challenges and new opportunities.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education voted to recommend to Gov, Nathan Deal that six members of our Board of Education be suspended with pay. Three members, Dr. Johnson, vice-chair Jim McMahan and Marshall Orson, were not included in the recommendation. The final outcome of the process is yet to be determined; however, by working with our Board and my staff, we will bring the spotlight back to the task entrusted to us – educating our young people.

I recognize that we have made tremendous demands upon our employees, and I pledge to work to make things better for our educators and our students. Please avoid speculation and rumors and take this as an opportunity to become even more focused on our greatest resource – our 99,000 students. My commitment to our students, our employees and our community is unchanged.

We are beginning our budget planning process, and we will strive to place more resources in our schools, but we will also involve you – our parents, community members, taxpayers, business representatives and faith leaders – in the decision-making process.

We owe a great deal of appreciation to you for your commitment and dedication to the DeKalb County School District. It’s difficult not to be distracted by the ongoing controversy, but please know we’re grateful that you continue to trust us with your most precious resource – your children. Thank you.

I am truly looking forward to both working with you and for you. Together, we’re going to make a difference in DeKalb.


Michael L. Thurmond

-From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

77 comments Add your comment


February 22nd, 2013
5:25 pm

Avoid rumor and speculation. Like the textbook lease issue. Didn’t even ask the CFO. Dang.


February 22nd, 2013
5:33 pm

“[W]e will bring the spotlight back to the task entrusted to us – educating our young people.” Mr. Thurmond, why was the spotlight ever elsewhere?

Burroughston Broch

February 22nd, 2013
5:33 pm

In the best Professor Marvel-stle out of “The Wizard of Oz”, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
Of course he’s going to stay and get paid $250K + perks per year. He’s an out-of-office politician with no reasonable prospects of being elected to an office that pays that kind of money.


February 22nd, 2013
5:36 pm

What rumors? The ones that say he hasn’t really done any work in his first two weeks that impacts students? That he didn’t ask Mark Elgart to delay a meeting until he could at least say hello to the principals? The one that says his priorities are clearly different from parents of the system?

Which rumor? Lord help us.

Taxpayer and Teacher

February 22nd, 2013
5:37 pm

Haaa Haaa! A little bit too late. Dekalb will definitely be hiring!


February 22nd, 2013
5:38 pm

Commitment to the students? Really? This coming from the same person that said to keep the board. The same board that completely ran the county into the ground. Sure, Mike, we believe you.

Comment in Moderation

February 22nd, 2013
5:43 pm

Please all teachers dig deep and give reverend Trotter $528 of your hard earned money so he can represent you. You know it will be money well spent. Just take a look at all the fine endorsements on his website. For only $528 you can join the LION!!

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
5:44 pm

1- its really sad to see someone toss away their integrity and dignity so publicly.

2-NOW someone at the BOE gives a damn about the kids? somewhere a bull just fell over dead in a field

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
5:49 pm

@ comment

I often disagree with John, but I respect his take and his willingness to fight for it.
what do you stand for?

Beverly Fraud

February 22nd, 2013
5:51 pm

Please avoid speculation and rumors and take this as an opportunity to become even more focused on our greatest resource the government teat that is allowing me exploit this opportunity in ways I couldn’t even imagine a few short weeks ago – our 99,000 students.

For the children.

Of course


February 22nd, 2013
5:57 pm

Regarding the new budget

As a former DCSD teacher (for 20 years) I sincerely hope the new budget isn’t put on the backs of the teachers and staff once again. There have been no raises in five or six years, yet insurance premiums and the cost of living continue to rise. Most staff members/teachers are making less than they made ten years ago. Be creative, Thurmond and new Board, and give the employees a break.

Tired Taxpayer

February 22nd, 2013
5:58 pm

Educators and students…………………….how about the taxpayer? How long have you been on the public dole. Our backs are sore from the incompetent weight we’ve been totin’ !!

There should be a clawback from oustered pretend board members for attorneys’ fees and forgone federal grants. You all make us sick and perpetuate the impression about you!


February 22nd, 2013
6:01 pm

He’s a politician, what did you expect him to say?

We’re doomed. Save yourselves, move while you can!

Which, might be closer to the truth, but no politician would ever say it.

Once again, I’m thanking my lucky stars I don’t live in metro Atlanta.

Boris Badnoff

February 22nd, 2013
6:07 pm

Why not get rid of all school boards? Do they do anything?

Why so Negative?

February 22nd, 2013
6:18 pm

I have to say I am more disturbed by the so negative comments of the bloggers here directed towards Mr. Thurmond who has JUST been hired to provide governance and leadership. As a parent of a student in Dekalb county school system, I appreciate his letter and comments. Turnaround must begin somewhere and I for one am willing to give Mr. Thurmond a chance. His appointment is only for one year; therefore he knows what his job is. Who do you think would do a better job?

say what?

February 22nd, 2013
6:24 pm

You have got to be kidding. For the past few weeks he has been on the news shows talking about it being important to keep the BOE intact. I never heard him mention the education process for the students. Never heard him mention that the schools needed to be kept in intact.

He was “asked” to come to talk to the board about being the interim superintendent before there was a confirmation that the full time superintendent had left. That is a scandal in and of itself.
While he wants us to not heed to rumors, then answer these questions and put the rumor mill out of business.
Who invited him to discuss his possible interim status? When did the BOE know that the interim position was available? May we see his and Dr. Walker’s phone records to see how much phone contact they had since December when chatter really started to increase about Cheryl’s departure? What are his connections between Wilson, Walker, Ramsey, and Baker?

Whose idea was it to pay $150K to Thurbert Baker’s firm for governance training although the GSBA has this training for free, and the BOE members have attended several times?
Why was his stomping speech more akin to protecting the board members jobs instead of protecting the future of students and taxpayers?

Since he claims that he needs time to rein in the board, is he saying that he will now control the board, and not according to how DCSD is set up, where the superintendent answers to the board? And if he has so much control over the BOE members, can he demand that they do the honorable thing and resign? After all it’s suppose to be for the children.

When will all those illegal firings to allow friends of Cheryl and Kendra be addressed? Will those people be lied to and told they will keep their job, then at the last minute- BAM, you’re fired?

How do you state in a hearing that we know exactly which room the books are in, but not the school? Are we all that stupid to believe that line?

will matson

February 22nd, 2013
6:34 pm

So, to avoid speculation, what are the facts and why aren’t they made public to the community who pays the education bill in exchange for effective oversight and administration?

Why so Negative?

February 22nd, 2013
6:45 pm

@Say What….IMHO your attitude and comments are those that move us no where forward. So what he defended the people who just hired him…. But now he has moved on in a different directions. To me you folk on here (such disharmony) are no different from the Board members you complain of. What good does the attacks do? Talk is so cheap…. Let’s see what Mr. Thurmond actions are AND then judge him; since we must be so judgemental.


February 22nd, 2013
6:48 pm

So far it does not seem like Mr. Thurmond has used his time wisely for those children!

What I dislike almost more than the mess these people have made are putting more credence in/power for SACS, and having our Governor in charge of appointing anyone.

It’s one of those times when you are in the skillet or in the fire.

Call Me Missouri

February 22nd, 2013
6:52 pm

Mr. Walker, why don’t you have a town hall meeting/forum in your district and ask your constituents if they want you to fight this decision? Give them a TRUE estimate of the costs of the legal fees associated with this legal action and be sure to tell how much the district owes to various law firms. After that we will see what they want and you will, too.

South Georgia Administrator

February 22nd, 2013
6:54 pm

Even smaller county school systems require prospective superintendents to have a six year degree. A quick check on PSC only shows someone with a para certification with the same name. Wonder what GSBA thinks :) . What are his qualifications…?

omg youre kidding

February 22nd, 2013
6:59 pm

say what?

February 22nd, 2013
7:00 pm

@Why so Negative? did you not listen to his LIVE news appearances in the early mornings since he was brought on? Did you NOT hear the words out of hIS mouth on yesterday that if these people are let go, he may have to give in as well; which, means that his loyalty is to the board and not you nor your child.
There is not attack, just a response to him stating that people need not listen to rumors.My list of questions are rumors heard around town and around the schools. He fired off the word “rumor” first, I kindly put it back in his court. He has an opportunity to kill the negativity with the truth, and then be seen as a truthful trusting leader.

Why so negative is more like howfarcanIpushmyheadinthesand? Or, you are related to the people that the rumor mills are talking about.

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
7:03 pm

@ why so negative

you must be kidding.

who could do a better job? anyone with intergrity

bootney farnsworth

February 22nd, 2013
7:05 pm

on second thought…..if DeKalb wishes to become Sudan, who am I to stand in their way?
just don’t use a cent of state money.


February 22nd, 2013
7:12 pm

How can this illegitimate idiot, tell us ANYTHING.
Why isn’t this incompetent
gone with the rest of the garbage?

Truth in Moderation

February 22nd, 2013
7:28 pm

Speaking of student welfare, it seems that Marietta’s Public School’s “PANIC BUTTONS” and Biden’s ‘SHOTGUNS” are a match made in heaven–er, Earth.

According to CBS Local, the public schools have installed special buttons teachers can press that automatically call 911.
“Once that happens, we send EVERYBODY WE HAVE to that school until we can determine what the exact cause of the threat is,” Marietta Police Officer David Baldwin told WGCL.

Now, that is when you need a semi-automatic shotgun AT HOME………..


February 22nd, 2013
7:49 pm

This is a great start.

It was not possibly to move forward with the same microbial pathogens we were calling a Board. Now DeKalb parents have to come together and do their work on this end to make sure the kids do homework. Make sure they are in schools when they are supposed to be. make sure they have the books and resources that they need.

Eugene Walker will go down in history as one of the most destructive forces this community has and probably will ever see. he is proof that education, intelligence, ethics and common sense are
all very different things.

Dr. John Trotter

February 22nd, 2013
8:04 pm

Why thank you, “Comment,” for your endorsement. MACE, however, doesn’t endorse any politicians, but MACE does indeed protect and empower classroom educators…one member at a time.


Jack ®

February 22nd, 2013
8:05 pm

Betcha the governor’s PR staff is working overtime in order to deal with this little firecracker.

Kelly Monsalvo

February 22nd, 2013
8:13 pm

So he addresses the DeKalb Co. community and AGAIN he forgets to mention the TEACHERS!! They are the ones who can make a real difference in the lives of children, and they are being left out again. If he wants to improve the lives of children, he needs to engage his teachers for input and ideas and leave the politics where it belongs…in the toilet. Get a clue, Thurmond. This isn’t Rocket Science. (And fyi, I’m not a teacher, I’m a parent.)


February 22nd, 2013
8:17 pm

Maureen Downey, you should be ashamed of yourself.

You have shown no objectivity on this subject, because you have/had children in the Dekalb County School system. With you advocating that Governor Deal remove the school board, you are taking the power away from the people. The 2011 law giving the governor this type of power is clearly unconstitutional, and I don’t know how it could stand in a court of law. Only the citizens of Dekalb should be able to replace the school board. The notion of Governor Deal– WHO CAME INTO OFFICE UNDER INVESTIGATION– having the authority to remove elected officials is disgustingly undemocratic. Regardless of how you feel about the board, how dare you write an editorial promoting this abuse of power.

And to all you hypocrites in north Dekalb who love to frequent this blog, you would be crying and complaining about “unfairness” if a black Democratic governor decided to remove a predominantly white Republican school board. You know you would. You like the law now because it suits you.


February 22nd, 2013
8:41 pm

IMO – the Board knew it was likely they would be suspended. They made sure Atkinson was gone so they could hire Thurmond to try to protect them. If he could not protect them, at least he could protect their Friends and Family.


February 22nd, 2013
8:44 pm

Perhaps we need to email Mr. Thurmond and suggest the teachers are the most important employees in the system. If he does not involve them, anything he does is for naught. Click on the link below to email him your thoughts:


February 22nd, 2013
9:20 pm

Mr. Thurmond its time for you to do the right thing by the Taxpayors of Dekalb County, Parents,Staff,Employees and the children. Resign NOW! Do it quickly! That would the wisest thing and the best gift you could give to this Crisis right now. Request from the Board to find someone internally in the school system or around the State who are much better qualified,experienced and does not require the hand holding you will. Refuse the additional 3 months of Pay. Say, Thank-you and make mention that your only intent was to provide assistance. Then leave the Stage.

You will be a better person for it and so will the Dekalb County School System. If this advice is not heeded. You will surely find yourself floundering around and accomplishing NOTHING! Now is the time for you to consider your own future political ambitions. If you stay and fail…..You are through politically!

You will be known through out the state as the politically connected former Labor Commisioner who became Superintendent woefully unqualified, inexperienced and failed miserably. One must know when to cut one’s losses and the Dekalb County School system for you is a LOSING HAND!

My best advice for you is Leave and play another DAY! Resigning Now will not harm you at ALL. However, if you Fail? Legal employment will be your retiring Profession.

The Deal

February 22nd, 2013
9:35 pm

Mr. Thurmond has talked more about what a great decision our board made in hiring him than he has about what he plans to do to make the lives of our students and teachers better immediately.

His first action was to help the adults in the system who never see a child, the BOE, by spending $150,000 on training.

So far we have paid him $275,000 to shake the hands of President Obama, various state legislators, an exec at Coke, Pepsi, and other corporations, and talk to hear himself talk like all lawyers like to do.

I still hold out hope that he is political enough and in this for his reputation enough to do some good things, but his actions do not match his words thus far.

His honeymoon period is going to be very short. As a DeKalb resident, he didn’t come into this job blind.

Private Citizen

February 22nd, 2013
9:47 pm

No offense to Mr. Thurmond, but you could hire six teachers for the same money he is paid. Six teachers at $10k more, each, than what experienced teachers with graduate degrees are making.

Maureen Downey

February 22nd, 2013
10:09 pm

@Tim, No children now or ever in DeKalb schools. Also, no idea what you are talking about as the piece you are commenting on is a letter from Michael Thurmond. Not sure what you mean when you write, “…how dare you write an editorial promoting this abuse of power.”


February 22nd, 2013
10:25 pm


I was talking about the editorial you wrote that was in the Print Edition last week. The one where you said the school board should be removed. I was just commenting on you and many others’ stance on this issue. I’m not saying that all the school board members deserve to stay. But there is no way that I support a governor who resigned from Congress because he was under investigation, to have the power to remove other elected officials. That is just insane. The 2011 law giving him that type of power is awful. Again, I’m not saying the school board shouldn’t be held accountable. But this business of letting the governor remove elected officials and then appoint who he wants is undemocratic, and I don’t support it. Just think about how bad the law is. What if Bill Campbell was the governor and he removed the Cobb County school board? How many fans of this law wouldn’t be fans anymore?

Private Citizen

February 22nd, 2013
10:34 pm

Tim, I am guessing that greater education shaping initiatives are hardly the work of one person. I expect there is a consensus on this action across many organizations, governmental and otherwise. It is my opinion that someone is taking the reigns and confronting the situation and taking action. Just the part alone about DeKalb County schools being a magnet for lawsuits is notable. During the hearing and questioning, one of the state board people said, incredulously, “I’ve never sued anybody, but I’ve been sued many times. The thing to do is to go to the person and work it out (and get rid of the lawsuit and suing and solve the problem). This is not what DCSS board has been doing, they’ve been using law firms, like ten of them, like running up a bar tab that never ends. Just this one factor of operational ineptness is incredible. One might say there is opportunity due to lack of law to prevent them from doing otherwise, but their methods of using law firms to handle situations is just literally off the charts, and demonstrates a complete void in actually managing and remedying situations.

Just Sayin

February 22nd, 2013
10:34 pm

Wow some of you guys are really disturbed. I feel so sad for you. To come to a blog an spew this much hatred and venom again and again is not healthy. We ALL get that you are angry and want change, but last time a checked. Posting repeatedly on a blog that has no power to implement anything you say is a bit bonkers. I mean seriously I feel like some of you may headed down the path to a stroke or heart attack. I like blogs and the debates that they sometimes create, but some of this is just too far. Amazingly enough many of you attack the blogger like she is the sole cause of all the problems she writes about. My goodnes get some perspective people. Calm down. Now I know this will cause some of the main offenders to start foaming and typing, but seriously get a grip.

Private Citizen

February 22nd, 2013
10:35 pm

Tim, They ran up $10 million in law firm fees in one year alone.

Private Citizen

February 22nd, 2013
10:41 pm

This probably has something to do with why the recent action is being taken: “DeKalb lawsuit cost now at $37 million.” http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/05/03/dekalb-lawsuit-cost-now-at-37-million-pass-me-the-aspirin/

Atlanta Media Guy

February 22nd, 2013
10:42 pm

I do not want to hear another word from Thurmond until he talks with his principals and teachers. I would also suggest that Ms. Tyson NOT sit in the same room, like she did when Atkinson was meeting with them.

Trust and Transparency is what many would like to see. Find the entire audit that Clew destroyed, do a new FORENSIC audit of everything and RELEASE EVERY WORD OF IT!. Get the check register for payables online, like so many school systems do today. Fire the entire Clew Crew and the F&F network. Establish a new financial and acheivement baseline and never look back!


February 22nd, 2013
10:52 pm

@Private Citizen

I hear what you’re saying about the use of law firms. But I must say, I don’t blame them for trying to stop the state hearing. Knowing that the Georgia Board of Education could give Governor Deal the power to remove them, I don’t blame then for contesting that. We had states that fought Obamacare all the way to the Supreme Court. Do you really think that school board members who were elected by the people were just going to lay down and let the Governor remove them based on reports from an unelected, unaccountable agency like SACS? If I was a school board member, I would have fought back to.

We just can’t go down this road, giving a governor dictatorial powers. A governor that has been under investigation himself. A governor who has constantly appointed his friends to positions in government in which they had no experience. And he now has the power to remove school board members? No way. He’s been under investigation more than the school board members.

Dekalb Teacher

February 22nd, 2013
11:07 pm

@Tired Taxpayer

REALLY? You want the teachers to burden themselves yet again on your lazy behalf? I mean REALLY? I am lucky that I am married. There is NO way I could survive if I was on my own. You don’t realize that the good teachers who want to stay take on a second job. Of course this has a knock on effect because those teachers are tired and cannot give 100% as they should. Once again….REALLY?? Enough is enough!!

Private Citizen

February 22nd, 2013
11:13 pm

Tim, Allow me to repeat that it is my opinion that this is not the action of one person, the governor. At the end of the hearing, it seemed to me that at least two of the board members where quite arrogant toward the idea of accreditation, practically ridiculing it. I have no romance with SACS, however it is their job to cover the basics and DCSS is out of line on the basics, therefore it is inappropriate for these board members to ridicule or ignore the big-house that is tasked with regulating them. It is is really an incredible situation. Once the state DOE posts the video online, which takes them a few days, I encourage you to watch at least the last hour of it and see how these boards members act about the concept of accreditation and the things that they say. They act like bad children when daddy is out of town, “I don’t know.” “The vase is broken? Must have been the wind that came through the window.” That sort of thing. It appears to be rhythm for them. I don’t care for the school board system on a good day, but the little I saw of the hearing, they seem completely out to lunch. The problem is the size and scale of DeKalb County makes it serious. This hokie pokie stuff might work in a small county somewhere. I encourage you to watch the hearing video once it is posted on the DOE website.


February 22nd, 2013
11:33 pm

@Private Citizen

I’m not saying the school board is blameless. But at the end of the day, it is one person- Governor Deal- who will decide whether they go or stay. Whether you have a problem with the board or not, this is not the solution. Please just answer this one question– Why should a governor who has been under investigation more than the school board members have the power to replace them? It’s not like he has the ethical high ground here…..


February 22nd, 2013
11:40 pm

Thurmond is and always will be a political animal and as such he is not interested in the children or the teachers of the DCSD. He was hired as interim superintendent by Walker another political animal. Thurmond is only interested in his position, salary, and power and in keeping all of them. I would be surprised if he is able to do anything other than kick the can down the road for someone else to fix. Thurmond is not qualified to be superintendent, he doesn’t have the education or more importantly the experience to fix the problem or much less understand the problem.

The new superintendent needs to clean house in administration, cut expenses, and empower the educational professionals to do educate.

@Bernie – I agree with you that……

Mr. Thurmond its time for you to do the right thing by the Taxpayors of Dekalb County, Parents,Staff,Employees and the children. Resign NOW! Do it quickly! Request from the Board to find someone internally in the school system or around the State who are much better qualified,experienced and does not require the hand holding you will. Refuse the additional 3 months of Pay.

You will be a better person for it and so will the Dekalb County School System. If this advice is not heeded. You will surely find yourself floundering around and accomplishing NOTHING! Now is the time for you to consider your own future political ambitions. If you stay and fail…..You are through politically!

You will be known through out the state as the politically connected former Labor Commisioner who became Superintendent woefully unqualified, inexperienced and failed miserably.


February 23rd, 2013
6:53 am

Thankfully we do have a law that allows for SACS and Govenor Deal to balance the actions of an incompetent School Board, not matter what color or political party any of those people are.

Not having met Mr. Thurmond I cannot speak for about his personality. I do think, though that his appointment to this position was Political and not functional. If that is the case, then I would think his is not at all qualified to be part of the DSB no matter how much they paid him.

Aside from what has been reported in all the media, I am sure there has been alot of manuvering by alot people that we do not know about. At this point it is highly improbable that there will not be some Politics involved in whoever replaces the 6 outgoing members.

BTW. So what if those members were duly elected. That does not mean that the so called Will Of the People was correct. If you assume that it was truly the majority of the people in those respective areas, those people could have been voting from a standpoint of habit and fear of the unknown. The Majority is not always right or correct. Up untill a few hundred years ago a majority of humans thought the earth was flat.