“Like many DeKalb County citizens, I am deeply concerned about the recent events involving the DeKalb County School District, most notably it being placed on accredited probation and the resignation of Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson,” DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis said in a statement.
He scheduled a meeting with key academic, business, community and political leaders to figure out how they could help as the local school board tries to fix the weak spots in the district identified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
“As leaders and concerned citizens of this county, we have a collective responsibility and moral obligation to ensure each and every child receives the best education possible,” Ellis said.
Mark Elgart, president of SACS’ parent company AdvancEd, said DeKalb’s separation with Atkinson only adds to the perception of the district being unstable.
“It’s a move that creates another period of uncertainty,” he said. “It’s just another transition and right now DeKalb County needs to stabilize and focus on its future.”
He added it was too early to tell whether bringing in a new superintendent would create a positive or a negative effect on the local school board’s ability to address its current problems.
District 40 State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, said he thinks the interim superintendent, Michael Thurmond, is a “decent person” who will likely “try to bring people together.”
Thurmond, who stepped in Feb. 8 when the school board relieved Atkinson of the position, is the fourth person to serve as the district’s superintendent in the past five years. In the same time frame, Gwinnett County has only had one superintendent, and Fulton and Cobb counties have had two.
The change in superintendents is just a distraction, Millar said. He believes the real issues are with the school board and the district’s drop in accreditation.
“This board’s behavior is what the subject of the investigation is,” he explained. “We’ve got problems with [the board]. We’ve had for a number of years, and now it’s coming to a head.”
Millar’s hope is for the state school board to recommend to Gov. Nathan Deal to suspend the DeKalb school board members and appoint new members.
The state board of education will hold a hearing Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Georgia Department of Education, 205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE, Atlanta, East Tower, 20th floor. The state board will decide whether or not to recommend that the governor suspend the DeKalb school board members.