I TOLD YOU SO: Saga of the Last Superintendent Search

Posted on February 4, 2013 by Don McChesney

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” As speculation mounts that we’ll soon be in need of a new superintendent, it’s a good time to tell you the saga of the last superintendent search. It’s a cautionary tale.

The superintendent search was the most arduous and difficult task I dealt with while on the Board. I almost resigned a couple of times due to the ensuing train wreck I was powerless to stop. I always thought reasoned argument amongst board members would win out in the end. I thought facts mattered. Alas, how naive I was.

Let’s start with our search firm Ray and Associates. Some of our board will tell you Ray and Associates did a poor job. I thought they were quite professional and delivered quality candidates that met our requirements. As the BOE reviewed candidates, some of my fellow Board members ruled out candidates that had top-notch credentials and solid records that clearly met the requirements we designed. With each ridiculous objection, the selection criteria morphed into something else. Ray and Associates grew very frustrated because the BOE had them chasing their tail. In our original criteria we wanted a superintendent with communication and media skills, success in a challenged school system, ability to raise student achievement, and capable of removing the bloat from the central office . I was looking for a clean break and preferred that we not choose anyone with ties to DeKalb County.

The day we started the process I was full of anticipation. I had the opportunity to help make a choice that could fix our faltering district. At this point I was unaware of the hidden criteria for picking a superintendent.

We met to study resumes. We spent hours reviewing stacks of applications and resumes. I learned a great deal about my colleagues’ study capabilities. We all isolated ourselves around the room and began to read. We did not have discussions with each other during the entire period. Representatives from Ray and Associates were in the room to answer any questions. I took notes on each candidate. Some Board members seemed to have difficulty staying on task. Attention spans were all over the place. Those who did not take notes had a very difficult time at the end of the process remembering who was who. That is when one of our members asked if we could have pictures of the candidates. I knew then we had a real problem. Ray and Associates provided an “easy” matrix system evaluation so we could see where all our candidates stood as we ranked them in several categories. Two of our members never could really do the matrix system. The consulting firm had to show them how to add their numbers. I think the highest number we had to deal with was seven. You would assume that after awhile everyone would figure it out. These two never did. We probably did these rankings about four times.

Continue reading this saga on Don McChesney’s blog

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24 Responses to I TOLD YOU SO: Saga of the Last Superintendent Search

  1. Tim McGaughey says:

    Don:

    Thanks for your honesty and candor. The internal Board politics are not surprising. I am troubled to learn that SACS displayed clear favoritism for particular candidates based on what accredidation firm the candidate had previously used. That explains a lot about the SACS report.

    Thank you again for your continuing service to DeKalb County’s students.

    Tim McGaughey

  2. Amy Parker says:

    Pictures of the candidates – WHY???? Male or female was indicated. Are we looking at RACE?????????

    Just saying…

    But when is the last time that DCSS hired a White Person for a high paying postion?

  3. No Duh says:

    Astounding twist that SACS is manipulating Superintedent searches in their favor. Is it any wonder no newspaper or news station will try to tell this multi-faceted story? Unraveling DNA would be easier!

  4. No Duh says:

    Superintendent

  5. thedeal2 says:

    Don should request to speak in front of the state board hearing on the 21st. I wonder if they would hear him.

  6. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Amy P, . These are the same idiots that hired a law firm that “understood the culture of the kids”. They will never hire a Sup. that isn’t black again.
    When you have a Board Chair that says the following on record is it any wonder?:
    “I am a very race-conscious person. I know discrimination. I will not lead you to believe that I am race neutral. I see color. I love color. I do see in black and white, but judge me by my actions.”
    Well Mr. Walker, we are judging your actions now. Bringing this man in, even for a chat shows all of us your true colors.

  7. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    I think race could have been a reason for wanting pictures, but I’m also wondering if some of the BOE members requested pictures in order to keep the candidates straight. Just guessing from the wording on Don’s post about their difficulty following the matrix system.

    Now, the fact that there was difficulty following the matrix formula has a whole different bag of issues…sigh. The whole point of using numbers is to remove the picture identities in the first place. Again, questions of competency…just simple competency…sigh.

  8. Murphey says:

    @Amy Parker, The CFO, Michael Perrone, is white. Dr. Kathy Howe, in charge of Curriculum and Instruction, is white.

  9. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    They just have to keep it baby.

  10. thedeal2 says:

    I am proud of Don for posting this. He may not have been the strongest board member all the time, but when Nancy was elected, he straightened up. I appreciate his using his blog as a bullhorn for what has gone on behind closed doors. We have all had our suspicions and heard rumors, but here it is for everyone to see. The only thing he couldn’t do was name names, but, given what we see at the public meetings, I think we can all guess who is who. I hope someone gets this to the state BOE to read, and I hope they call Don, Tom, and even Zepora in to speak under oath.

    I fear that all of the executive sessions are going to lead to a situation where contracts are signed before we, the public, can do anything about it.

  11. Perrone and Howe are the token whites on Atkinson’s staff. And have either of them performed in an admirable or even competent manner? The short answer is, “No.”

    Perrone knows that keeping the books on a cash basis is wrong and that the accrual basis should be used to realistically accommodate the way DCSS receives funding and spends. But, he has dragged his feet doing anything about it. Nancy Jester has asked Perrone repeatedly in board meetings for information that he should have at his fingertips. He always says he will get back to her, but he never does. Have you ever watched Perrone at a board meeting? Even when responding to a direct question from a Board member (i.e., Nancy Jester), Perrone never takes his eyes off Atkinson. DSW has asked repeatedly for the financial statements presented to the Board to be in the original Excel format, instead of converting it to PDF format. It is impossible to check the work and to see what formulas are used otherwise. We have asked for this in an Open Records Request. We have also requested Bank Statements in an Open Records Request. Perrone has ignored all.

    Howe has been unable to establish herself on an equal footing within Atkinson’s staff, even though she is a deputy superintendent, as is Kendra March — and Howe is responsible for student learning and achievement. Howe is intimated by March. Worse — Howe refused to meet with a parent who had followed all DCSS policies (taking nearly a year because administrators at every level were slow to respond) to get a blatant and careless DeKalb County Schools error corrected on a student’s transcript. Actually, Howe did not “refuse to meet,” she simply ignored the parent who was requesting assistance in a polite and respectful manner — after every other administrative level either said they did not have the authority to act or refused to act. In fact, with time running out, this parent waited patiently outside Howe’s office for more than 6 hours one day for a chance to see Howe for 15 minutes. The parent had already sent Howe all documentation, which Howe had never read. Never, on that day or any other, could Howe find 15 minutes to meet with this parent. Ultimately, this blatant, uncorrected error cost the student a $100,000 full-ride scholarship. It is unlikely that this is an isolated example; it’s just one that we know about.

  12. John Dewey III says:

    Interesting article in the AJC today about Michael Thurmond…………

  13. howdy1942 says:

    I read that article in the AJC. Michael Thurmond is more of the “friends and family” stuff that has gotten us to where we are. Eugene Walker just does not get it – period! If he wants to keep his job, he needs all the support he can get and especially needs to avoid this “in your face” hooey. Michael Thurmond was not a strong Secretary of Labor. Surely, there is at least one person out there who is not a “friend or family” of any board member. We need someone who is proactive, aggressive, take-charge, clean house, action plan focused, and who has a proven business track record. Is it possible that we could “borrow” the Decatur System’s superintendent? I think that that management team deep is deep enough to fill the interim for a short period of time. Or how about the superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools for the interim? I also think that Senator Fran Miller has some good candidates. Walker would do well to reach out to Senator Miller at this critical point and try to gain his support. How about reaching out the the Dekalb Legislative delegation or to the business community to seek candidates?

    If Thurmond is the interim, then that is the final indicator that this Board cannot and is not capable of addressing the issues that need to be addressed if we are to maintain our accreditation. I am again going to write each member of the State Board and plead with each one to remove this Board. I encourage you to do the same.

  14. Princess says:

    So the issue isn’t that white people aren’t being hired but that the ones that are hired aren’t competent? So are we actually saying that this “black” district is hiring incompetent token “white” people on purpose? Come on ya’ll thats a stretch even for this group. So if you are black, in a sorority or fraternity, go to a certain church, related to ANYBODY in the second largest school district in the state of Georgia…then you can’t possibly be hired because you are educated and qualified. Sounds like reverse discrimination to me.

  15. Mom of 3 says:

    Princess- I don’t know why we (white people) feel we need to dance around this. YES! The DCSS practices reverse discrimination. I think I see the next lawsuit coming…Mr. Walker will need to call another closed door meeting to discuss who to hire for this one. I feel like I am watching Days of Our Lives or Dallas. Every week (or day) there is a cliff hanger that makes you want to tune in the next day.

  16. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Michael Thurmond???? This is really wrong! Why can’t we just hire the most competent person? Lets be honest…whites had a history of hiring their own, and now the blacks are doing the same. We need someone a proven ability to lead, no matter the color. When need someone to “right” this sinking ship. I am tired of seeing incompetent leaders being hired in this district. When the district hires incompotent teachers, they are often shown the door. Why can’t we do the same with the BOE??? Many voters don’t know much about teaching, learning, or board governance. The board has failed the students, teachers, and citizens of Dekalb, yet many of them cannot comprehend what they’ve really done. To make an excuse to the SBOE that they were side-tracked by rumors and other issues just does get it with me. Teachers are faced with rumors, complaining parents, and negativity from all direction; still they have a job to do. If they made excuses about not being able to complete their duties, they would ultimately be shown the door. Dr. Atkinson needs to have her say at the SBOE hearing, as well as private citizens, RIF’d employees, and current employees. When will this all end???

  17. Folks: There’s a board meeting tomorrow afternoon. They retire to Executive Session to discuss a personnel issue. Certainly this will lead to a vote for Michael Thurmond. Question is, what on earth became of Atkinson? No one has seen her for weeks.

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION CALLED MEETING

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a called meeting at 11:00am, Wednesday, February 6, 2013, in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center at the DeKalb County School System’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain. Immediately following the called meeting, the Board of Education will adjourn to the Cabinet Room for an executive session, for the purpose of discussing legal and personnel matters.

  18. Disappointed Parent says:

    As a parent and homeowner I am very disappointed and overwhelmed with concern about the plight of education in Dekalb County. The photos of Gene Walker and Sarah Copland-Woods “taking a nap” during the SACS meeting were pathetic! It’s unconceivable that these people have been charged with overseeing our educational system and the future of our children. The value of our homes have diminished and will continue to spiral out of control until a new superintendent and school board are put in place. These people are self-serving and incompetent! Please leave now and forget about your reputations! When my daughter came home from school yesterday she said there is a rumor going around that Cheryl Atkinson resigned. Today she came home and said all of the Dekalb Board members have resigned. PLEASE GO!… Our children should not have to hear and deal with such issues during their school day. It is unfair of you to put your own personal needs of validation in front of the needs of our children. Lastly, I would like to know if Atkinson has left and the current school board has resigned, does that mean we can go back to our original school calendar? The original on-line survey results were in favor of keeping our current calendar. The teachers were told that the new calendar would give them more days off during the school year so a paper survey was sent to all the schools to get the teachers to vote for Atkinson’s new school calendar. Instead of putting her efforts towards changing the school calendar and the name of the school system (now called “Dekalb County School District”) she should have focused her efforts to improving student learning. The best thing they can do to achieve “Victory in Every Classroom” is to resign! PLEASE GO!!

  19. howdy1942 says:

    It looks like we could have three “superintendents” or people being paid the salaries of superintendents in our school system – Atkinson, Tyson, and now Thurmond! In all of my life, I have never seen such a mess, gross incompetence, and unbridled arrogance. February 21, 2013, cannot come soon enough.

  20. Dedicated Teacher says:

    I understand the concepts and dynamics of culture and race. I also understand the practices of “whites hiring whites,” “blacks hiring blacks,” “hispanics hiring hispanics,” and “asians hiring asians” as a means to promote and preserve a culture. However, I have found the comments on this blog consistently fueled by racially charged hatred. Comments made about the newly hired CFO as “appearing to be competent” prior to any work being performed and implying that the superintendent is lying about her father being ill or deceased has nothing to do with ensuring quality education for our children.

    Repeatedly “white” bloggers who do not agree with blatantly racist statements are charged with having “white guilt.” In turn, “black” bloggers are charged with being polarized by “racial pride.” As a Black person who was not raised nor educated in the South (not referring to South DeKalb but the Southern region of the United States), I have found that these issues to be ridiculous.

    If political arguments are being made in favor of Republican or Democratic policies, consider the quality of education in states that are labeled “Democratic” versus those labeled “Republican.”
    Consider the current rankings for quality of education across this nation, not North DeKalb versus South DeKalb. Consider that political agendas are not helping (from either side). The Civil Rights Movement is over. There must be a better way. When will we stop caring about who cares about race and start making decisions based on facts and what is best for students, all students.

    So, if a new superintendent was hired that happened to be white but performed poorly at the job, would the fault lie in that person or black board members who hired them? Would they be accused of incompetence or understood that there was a huge mess to be cleaned up?

    Just a few questions…

    These students in DeKalb (North and South) are further and further behind because of foolishness. We sit on these blog sites, issue personal attacks, and chatter amongst like minded people. Do something.

  21. Dedicated Teacher says:

    If you know professionals who are qualified and competent and willing to work in DeKalb, encourage them to apply. If you are qualified, competent, and willing to work in DeKalb, apply for these positions.

    Before the complaints come. I understand that applicants who some of you consider “qualified and competent” have applied and they have not been hired. This is often the case of many organizations. Just Continue to encourage qualified applicants to apply and continue to hold elected officials/ hired personnel accountable for their actions.

  22. wondering says:

    Since when do people get 30 days of bereavement leave for the death of a parent? Is this a benefit that teachers also get, or only the admin? Is this paid or unpaid?

  23. A comment from Don McChesney’s blog:
    “Thanks, Don, for stepping up! What the h**l can we teachers do to get the word out, and show our support?”

    Response from DeKalb School Watch blog:
    Here’s what you (teachers, staff and parents) can do: Tell DeKalb School Watch what you know. Provide names, dates, events, meetings, etc. We are reporters and we know how to take that specific information, without attributing it to anyone or using anything that is personally identifiable, and investigate further.

    We understand the risk to faculty and staff. But, Walker, Atkinson and the others are bullies and the only way to bring them down and obtain the “justice” (fines, prison time) they so richly deserve is to tell what you know. (They are counting on keeping you too scared to do that. We are counting on courageous people telling what you know as well as how and why you know it.)

    If you know something because you are a confidant of Walker, Atkinson, et al or you are a highly placed employee, you may think that they will offer you protection. We can tell you, without equivocation, they will not. Walker, Atkinson, et al care only about themselves. Recent and past history proves that. Lewis tried to turn the heat off himself by implicating Pope. Atkinson quickly caved about Ralph Taylor. There is no honor among thieves.

    DeKalb School Watch has no personal agenda. We have worked hard to be a source of documented information (not gossip) about the wrongdoings in DCSS. But, it all comes down to you being courageous enough to tell us what you know and trusting that we will keep all identifying information confidential. We will.

    BTW — only two people have access to the password-protected DSW e-mail (dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com) and we do not share the e-mail content or the password with anyone else.

    Have you read “All The President’s Men”? We know that, in addition to Don McChesney, somewhere in DeKalb County is a “Deep Throat” willing to do the right thing. Are you that courageous person?

  24. Jeff Bragg says:

    re: Wondering at 12:21pm– I was a teacher in DeKalb in 2009, when my mother died in Texas. I could only take three days for bereavement leave (the max for staff), even though I had six months of unused sick leave. I used two sick days for the last two days she was alive. Superintendents, though, have special contracts with lots of extra goodies we peons cannot ever hope to see. Whatever the reason for her absence, there should be a specified procedure she should follow for documenting the dates and reasons for not being at work.

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