What is Steen Miles talking about?

We’re confused. Steen Miles has published an opinion piece in the “Champion News” (only available in print or the January 27 online full pdf version, but moving around in email blasts) that viciously attacks Dr. Atkinson and praises Dr. Walker. In fact, the article is titled,

“School Superintendent Progress Report: failing”

Some quotes:

“If one had to assess the overall performance of new DeKalb School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson to date she’d have to get a failing grade.”

How can she be failing? She’s only been here a few months, and yes, she’s made changes to her ‘cabinet level’ staff, but let’s admit, she hasn’t even had time to address learning in the classroom and student progress should be the barometer by which her success is measured.

Miles continues,

“Just when we thought things were on the uptick with the election of Dr. Eugene Walker as chairman of the school board, more highly publicized dunderhead activities on the part of the new school superintendent come to light. One can only hope with Dr. Walker’s years of leadership, education experience and political acumen, that he will tutor Atkinson and help her make a passing grade. If not, her tenure here should be short-lived.”

Dr. Walker should tutor Dr. Atkinson?! Really? Does Dr. Walker secretly want to be the superintendent?

Then, Miles gets downright condescending.

“Perhaps one shouldn’t hold over the dear lady’s head the fact that she came from a 7,500-student system in Ohio to a system more than 10 times larger at some 95,000, but something has to be said of the need for comparable experience of which she is sorely lacking. It’s akin to allowing someone with crop duster experience at Uncle Ned’s farm to take a Boeing on a transatlantic flight.”


“Atkinson’s recent actions of shifting and reassigning key personnel before her expensive audit and the band debacle give rise to serious questions about her management ability.”

Don’t most new top-level managers pretty much clean house at the top and bring in their own people? I know that’s what the Governor did.  And Atkinson is paid more than the Gov.

“Four lessons and no more: No. 1. Put the children’s interest ahead of ego. Take time to learn the lay of the land before making wholesale changes. If you’re going to spend tens of thousands of our tax dollars for expensive personnel audits, why not wait for the audit findings before making wholesale changes that call into question the integrity and competencies of people being shifted? . . . Good, dedicated, competent people in operations and technology, the deputy superintendent for teaching and learning instruction, chief of curriculum, purchasing, the nationally recognized, award-winning, “I told you so” CFO have all been side-lined. Why? Because you wanted to bring in your own people? Fine. We realize a new broom sweeps clean. But an old broom knows the corners. Know the lay of the land. Sometimes cuts are too deep.”

An old broom knows the corners. That is kind of scary.

“No. 2 Take time to learn the “culture” of the system.”

No. Please do not learn the “culture” of the system, Dr. Atkinson.

“No. 3 Talk to your board and key stakeholders before making major decisions. Get buy-in.”

Hmmm. Why have a superintendent if the board insists on tying her hands? Why not just go ahead and let the board decide everything?

“No. 4 Don’t allow a “spokes-person” to speak for you on major issues. Don’t let your constituents hear about major changes from the media before you give them the courtesy of sharing your decisions with them. Own your decisions if you are confident about them. The time-tested PTA slogan might apply: “The school cannot live apart from the community.” Our hard-working staff and teachers (no matter who they’re related to) need to be appreciated not deprecated so as to give the best to our children.”

Then she closes with a mean-girl throw-down.

“It has to be noted that she cuts a striking figure as a parade grand marshal. Someone wondered out loud whether she exempted the parade from the ban on band activities so that the boys and girls could trumpet her ride down Main Street.”


Fast forward three days after Steen’s post and Ty Tagami at the AJC tells us that, Cuts to DeKalb schools won’t be immediate.

Now, isn’t that interesting?

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49 Responses to What is Steen Miles talking about?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Do you have any data to back up your claim? There is a copious amount of data to back up the steps Dr. Atkinson is taking as necessary to improve student achievement. Or do you feel as expressed in her opinion piece – that student achievement is not the main concern of the school system – rather keeping the status quo and “culture” that failed to move low income students forward is the main function of the school system?

  2. Susan Curtis says:

    Hi Eye On Dekalb,
    Steen Miles did not say Dr. Atkinson needs to be run out of town. She said she needed oversight and the guidance of Dr. Walker. She did say that Dr. Atkinson is a failure as did you. While I might agree with your opinion that she shouldn’t have been selected, I don’t think that she’s a failure. At the very least she replaced several people who were ineffective in their jobs, at best. That is a start for DCSS. I look forward to her being allowed to develop her plan for our district and then being allowed to work the plan without political interference from the BOE or any other entity. Our children deserve better than politics – they deserve an education.

  3. Miss Management says:

    This is really stunning. A hatchet job on behalf of Gene Walker. Does she once mention student achievement? No, just adults whose morale is suffering under the weight of these changes. And the digs about overspending are HILARIOUS. Yes, Atkinson has driven the county schools into a ditch in four month’s time! Tyson, Lewis and Pope are blameless. Riiiiight!

  4. Leo says:

    Eye On Dekalb,
    Could you please offer some background for your opinion? I’d like to know what you’ve observed that leads you believe that Ms. Atkinson is a failure. My opinion is that it’s very difficult to label someone who has only been in a job for 4 months as a failure, especially when they came into a job with some many huge problems like she did. But, I’m also very willing to hear both sides and if there’s something specific that she’s done or not done to date that leads you to opine that she is failing, I’d like to have the benefit of that information as well.

  5. Susan Curtis says:

    Thank you, Leo, for asking for clarification about why EOD believes that Dr. A is a failure. I appreciate your civil tone.

  6. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    The scariest part is that Ms. Miles used to be a journalist.

  7. Kim says:

    Another CK grad made good 🙂 … nicely penned, Faye.

  8. Kim says:

    Two bits … 1) The part, “…she exempted the parade from the ban on band activities so that the boys and girls could trumpet her ride down Main Street,” is quite a juxtaposition against what a little bird told me – Dr. A was outraged that Redan HS had arranged a fanfare by the band to welcome her on her first visit. She wanted to know why the children weren’t in class rather than trumpeting her … how weird is that?

    2) The poop is that Dr. A has very much been fire-walling herself in AIC so Ms. Stiles may actually be on point with the “solo decisions” part … if, that is, you are on the outside looking in at Dr. A making decisions without YOU …

    Eek, I really don’t want to watch the rest of this drama … I popped my nose into this business just because I wanted to understand how there could’ve been vagrants sleeping on school property in Brookhaven’s (Ashford’s!) public high school – it made no sense to me.

    I’m afraid it all makes too much sense now … they are always preoccupied with power and money and too busy to be bothered with the truth, or justice, or heaven forbid, education.

  9. Anonymous says:

    To Kim @1:08
    Dr. A is right….The students instruction time is valuable and need to be more respected in this county. That could have happened whenever Dr. A visited with different schools with the fireside chat. Instruction time + AYP= SUCCESS.

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