So, let’s say Atkinson really did quit… who would be the best replacement?

Rumors are flying that Cheryl Atkinson has quit her $250,000 post as the superintendent of DeKalb County Schools.  Maureen Downey’s blog at the AJC speculates the resignation and has over 100 comments. If it’s true (which we are beginning to believe it is…) then what next? We’re pretty sure that by law, we must have a superintendent in place at all times – even if technically an interim.  And the minimum contract that can be extended is for one year.

The following names have been floated by bloggers as possible interims: Gary McGibbony (former DeKalb administrator who went to Gwinnett and then to the state), Kendra March, Ramona Tyson, Morcease Beasely and Kathy Howe.

We are big fans of Dr. McGibbony, however, we are pretty sure that if he were to take the job it would seriously mess up his state pension, so then we’re also pretty sure he’s not going to throw his hat in the ring.  The others all currently work for the system and could slide right into the seat. We haven’t really heard any names from elsewhere, except the former super from Rockdale, Sam King, who we advocated for last time, but the board never seriously considered. He is now a super in Virginia.

So, how about it? Who do we need now? What kind of person could possibly come along and lead DeKalb out of the abyss? What will be the repercussions for the system regarding Aktinson’s resignation (if it occurs). Weigh in … this is a brainstorming session – all ideas will be posted!

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106 Responses to So, let’s say Atkinson really did quit… who would be the best replacement?

  1. Not Moseley, Segovis or Jester… We need a Knapp or a even a current or former CEO of a business. Someone who understands what ‘return on investment’ means and who can say so long to the many friends and family who have dug in deep and will not make it easy exit.

  2. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Dunwoody minute is correct — in the situation where a Super was no longer able to serve, a system is able to appoint someone to immediately step in, while figuring out what to do next.

  3. Irony: According to the GSBA, “Another consideration for boards is that Georgia law requires that board members be trained to evaluate the superintendent. GSBA offers this training annually at the New Board Member Orientation and also arranges special training opportunities throughout the year.” Since during the recent hearing our newest board members admitted they had not taken ANY training, wonder how that’s proceeding in those executive sessions?

  4. Beverly Fraud says:

    I’m guessing some people are upset that I insulted Colonel Kilgore by comparing him unfavorably to Cheryl Atkinson. But remember, Colonel Kilgore IS a fictional character. Pity the same can’t be said of Cheryl Atkinson. Or Ramona Tyson. Or Ronald Ramsey. Or Crawford Lewis. Or Eugene Walker. Or Ralph Taylor…

  5. H.A. Hurley says:

    Hate to be Debbie Downer, but who would touch DCS with a ten foot pole? Any decent professional would not consider it. The only ones to bite would be more of the same unethical professional charlatans who go from one system to another and bleed them legally and financially. We are stuck! Too sad.

  6. no name says:

    We need to recruit someone like Jerry Weast, a retired Superintendent who spent a dozen years running the Montgomery County, Maryland district. Montgomery County has some of the best public schools in the country. Weast ran the Guilford County, North Carolina district for 6 years before heading to Maryland.

    Here is a Washington Post article about him from August 2010, when he retired:

    Now, I am not saying Weast is the one for DCS; just that we need someone with a resume like his!

    Alas, as H.A. Hurley points out, it is going to be very difficult to recruit this type of person — anyone competent enough to actually change DCS would look at DCS and realize that they could do a lot more good at another district. Perhaps the Governor himself could convince a retired Superintendent that the challenge of taking over a district at the bottom and seeing how quickly it could be turned around would be a capstone to their career?

  7. Kim says:

    No Name, you have a very sober and valid perspective. Anyone who has managed an organization of any size knows that the type of expectation for change expressed by many on this thread is a 10-year proposition for DCSD. It really won’t matter who the next interim, or next permanent superintendent is if they simply step into the mess that is DCSD leadership roller coaster operated by the incompetent Board. Until our Board itself is made up of competent, deliberate, and experienced leaders, the Superintendent’s office will remain only a way-point for those who start on day one knowing they are on a 1-3 year mission with their primary goal being to move on with the best possible exit package before they are held accountable for anything.

    If we look at the successes in systems in recent memory, often a key characteristic is the tenure of the Superintendent. I have noticed this fact in individual public and private schools, too. Leadership over a period of years by qualified individuals provides the environment systems and individual schools need to thrive. Education it seems to me is even more susceptible to turnover in leadership than private sector organizations.

    So, I harbor little hope in the short run for DCSD. Putting together the right leaders at the top would be a huge success for 2013. That would just be the beginning of the journey. It will take years to re-org and hire the right type of resources across the system.

    If the State removes the Board, and if the State appoints a “Dream Team” to the Board, and if this team replaces the senior leaders of DCSD over the next year, and if the appointed Board completes the Superintendent search successfully, and if they find a candidate that brings the needed experience, ethics, and endurance necessary, then we will see positive results in the 5-10 year time frame IF we as a community stay vigilant and send competent leaders to future Board seats.

    That is a whole lot of “Ifs” to consider … but the longest journey begins with the first step – remove the current Board and pray the appointed one brings the gravitas necessary to guide us through this landmine field of “Ifs” to move forward on the real sobering challenges …

  8. Can either one of you – Concernedmom or Dunwoody – quote the board policy or Georgia law on this situation? It seems ridiculous to have to place someone on a contract so quickly… that can’t be right. Even if it’s the minimum contract, which I think is 1 year – it just seems like an impossibility to find the right person under duress. That’s how we got Ramona, which plunged us into the worst test scores ever, along with the biggest budget deficits.

  9. Hoping it is true! says:

    TRUST IS THE KEY and Three Most Important Factors:

    Someone who values smaller class sizes and planning times, Someone who isn’t spending more money implementing more programs that just adds more documentation and takes away from teaching times, and Someone who can get the finances straight and open for the Board to vote clearly in a timely manner.

    For the past umpteen years, we have had “TOO MANY CHIEFS”! We need more $$$ going toward lowering class sizes and giving more planning times to teachers so that they can actually teach. There are too many different programs (and each with MANY ADMINSTRATORS– all aimed to evaluate teachers by evaluating students. Teachers are giving assessments to children non-stop for state standards, Success For All (SFA), GKIDS/CRCT’s, report cards, and Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s). They are constantly being told by administrators that these are all correlated (yet they are not!) Each assessment is very time consuming and the record keeping is very time consuming. Each assessment is NOT about what the child is learning. It is about what the teacher is NOT teaching. They do not have the exact same objectives. Many of these tests are giving one on one with no time to teach the other children while each one is being assessed. Why do we need so many duplicate assessments except to justify all of the different administrators analyzing data for each one? It is the most time consuming BS that anyone can imagine. The meetings involved to document remediation gives no actual PLANNING and IMPLEMENTATION time for the students to actually learn what they are being assessed. We need a superintendent who can put more money into having more “TEACHING” personnel rather than justifying “over inflated” salaries for all the extra “administrators”, “academic coaches”, SFA “facilitators” etc…

    Also, we need to get someone who can make sure that the accounting department is able to give the School Board ACCURATE and DETAILED information in a timely manner. The Board should have time to study the potential consequences of their vote on line-by-line budget items before they vote. Last summer’s fiascos were the most unprofessional, embarrassing displays of incompetence (or possible) deception imagninable! The lack of information to the Board and staff regarding contracts created enormous legal ramifications that should never have happened. We need someone who is willing to give the School Board ALL of the facts rather than just what they want them to see in order to manipulate their vote.

    Open up the record books– If more people see where the money is going– TRUST is the only way to rectify the budget and make sure money is going toward actually TEACHING children.

  10. You are superman says:

    Also go back and beg woman that said no because DeKalb disclosed her negotiation info. Dr. King if he would be willing. Pull the vets that were done initially. I would not take anyone who is currently working for DeKalb. Get someone that will get rid of all those folks who Atkinson brought here, includes getting rid of Tyson; too restore Area superintendents and principals.
    Lastly, do not let the district attorney drop the ball with Atkinson or the board. Furthermore, we still need a definitive answer about Tyson and Atkinson possible kinship.

  11. I suspect this is primarily an ultra conservative interpretation of the law, which does not specifically say “thou shalt have a superintendent 24/7.” “We’re pretty sure that by law, we must have a superintendent in place at all times – even if technically an interim. And the minimum contract that can be extended is for one year.” The interpretation is that there’s no provision less than a minimum 1 year contract – no absence within the position, no less-than-one-year interim role.

    2010 Georgia Code
    § 20-2-101 – Appointment of school superintendents

  12. Concerned Citizen says:

    I hope that the superintendent is resigning or has resigned; then, the next best thing will be when the gov ousts all of the school board. Perhaps, then, there will have been enough disruption to the deeply entrenched corruption, that some major change could begin. There are also some others in high positions that must go – looking at HR and area office superientendents.

  13. The law also states that a superintendent can concurrently serve as a principal, teacher, etc. Why can’t that contract override the 12 month minimum contract requirement? I just wonder if they’re interpreting the law too literally and too narrowly.

  14. Terry says:

    Why doesn’t Ch 2 (Belcher) interview OTHER members of the board? We always get the walker point of view which we seem to know is a bit skewed….(sarcastic). I don’t watch much Ch. 2 any more. I really hope Monday will bring us the answers this county (and it’s children) deserves!

  15. waitaminit1 says:

    Undercover reformer and Dunwoodyminute–what do your suggestions have in common? You pegged it. However, you both have to explain why you think so, so we can get an idea whether you’re thinking at the right level–political, not bureacratic. The rest of you (I love you, but) you guys think this is all about ed quals FIRST. Even tho the guy Undercover and Dunwoodyminite have suggested HAS the ed quals thats no why he surfaced last time–and will this time. Political first, ed second.
    After all, who are the people orchestrating this coup? Who does this man work for? Where was he sent when Clayton had there problems–by who?
    I already told you two weeks ago that the board is being offered their seats ONLY if they do what the governor says FROM NOW ’em by the short hairs FROM NOW ON.

  16. We also looked for an obit. Nada.

  17. Dekalb School Board for Dummies says:

    The names that I heard for replacements were Bowie or Callaway…more of the same.

  18. Concernedmom30329 says:

    DSB for Dummies

    Three months ago, those were the names being floated. I am now hearing the opposite… while it may be someone with ties to DeKalb from the past, those ties will be distant and not as inner circle as the names you listed.

    We will see.

    Walker speaks for the system and Board because that is one of the duties of the Board Chair. Additionally, most others aren’t willing to speak out, though from time to time they do. (Orson won’t be that shy I bet.)

  19. Blindsided says:

    BOWIE or CALLAWAY???!!!! SURELY you jest!!!!!!

  20. Blindsided says:

    Sorry, that should read ‘Bouie’.

  21. Retired DeKalb teacher says:

    It has to be an OUTSIDER or nothing will be done!! The ones deciding on the super can’t be this BOE…Walker and his crew will do the same as before. They want someone they can control! Lord, please help us save this school system that was once ranked one of the tops in the U.S. This was the 70’s and you were required to have a Master’s Degree or working on one to be completed in X time. I began in DeKalb in ’72 and was proud to be there. When I retired in 2000, can’t say the same.

  22. DSW I would laugh as we all could if it weren’t so horrific. We need to sport SAVE THE CHILDREN OF DEKALB COUNTY shirts!!! I’ve read a few messages regarding allowing us to go ahead and lose our accredidation. With my rising class of 2014 son that doesn’t bode well with me nor do I think it would with any parent who’s child is slated to graduate in 2014!!!

  23. educator90 says:

    Denise, while I understand your feelings. There is a big picture here. If we have an insider as our interim superintendent, we are likely to lose accreditation we are also likely to not make the necessary improvements that the children of DeKalb need and that the schools need to improve. Right now, I am not concerned about one class of graduating seniors, but at the entire group of children who attend school and who are suffering, as the teachers are suffering from not being able to teach.

    I pray that Atkinson is leaving and that we can find someone outside of the county and politics to clean house and finally put things in order. If accreditation is lost during this process, so be it, as it is a process that is desperately needed and without it nothing will change or improve.

    In DeKalb we have to stop being selfish and thinking of me, or mine, and look at what the entire district needs to improve. Always put your needs and that of family and friends is a large part of why we are in the shape we are in.

  24. Denise, the Clayton County graduating seniors were not penalized by SACS, as we remember.

  25. howdy1942 says:

    Atkinson’s resignation would be a great step forward! She has not been very effective and, given what has happened, has little if any chance to regain the confidence needed to lead.

    It would also be a very, very positive step forward if Walker, Cunningham, Copelin-Wood, and Speaks resigned. If they considered the interests of our children, our people, and our school system, they would leave – they have no chance of success on this board. If they don’t, then the State Board has no alternative but to remove the entire board on February 21, 2013.

    I would agree that someone such as Dr. Knapp with no prior connection to the Dekalb School System would be best. We need a strong leader who has a vision, a mission, a set of strong values, and a proven track record. One name for consideration is Dr. Stephen Hefner, presently superintendent of District 2 in Columbia, South Carolina. He is a man of integrity, has a proven record of success in School District 2, and will not tolerate poor performance. He can work with a school board, he is highly respected by the people and his peers, and would hit the ground running. We do not need Ramona Tyson nor do we need anyone who has ever been even a remote part of the mess we have in Dekalb. We need someone who can be charged to clean up the mess, get control of the finances, gain the confidence of the people, and restore our school system to excellence.

    I’m sure that there are many excellent candidates. But we need to have a new school board that will truly consider the candidates, conduct the hiring process professionally and maintain confidentiality with the people involved, and rise above the influence of race.

  26. Concernedmom30329 says:

    There are two issues here– sort of. One is an interim superintendent, likely to be a short timer, unless someone like Knapp is appointed. Second is the appointment of a strong permanent superintendent. That is the key to a turnaround.

  27. ConcernedDCSDTeacher says:

    If either Kendra March, Morcease Beasley, or Ramona Tyson is hired I will not return as a teacher to Dekalb!

  28. educator90
    Please do not misinterpret my statement as being singular to one group or class. My previous comments and statements have always been to do what is in the best interest for every student in this county- I have yet to discriminate and continue to strongly support those efforts .As a MOTHER of a rising Senior I have a concern on a personal level- regardless of whether accreditation did or did not affect Clayton county, no one family, student, community, or rising graduates needs the added stress and pressure of that hanging over their head. We teach our children (or at least I teach mine) that hard work pays off. They have one task and one task only- to go to school and to do their very best- That is their job.

    When the system fails them, and when the situation is to the degree and state that it currently is in- it’s not acceptable- Although I am a child advocate, and a community advocate, I suppose the selfish mother in me simply wants the best for her son in this case, and that being to be able to walk across a stage with his head held high with NO SHAME associated with doing a job well done.

  29. dekalbite2 says:


    I agree that your concern for your child should come first. It is a poor parent that sacrifices their child on the altar of their own belief. Rising seniors would bear the brunt of the loss of accreditation. When I was a teacher, every student was my concern, but as a parent my own child was my main concern. You have worked tirelessly for your children and their school. That’s why you have a lot of credibility with me. If anyone understands how the “old guard” operates, it is you as you saw it firsthand in the recent Board election.

  30. We notice you did not mention Kathy Howe. We are not impressed by Howe, either.

  31. Guy Midvale says:

    Concernedmom30329 is correct. The interim superintendent should be a short timer, 2 years at the most. Their job will be to clean house. I recommend opening up all the central palace positions and making everyone reapply for their jobs. Not all current positions would be on the new org chart. and the pay for all positions should be reduced.

    We should have a brand new board after the election in June 2014. Let them start in July and their first priority would be to hire the replacement superintendent. This time using a different (and less expensive) search firm.


    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday,
    February 4, 2013:

    1:00pm Called Meeting
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    2:30pm Called Meeting to adjourn to Executive Session for the purpose of
    discussing legal and personnel and matters
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex

  33. A poster noted above that Dr. Speaks should go with named board members. I strongly disagree. She is a good Board member and advocates intelligently for ALL the children of DeKalb. No playing favorites there!

  34. Concernedmom30329 says:

    While I think Speaks is fairly harmless, she has way to much knowledge to have sat back as quietly as she has most of the last 4 years. Once McChesney became a bit more empowered thanks to Nancy, then Speaks did to.
    What sets Speaks apart, and makes her a disappointment to me is that she has a lot of knowledge that she hasn’t applied. She knows a tremendous amount about how things are suppose to operate and she has let too many things fly.

    I am concerned that if citizens start demanding that the Governor pick and choose (aside from the three newly elected board members and even that frustrates me) we will end up with mostly the same folks. Because you better believe that if you want Jester kept, there is going to be someone arguing to keep Edler or Walker or Cunningham. (Can’t think of anyone that would argue to keep Copelin-Woods, but I could be wrong.)

  35. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    Just my perception…but it often seems that Howe is thrown under the bus by other admins…sounds often, to me, that March and Atkinson use her as a scapegoat for ideas they have that do not work successfully. Just my interpretation from watching SB meetings and having email exchanges with March and area superintendents.

    Not advocating for anyone, just presenting an alternative to the “unimpressive” perception.

  36. Truly, we see NO ONE currently in the employ of the school system who would be a remotely decent choice to lead this billion dollar, 100,000 student system out of the abyss! We need a TURNAROUND PROFESSIONAL – maybe one from the business world. Just give someone strong 1 year to do what’s necessary to set proper people and procedures in place for a future of success. No one currently employed in the system can do this. No one.

  37. waitaminit1 says:

    One of our problems is that we think we know the “old guard”. You don’t unless you were involved with school politics earlier than 2000. You gotta understand that the real “old guard” still runs things–and is the reason why you have the cognitive dissonance with the power structure since 2000. Until you understand how things really work, you spin your wheels.

    Understand the real “old guard” by who gets put in place by the governors office and go from there.

  38. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Does anyone out there think for a minute these idiots will actually make a decision that will enhance our county’s standing? No. They will make political decision to save their butts, personally and collectively. They will in not in way hire an individual who has the power, fortitude to come in an clean out the palace. They do not see it as a necessary thing to do. WE DO. But those that do the hiring, don’t . They believe, based on Walkers statements, that they have a hard time governing because they have to deal with too much supposition and rumors. They put the Superintendent into the Kudos box and labeled her a valuable asset to the county. They will not hire anyone but will promote someone to toe the party line.

    I believe it will be March. She is the woman responsible for telling the school this year when they would have their open houses, remember? This doesn’t mean a lot to some but this is just an example of her stupidity. Why would someone from the CO think they knew more about how the school house should run an open house? Why would CO care? Anyone remember standing in long lines, 2 hour windows for 1600 students, parents and cars in the parking lots? What an idiot.

    My point is that the CO should only be involved if a particular school has a repeated issue with serving their community. What an idiot but so typical, screw something up for everyone instead of fixing the actual problems at select locations. This is just the kind of thinking that gets a person promoted in this system.

  39. DeKalbMama says:

    The superintendent job should absolutely not go to anyone who currently has anything to do with this failed system. We need a strong, committed, leader who puts children and education first. Someone like LAUSD’s John Deasy comes to mind. Frankly, why not appoint Nancy Jester? Someone with a proven track record of standing up for what is right regardless of how unpopular it makes him or her. I still stand by the notion that we need a business leader, not an educrat. We need someone who will dig in and do the dirty work of firing bad teachers and bad administrators, and lazy do-nothings in the F & F regime. Someone who will set policies that hold students accountable by holding them back if they fail. Someone who will cut out art and music programs at schools that don’t meet academic standards and replace them with Saturday school and summer school. Our system needs a reality check and someone strong enough to do what it takes to fix it even if it means pissing off certain constituencies.

  40. Undercover Reformer says:

    Can someone (one of our legally adept readers) please help me understand the GA Code? It appears to me that OCGA 20-2-107 should describe the rules regarding filling vacancies of county school superintendents. However, the rule appears blank. So..where are we getting this information about having to have one in place at all times? I’m trying to do the research but coming up short.

    Copyright 2012 by The State of Georgia
    All rights reserved.

    *** Current Through the 2012 Regular Session ***


    O.C.G.A. § 20-2-107 (2012)

    § 20-2-107. Filling vacancies in office of county school superintendent

    Repealed by Ga. L. 1993, p. 1279, § 12, effective April 15, 1993.

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