Nancy is exactly right.

Below is Nancy Jester’s statement welcoming Michael Thurmond as superintendent to the DeKalb School System. [Reprinted in full from Nancy Jester’s blog, What’s Up With That?.]
Click here to go to Nancy’s blog and leave your thoughts in her comments.

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Every month a Board member is asked to deliver inspirational remarks to start the meeting. Here are [Nancy’s] from Monday, February 11, 2013.

I want to welcome Mr. Thurmond to his first board meeting as our interim superintendent. You have come to us in tumultuous times. On behalf of all the children and taxpayers in DeKalb, I wish you much success.

I shared with the State Board of Education, on my blog, and now I share with you – We have three deficits:
1. Academic achievement
2. Credibility
3. Financial

Please seriously examine and address these deficits. Focus on returning competence and skills as the only credentials for hiring. Please make every decision in the best interest of kids and taxpayers. This sounds simple. But it often gets confused when the board talks about “things”. Remember, every dollar spent on something beyond the classroom teacher and other staff directly engaged with children in a classroom, is a dollar not invested in education. Things don’t teach children. Programs don’t teach children. Scripts do not teach children. Good teachers teach children. This is especially important for our most impoverished communities. Nothing can replace the gentle hand of a teacher reading and rereading a passage in a book and encouraging a child to think beyond herself, beyond today and imagine the possibilities of a full future.

Please communicate with the public. Please don’t let that be one-sided.

Please watch the budget like a hawk. I will.

Meet every principal and empower them. Tell them to tell you when they face a bureaucratic obstacle. Then, remove it for them. Principals are your CEOs; your field generals.

Empower each school community. Return discernment to our system. Don’t let heavy-handed, onerous, administrative regulations put up a wall between the school and the community of parents. Give principals, indeed every employee, the power to do what is in the best interests of children on the spot. Support them.

For more straight talk and honest information, please visit Nancy Jester’s blog, What’s Up With That?

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Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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22 Responses to Nancy is exactly right.

  1. Betsy Parks says:

    Nancy, Thank you for those encouraging words. Thank you for your votes. I believe you will do your best to keep your word but lets take a second to see what the new superintendent said last night….http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/interim-superintendent-will-try-to-avoid-state/vqP9s/

    DKBOE is out of control and I believe the Chairman is in complete denial of his addiction to power and is in need of an intervention. He will destroy anyone and everything in his way. We need the GABOE and Gov Deal to step in and help. We can not do this on our own. He is a scary man. He will hurt your children’s hopes of a quality education.

    To show your support to remove the DKBOE
    http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board

  2. Nancy is a class act. Too bad the rest of them are so utterly clueless.

    I have to give Mike Thurmond credit for being honest. He’s made it clear he will do anything to stop the State BOE from tossing out the Dekalb BOE so his pal Eugene can continue to fall asleep in critical meetings. He’s made it clear he is a politician first and has put the Board’s personal interests before that of the children/teachers/parents.

    How does a man with NO experience in education or running a school system get into such a position? Is he going to get his golden parachute when his interim-ship is over? Is he sticking around just long enough to protect his buddy and then scamper on to better paying gigs?

    If this does not scare you, Dekalb parents, it should. Write the State Board of Education and tell them you are not happy that a politician holds the future of your children in his well-connected hands.

  3. Procopius from Constantinople says:

    I fully support the removal of the full board by Governor Deal. Unfortunately I do not believe this will ever come to fruition. Say what you want about the current chair but he has remained on the government payroll for decades, often in spite of himself, and he will not go quietly. Look at his choice for superintendent; great move for protecting his turf in my opinion. Thurmond is already on record saying he will fight the removal of the school board.
    I would not be surprised at all if the US Justice Department has not already been contacted by representatives of the board. By representatives I mean lawyers, yep more lawyers at the trough funded by the good citizens of Dekalb County.
    I just do not think that Governor Deal has the political will to do the right thing and remove the board. That last thing he wants is to have the US Justice Department involved in the state, again.

  4. Marching orders says:

    Thanks Nancy for helping to voice our expectations. I would add that it is necessary to clean house of those individuals appointed by Atkinson. He needs to review the credential of those individuals’ and of those they replaced. The most highly qualified should stay or return to the position. The salary should return to its former figure.
    I personally want Mr. Thurmond to show good faith efforts by addressing the higher of a young man with no experience over seasoned current employees.

  5. checksbalance says:

    It is time for all of us to work together in support of our new Supt. and leave all of the hate and race bating alone. There are extremes on each side of this board and everyone needs to think of the students and move a little more towards the middle. It is time to take a breather and give this School System a chance to heal. Prayer is needed!

  6. Mary says:

    Nancy Jester is right on the money! If the Board is removed (and it needs to be), I hope she is one of the few that is called back. She has integrity, honesty, and intelligence–traits that are severely lacking in the majority of the board that currently exists, and in the current administration of DCSD with a few exceptions. The time to act is NOW–too much time has been wasted for children already.

  7. howdy1942 says:

    I may be out of line, but I am very concerned that this Dekalb Board has once again retained more lawyers – this time to challenge the State law that allows the Governor to remove a school board when its district has been placed on a certain path to losing its accreditation. In that regard, I would appreciate anyone who knows to answer the following:

    1. Assuming that the Board approved this decision to retain more lawyers, which board members voted for doing so and which were opposed?

    2. How much is this law firm that has been retained charging Dekalb County?

    3. Assuming that this issue would go all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court or beyond, has this Board or anyone thought about the total costs to Dekalb taxpayers?

    It seems to me like this is more of the wrongheaded thinking that has cost Dekalb taxpayers far more to fight the Heery case than to have paid the $500,000 (a much smaller amount) in the first place. I look forward to your response. Many thanks!

  8. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Uh checksnadbalance, bringing in one person, who by the way has absolutely no, zippo, experience in education will not be the driving force in healing this system. I find it simplistic to believe that sentiment. The chair by default was able to bring in his buddy to help him keep his job. He wasn’t brought in because of his vast knowledge, it as a polictical move. This does not ease our pain. Sorry, it’s not time to take a breather. We have been thinking of the children, that is all we do. It is the people in the palace that don’t. Don’t give up the letter writing and emailing folks.
    People who say now it’s time to settle down and get back to educating our kids, did all the problems just disappear? So M.T. is our new man, let him work his magic and everything will be okay? Sorry, didn’t believe when DR. A. got here, don’t believe it now.

  9. Mark says:

    Perhaps an oversimplified story, but an interesting read non-the-less about a formerly struggling school:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/the-secret-to-fixing-bad-schools.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1&

  10. murphey says:

    @Mark – thanks for the NY Times article. I’m afraid the phrase “too many districts squander their resources” describes DCSD completely.

    If we could take the $$ that we’re paying to lawyers and triple-superintendents we would surely have enough to have enough teachers and pay them at least a bit more.

  11. Thanks for the link, Mark. That is a great story. I especially like this statement:

    From pre-K to high school, the make-or-break factor is what the Harvard education professor Richard Elmore calls the “instructional core” — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of the students and the rigor of the curriculum. To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers.

    It’s really that simple. We need to stop making this rocket science (and a big legal issue…)

  12. Nikole says:

    Amen!

  13. September says:

    This is not the person I would have chosen to be our interim superintendent, but we need to give him a chance to do the job. Lawyers are generally good at solving complex problems and that might be good for our school system. Lawyers are skilled negotiators. Think contracts, lawsuits, finances, and employment issues. Our last superintendent spent a lot of time dictating instructional decisions from on high while ignoring, or maybe she just didn’t understand, the financial problems we were facing. She got into trouble because she didn’t do the right thing when she had to cut staff.

    A good school principal should be able to make most of the instructional decisions for her school. She should be able to make good hiring decisions. Our new interim super needs to be able to identify good principals, but he doesn’t need to do the principal’s job. There may be a place for a small number of educational advisors at the Palace, but most of the work of educating our kids needs to happen in the schools. Decisions should be made by educators working in the school community, for that school community. These are the people who know, or should know, the instructional needs of the students. Judge them by their work, not a test score.

    Michael Thurmond may not know the education field as I know it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do the job. If he is like the lawyers I know, he is probably busy collecting information, reviewing documents, and analyzing every situation he encounters at DCSS. Will he be more or less successful than an educrat? That will depend on him and only time will tell.

  14. Lisa from Lithonia says:

    Checksbalance: um sounds like you’re part of the friends and family crew. Telling us we need to support the new super, kinda like the last two? So many of us have NO voice. We have been trying to work together for years, only to be met by incompetence, corruption, voters electing a felon to the board, voters electing a board member that had a sexual harassment complaint which the state settled for $190k, a super hiring a guy who passes off cut and paste from the Internet as his own work, etc

    “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. ”
    Barack Obama

  15. dsw2contributor says:

    September @ February 12, 2013 at 7:57 PM: “Our new interim super needs to be able to identify good principals, but he doesn’t need to do the principal’s job.”

    A principal’s job is to supervise teachers – he/she must be able to reward great teachers and improve (or remove) bad teachers.

    Thurmond has never been a principal, never been a teacher and is not even qualified to be a DCS substitute teacher. How can he possibly identify good principals?

  16. dsw2contributor says:

    Thurmond was brought in to change the tone of the public debate.

    Thurmond’s job #1 is to change public perceptions: Instead of it being about the failed, ineffective & corrupt school board, he is here to frame it as a civil rights fight, a white republican governor removing black democrats from elected office, etc.

  17. Educators are trained to teach children. Promote them and they will think it is because they are very good at teaching. Makes sense, right? But, are they being promoted because you want them to now tell others how they should go about teaching the children? Because that’s how you end up spending tons of money on canned, scripted education programs that are not working. In a big system like we have here, you end up with a Superintendent who needs minions to report back and let him/her know if the teachers are teaching in the way that they are supposed to based on what the Superintendent thinks are his/her own personal skills that allow him/her to know how to teach better than any of the teachers on the staff. That’s what we have had here and it’s miserable for everyone. It leads to paperwork and testing mandates and instructional coaches and boring education programs that ignore the spark that occurs when a teacher cares about each and every child and is able to teach in the way that best suites the needs of that particular class for that subject at that point in time.

    A Superintendent should know how to manage people, watch the budget, spend cautiously, invest in the people and infrastructure necessary to get the greatest return on investment. And, in this case, that return should be measured by the number of successful graduates we are producing from their own neighborhoods. The property values, salaries, jobs and everything else will fall into place if you have a true leader at the top. I am optimistic about Thurmond, more so that I know he didn’t get the job because he was Walker’s friend. But, more concerning is that he doesn’t have a long term interest so we are still facing the possibility of yet ANOTHER new Super. in a year’s time and who knows who that person might be. They could easily undo any progress Thurmond might make and then we are back to square one.

  18. NOTE TO ALL: There is an effort underway for a possible recall. I will have details about a meeting that will be held this Saturday. Will post as soon as I know more.

  19. Please do keep us posted, Cell. A recall is really the only perfectly proper solution – it’s a reversal by the very voters who put the board in office. It’s the most American way to handle the situation.

  20. This just in:

    Restore DeKalb: Putting Children First, Maintain Accreditation & Local Control

    Learn the information in the SACS report and Grand Jury Investigation to include:
    · Why was DeKalb County Board of Education placed on probation?
    · What are the top five violations in the SACS report?
    · What are the five major charges alleged in the Grand Jury Investigation?

    Learn what you are not being told at the Information and Education Town Hall Meeting at Sanford Realty Company, 4183 Snapfinger Woods Drive, Decatur, Georgia 30035 from 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

    1) February 16, 2012: Information & Education Meeting

    2) February 23, 2012: Questions & Answers Meeting

    Where Do We Go From Here & Why?
    Organized by Citizens for Transparency, Education, Ethics and Accountability
    Contact Person: Viola Davis with Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter at 770-256-0034, Joel Edwards with WORC and King Ridge Homeowners Association at 404-966-1121 or Willie Pringle with WORC and a Southwest DeKalb High School Parent at 678-451-9333.

    Email: RestoreDeKalb@gmail.com
    Future Website: http://www.RestoreDeKalb.org

    Please download the flyer and pass it on to your friends and family: http://www.scribd.com/doc/125043723/Restore-DeKalb-Maintain-Accreditation-and-Local-Controlhttp://www.scribd.com/doc/125043723/Restore-DeKalb-Maintain-Accreditation-and-Local-Control

  21. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    GETtheCELLoutATL
    Will there be anybody there from DCSD? Who will be speaking?

    I happy to see this type of organizing in the communities.

  22. Thanks for the info Cell. We’ll add it to our Meetings & Events page at the tab at the top of the blog.

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