BREAKING NEWS! Live Video of Michael Thurmond Addressing Brookhaven City Council Meeting

The Brookhaven Post is streaming LIVE the meeting of the Brookhaven city Council.  Tonight, at 7 PM, Superintendent Michael Thurmond, accompanied by State Representative Mike Jacobs, will speak to the Brookhaven City Council.  We encourage everyone to tune in!

That live stream will be on under the LIVE EVENTS tab.

The higher resolution versions will be posted tomorrow after processing.


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95 Responses to BREAKING NEWS! Live Video of Michael Thurmond Addressing Brookhaven City Council Meeting

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    I cannot get the link. Any others?

  2. THURMOND: We are willing and able. We are making the tough decisions. We are getting our fiscal house in order. Being fiscally responsible. You’ll see a different focus for FY 2014. I spoke with our board leader (?) Marshall Orson as well as the chair Melvin Johnson. Met with State Super. Met with others at the state. I go from one end of the district to the other. In the morning I’m in a meeting with DeKalb chamber. I’m in the listening phase. Talking to parents, students. Had town hall meetings. The truth will set us straight. I am here to listen. Been in elected positions for 25 years and have been called everything. I can take it. I love honesty. We need to be honest.

  3. Thurmond: The thing about going north south east west, (lists schools he’s visited) this county is one of the most diverse counties in America. We often look at diversity in a 20th century lens – the old north vs south DeKalb days. Friend told him when she was a senior at Columbia HS it was 95% white and transformed to 95% black by the time she graduated. (?) We always believed the north side was better funded and received more resources than the south side. Thurmond was stunned. Issues are old. We have to open up the lines of communication.

  4. He also addressed the Tucker community at the beginning of Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s meeting yesterday at Tucker Middle School. Nothing new … just that he still thinks accreditation will be saved ad he wants people who are freaking out and running around trying to create cities to make sure they are not doing it for a new school system because that will not happen.

  5. All about the honesty. Why are you moderating my comment about his attendance at a meeting in Tucker??

  6. Q: Concerned that SACS issues have to do with process – nothing to do with substance – educating children. Has a fear that children continue to be lost in the process. Teachers losing hope. Kids losing time. Do you have a game plan that addresses SACS (which is secondary) and addresses the quality issues for our students.

    A: Problems are sometimes symptoms. SACS pointed out symptoms. An opportunity to redirect the focus of the district. We won’t stop at just responding to SACS. We have to refocus direction, attention and resources to improving the funding to the classroom and educating students. We want to rebuild and increase academic achievement. First – look at who is enrolled. Nearly 20% are English learners. Many have parents who don’t speak English. Again, the old north-south, black-white construct is old thinking. (Talks about variety of stores, etc in Chamblee, Buford HWY, student in those schools.) Must develop a model that has flexibility – not pushed down from Central Office. Decisions made regionally. Must lift those on the bottom. 71% of students qualify for Free and Reduced lunch. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn. I’m a free and reduced lunch kid – qualified from 1st-12th grade.

  7. Q: Student: I was a free and reduced – went to Williams College. How many workers are there in the Central Office? How did you cut 600 people? What were they doing? Can you give us a number working in CO?

    A: Last year DCSS cut the budget by more than $90 million. Cobb County is facing about the same. Talks about property values and taxes. State has decreased funding. Not an excuse for bad fiscal management. Not only did we cut the budget, but teachers have not had a raise in 6 years. And furlough days have gone up – every furlough day is a reduction in salary. I don’t know what they do in CO. You will see a difference in 2014. That’s the budget I’m responsible for – not the 2013 budget. [Doesn’t really answer that specific question about the 600 or how many are now working at CO.]

  8. Q: Ashford Park resident – Cross Keys grad – We thought we were at the bottom of the barrel and Dunwoody, Lakeside got all the money. Want to see accountability. My neighbors had a run in with DCSS about trailers. Concerned about old trees and limbs falling. First they said no. Then they brought 8 more trailers. No accountability. Everyone passes the buck. Hoping for accountability. School board is untouchable. Build without permits – land disturbance.
    A: You do have a new school board. I encourage you to vote them out if you’re not happy. You are responsible. I can’t change them – voters can if they choose to. Your vote counts all over – they have to serve the whole county. You can campaign, send money – work to elect reps in other districts. We have to move away from my neighborhood, my district, my school. Self interest is important – but at the end of the day if we want our county, our state, our country to be successful then we have to be concerned about educating other people’s children.

  9. Q: Teachers are embarrassed to work for the county. Want to retire. Wants to know facts about teacher pay and retirement. Perception is the longer they stay, the worse their outcome. And – what are you doing to retain and recruit the best? No one is hearing anything.
    A: 5 meetings that have been full of teachers. I talk to communities too – have to restore trust. We didn’t do a good job explaining to teachers and employees about the cuts. When I was labor comm – 12,000 teachers laid off. I traveled the state helping them with unemployment etc. Public education faces the same cuts as other state agencies. I am telling them the truth. Funding and politics is totally different. There are not the same amount of resources available today as in the past. Everyone has to do their job differently.
    Q: But are our teachers underpaid? Can I find out the facts for myself?
    A: Their pay is not keeping up with inflation. 6 furlough days.
    Q: Encourage you to find out the competitiveness of their pay.
    A: Right now I’m addressing a $16m deficit. Priority is balancing the budget.

  10. Q: Top heavy administration. That’s where you should look first to make cuts.
    A: I have 5 direct reports in my top-heavy administration.
    Q: Who controls the bureaucracy of the CO?
    A: I do.
    Q: AJC did a report on spending per student and admin to teachers – Dekalb was 12 to 1. Gwinnett was 7:1. We had 5 more administrators per teacher than Gwinnett. I hear from teachers that the cuts need to occur in the Central Office first. We can all agree teachers are more important (big applause). You need to reduce administration.
    A: We’re looking at every level. I’ve been in crisis org’s before. I don’t base decisions on what I’ve heard – base it on rational info and what is best for the organization. What you say may be true, but I don’t know it to be true. I woke up one day and was asked to be super. I can do whatever to make decisions that are best for students. My 2014 budget is focused on instruction and teachers. Follow the money.

  11. dekalbite2 says:

    “I spoke with our board leader (?) Marshall Orson as well as the chair Melvin Johnson. ”

    Well, at least we know who is running the show.

  12. Q: Answer to teacher pay – you can look it up online. Salary is for 10 months but spread over 12 months. You can make extra during months not working. Tells job history – military – phD at 62 – going back to teaching. Talks about housing costs – taxes… [can’t follow…] Everything is going to be alright. Stop over spending – live in budget.

    Another Q – someone else: In most organizations, people are scared of the super – the CEO – or leader – most don’t know who the board is. Our board is too powerful – make wrong decisions. What are you going to do as a CEO with a 600 person staff? [misunderstanding here – the issue is that there were supposedly 600 people CUT from the CO – but we can’t get confirmation – think it’s waaaaay off.] We’ve all suffered job losses and no raise. Weird to expect a raise. How are you going to handle the Board vs the last supers.

    A: Transparency. Honesty. Need a strong involved board to succeed in the classroom. Need a strong, involved, informed board. I don’t have anything to hide.

  13. Q: Resident near St Joes. Worried about children. Sounds like this thing’s been going on a decade. SACS is very very frustrated.
    A: I have a working relationship with Dr Elgart. Monday I was at his office. Open lines of communication. Two of his officers came to my office. We can work this out. We have to recognize we’re all in this together. SACS and Elgart want to do what’s best. He doesn’t want us to fail.

  14. Q: How can one person make a difference? IS the school system too big?
    A: No. This is the 3rd agency I’ve run. One person with courage can make a majority. One person who believes in the asset that is our children. We’re not the the largest. That doesn’t prevent us from being good. We must recognize the commonality of our needs. The Board represents the dysfunction in our county.

    Q: SACS is symptom of larger problems. Questions have been about top heavy admin. You said you haven’t seen evidence. (says he’s weighing the evidence) – Have you looked at the old audit by Deloitte & Touche [it was Ernst & Young] – gives history. I would be discouraged if no one in CO approached you with info about that report.

    Thurmond: What year was that report? [??? He doesn’t know about the 2004 E&Y AUDIT? Ramona!! You got some splainin’ to do!]

  15. Thurmond: I’ve not hired a single person. I will afford them the same opportunity I afford you – I wouldn’t fire you based on comments from others.

  16. Q: [Clarifies previous questions] People aren’t talking about performance. [Gives examples of inefficiencies] It’s not about their capability – it’s about efficiency – often there are just too many.
    A: I don’t respond to hearsay evidence. I don’t respond to what people say about Brookhaven. Don’t judge me based on 5 years ago. We are moving in a new direction. We can learn from the past but move forward from the past. I’m working toward the future of DeKalb – our children. My parents taught me – don’t judge people by their history.

  17. Q: [Couldn’t hear] Something about don’t cut classrooms.
    A: OThers come in with new plans, new curriculum, etc. I don’t do that. Going to evaluate what we have before proposing anything new.


  18. EAV Mom says:

    He has been here for several weeks now and hasn’t looked at staff numbers, current and historical and compared them with other systems? The fact that our system is top heavy has been one of the most consistent concerns I have heard from the public, yet he acts as if he’s surprised to learn that this is something he should be focused on. I am not impressed thus far with the new super. I hope he convinces me otherwise, and quickly, but I think the new Board needs to get busy looking for a new super.

  19. Mike Jacobs up next: Talks about school system-related legislation.

    Most important task for the county – restoring full accreditation for our schools.

    Re: Removal of school board:
    Local legislators were briefed along the process. Gov appointed highly qualified people. They are insulated from the political process – none are connected to legislators. Losing accreditation effects our ability to attract business. Takes issue with what he’s hearing against SACS. That it’s about adults, etc. But says it’s still important. Their issues have merit: If we lose accreditation due to dollars spent on legal fees. That’s money not spent on children. Nepotism: If true, we might not have the best people running the system. Shouldn’t diminish requirements to regaining accreditation.

    RE: HR 486 – city schools Constitutional amendment proposal:
    Const. says after certain date, no more school systems. Taylor introduced, Jacobs co-signed – systems made after Jan 2010(?) can either individually create city schools or jointly form indep school system with neighboring municipality. Adjacent. Chamblee included – could create joint system that could be Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Chamblee and possibly Sandy Springs. Not an immediate project. Votes prob aren’t there today. But it’s a process. Can build support. Requires 2/3 of House and 2/3 of Senate. Rural areas usually have pushback on these kinds of issues. That’s why the date is added. Not likely to pass in current term, but will continue to talk about it into the future. Presently have very good option. Dan Weber is here and is the expert on this — form a charter school cluster. In fact, Druid Hills HS cluster is presently working on creating a charter cluster. Other clusters ought to look at this. Need to form a board – create achievement objectives – acquire public funding. Immediate option available. A lot of work – need to interface with school system.

    Also mentions – today an Ashford Park resident emailed Jacobs and Holcomb [gives kudos to school system for discontinuing school system’s participation in the lawsuit — gives credit to Marshall who is in attendance] Email said – should be a state law against using public funds to get reinstated or other legal actions against the school board removal statute. We talked with legislators – got it through – it’s sitting on Gov’s desk today. HB 115.

  20. @dekalbite2: I’m not sure exactly how Thurmond referred to Orson that’s why the (?) If anyone watches the video after it’s posted, please listen to that part and let us know exactly what was said. I did think Thurmond caught himself a bit…

  21. Longing for Integrity says:

    He may not have anything to hide and may appreciate transparency, but who is he getting his data from? If it’s the same corrupt sources, nothing is gained.

  22. info says:

    Didn’t Atkinson spend 90 days getting to know the district? Maybe she left some notes.

    This is Thurmond’s 32nd day on the job. Meetings with teachers and the community only go so far.

    If Thurmond’s focus is on instruction and teachers, then he should be able to answer these questions:
    1. What data is being used to inform out of classroom personnel decisions?
    2. How have the salaries of certified central office personnel (or instructional specialists not directly responsible for classes) been determined?
    3. What is the salary difference between certified central office personnel (or instructional specialists) and classroom teachers?
    4. How are CO personnel evaluated?
    5. What are some decisions he’s made or changes he’s implemented that have directly impacted instruction and teachers since he started his job?

    Thurmond has only 5 direct reports? Aren’t there five regional superintendents? To whom does Ramona Tysorn or March report? What about the head of curriculum and instruction, Howe, the chief operating officer, Wilbanks, or the head of technology, Brantley, and the head of HR, Ward-Smith? Isn’t there also a chief finance officer and a chief legal officer? I’m confused.

    We teachers are supposed to supply standards or objectives with lesson plans. And we’re supposed to be evaluated by student performance. Shouldn’t these articulated objectives and performance measures be applied to all the levels Thurmond is looking at?

  23. Well, it’s obvious he doesn’t read this blog.

  24. dekalbite2 says:

    “Thurmond has only 5 direct reports? Aren’t there five regional superintendents? To whom does Ramona Tysorn or March report?”

    Where is the Organizational Chart that shows Thurmond has 5 direct reports? Does one even exist? Why is it not published?

  25. howdy1942 says:

    I watched Thurmond talk tonight. He said pretty much the same thing as he said at Dunwoody and Tucker. That’s OK, but sooner or later, he is going to have to answer the specific questions that he’s being asked. I want to support him, to give him a chance, but I also want him to perform and resolve some of the issues that have become like open sores to the people.

    1. Can he produce documentation that shows that those textbooks were actually purchased and that which shows they were actually received? (Purchase requisitions, delivery reports, payments, etc.)

    2. Can he show documentation that shows which central office positions were cut and the initials of the people that were cut? Can he show the dollar savings for each position that was cut?

    3. Can he explain why we are buying cars for area superintendents and explain how they are service vehicles?

    4. Can he explain why that 80% buy-in from teachers and principals was not done? Whose responsibility was it to see that it was done? Did the Success For All Foundation require an 80% buy-in before it would allow its product to be implemented? If so, why did they do it anyway? If not, did somebody in the DCSS tell them that the buy-in had been obtained? If so, who?

    5. Has he taken the action necessary to actually terminate the contract with Bob Wilson?

    There are many other questions that I would ask – these are a good beginning, however.

    He keeps talking about deficits in other counties, such as Cobb and Fayette. I don’t know about Cobb, but Fayette seems to be pretty simple – they budgeted the money, spent the money, and built schools that they expected would be needed to meet the projected growth in the County. That was before the Great Recession, which stymied this projected growth. That seems to be straightforward.

    In Dekalb, we had plenty of money. It is very clear that we wasted a lot of it. We have spent $30 million to date on the Heery case which could have been settled for $1.5 million – a $28.5 million waste. We spent $170,000 on the “governance training” to train a board that has been suspended by the Governor. Given that one of our new Board members is a specialist in mediation, I doubt that we need to spend that money – this new Board seems to be well-educated, very articulate, respectful of each other, and understands how to get along. We spent at least $164,000 for Walker to sue the State. We are spending an unknown amount, but I suspect that it is significant, to pay lawyers to defend the District against that lawsuit brought by those two teachers to recoup contributions to their pension plan that were suddenly dropped by the former Board, we have a clearly bloated staff that has a non-teacher administrative staff twice the ratio of staff/teachers as other districts, we are currently paying three people the salaries of superintendents and have also awarded one a $114,000 severance package, we have paid $500,000 for that SFA program that now appears to be on its last leg in the System, we have paid $12 million for textbooks that only Kathy Howe has stated were actually purchased (if she had that information, why didn’t she provide it to SACS between its October visit and its December report?), we have spent money on copiers when we can provide no evidence that we are paying the best price nor can we say whether they are meeting the needs of the end user, we have been paying salaries to people that were supposed to have been laid off but can produce no documentation confirming that fact ….. I think that I have made my point. I invite others to continue the list. In short, we have wasted a lot of money that could have been used to give our teachers a raise or, at the very least, to have cut the number of furlough days they have been forced to take. It just seems like we have been quick to reduce the number of teachers, force them to take furlough days, and increase the classroom size but can’t seem to get a handle on the bloated staff.

    I look forward to seeing some more action and fewer words.

  26. sam123 says:

    It doesn’t pay a teacher very well to keep working. When you teach, you earn 2% for each year you work. When you retire, you gain 3% a year in COLA (cost of living raise). I know someone who retired at 42 years. The state only pays you for 40 years. Therefore, when she retired, she forfeited two years of a 3% COLA. So she is behind 6% in retirement income for staying two more years….that is for the rest of her life. Once a teacher turns 60, they will lose money each year that they stay!

  27. molly2 says:

    Success for All….now teachers are told when they did their SFA buy-in vote for next fall that they will not go back to Storytown. Storytown is a good reading series purchased the fall of 2011 with some of the textbook money. These poor Title I schools keep getting jerked around by the county. This has got to stop!

  28. Not sure if you all caught the part about charter districts. Mike Jacobs encouraged groups to take this kind of action. It’s already a law and set up to go. Druid Hills has already filed. This could be a better direction for Lakeside, Tucker, et al…

    Druid Hills parents may use charter law to gain control over school cluster

  29. sam123 says:

    Breaking news from Tucker Patch. Tucker filed for Cityhood today.

  30. howdy1942 says:

    This is a little off the subject, but I thought that you may be interested in the following link:

    Sound familiar?

  31. dekalbite2 says:


    Don’t forget the at least $50,000,000 paid for America’s Choice ($6,000,000 to $8,000,000 a year for at least 8 years) and another at least $80,000,000 a year in salary and benefits for the non teaching Coaches and Coordinators to support America’s Choice. This program never showed any data on student achievement for DeKalb students and is now abandoned. And let’s not even get into the millions spent on Springboard, another educational program abandoned a couple of years ago – again not liked by teachers, showed no student improvement for DeKalb students and quietly abandoned after millions of taxpayers dollars spent for it.

    All Thurmond has to do is ask for the financial data regarding these programs. And how hard is it to get the invoices and calculate the salaries of the personnel to support these programs?

  32. The one thing Thurmond said that I most agree with is this:

    “At the end of the day if we want our county, our state, our country to be successful then we have to be concerned about educating other people’s children.”

    The cross-county fighting and worrying about who is getting ‘more’ has to end. The paradigm that the system is all about jobs for adults and who gets to control the Billion + dollar annual budget has to end. The lack of focus on teachers in the classrooms has to end. The inequitable spending on schools has to end – we must consolidate resources – we can’t continue to fund small ’boutique’ schools for some while cramming 30+ students in classes at others. We must find and hire truly great leaders who KNOW how to educate students and will defend the classroom and in-school support staff [librarians, parapros, and others who directly impact students]. We must think of our school system once again as a place to educate ALL children — not simply as a place to collect an inflated paycheck and pension or acquire the power to give out jobs and construction contracts.

  33. Just curious: Does anyone know why the new Board rep, John Coleman, did not attend this meeting – it was hosted in his district and would have been a great opportunity to meet and greet his ‘constituents’. Marshall Orson was there. Nancy Jester was there. Wonder where Coleman was… anyone know?

  34. John Dewey III says:

    The pattern is this: DCSS finds a pre-packaged professional development program that connected-up consultants and lobbyists are pushing (Thinking Maps, Storyland, America’s Choice, etc., etc.) The board and palace guard get lobbied (& the friends and family get paid) and the Board spends a few million bucks on the new program. The overpaid “coaches” (another joke) roll it out and it replaces the last year’s trend (re: Its not “Time on Task” this year kids, its the “Double Bubble!”) The teachers unanimously hate the ridiculous new jargon/program and … surprise! … they don’t buy into it — so it fizzles out, and we start over. The Consultants and friends and family get paid (now or later), the teachers get “trained” and the Palace gets to say “DeKalb County has Professional Development!” (Meanwhile, actual textbooks, class sizes and step raises are neglected) Wash, Rinse, Repeat………..

  35. concerned citizen says:

    It’s been 45 days, and he has done nothing but talk evasively. He has to know that people like Ramona, March, Smith, Beasley, Howe, etc. are being singled out for very good reasons – this is not a matter of “hearsay!” I totally agree he is not reading this blog, and he really needs to. It scares me that he may be afraid to hear what the people really say! Thurmond, get busy taking action! You can at least put the process of hiring a new supt in process if you are reluctant to take any action.

  36. murphey says:

    Regarding Mr. Thurmond’s statement that he has 5 direct reports, the pitiful DCSD organizational chart, sans names, states that the Superintendent Office has 5 employees:
    Special Assistant to the Superintendent
    Administrative Assistant
    Administrative Assistant
    Front Desk Receptionist

    However, the chart shows 8 different offices reporting directly to the Superintendent. I have added the names that I THINK hold these positions.
    Chief Legal Officer – Ronald Ramsey
    Chief Financial Officer – Michael Perrone
    Chief Information Officer –
    Chief Human Resource Officer – Tekshia Ward-Smith
    Deputy Superintendent School Leadership and Operational Support – Kendra March
    Deputy Superintendent Curriculum and Instruction – Kathy Howe
    Chief Strategy Officer – Ramona Tyson
    Chief Operations Officer – Stephen Wilbanks

    This shows the need for a real organizational chart. I don’t know how any business can function if the chain of command isn’t clearly laid out.

  37. You are completely correct, of course. DSW placed an Open Records Request for an organization chart with names, but got only a blank chart and a list of names and job titles. So, we took the org chart with no names and, working through the list of names with job titles — many of the titles did NOT match the titles on the org chart — put in as many names as we could. That partially completed org chart is in the DSW Archives.

  38. Dekalbite2 says:

    Chief Information Officer
    Isn’t that Gary Brantley – head of technology

  39. Concerned Citizen says:

    That’s a pretty sorry group of folks. I thought Howe and Perrone were particulary disappointing because they were so vague and looked not fit for duty. BTW, who was the board member who complimented a staff member for standing up so long? That was so bad and out of place. Where did these people come from?

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