Please Respect the Teacher of the Year in DeKalb

This was just sent out by our interim superintendent, Michael Thurmond:


To: All DeKalb Employees
From: Michael L. Thurmond
Re: Academy of Educational Excellence Awards Postponed
Date: 15 May 2013

Dear DeKalb Employees:

The Academy of Educational Excellence Awards, originally scheduled for May 20, has been rescheduled to August 2013. With the end of the school year approaching, the critical monitoring visit from SACS, and the ongoing 2014 budget process, additional time is needed to adequately plan a successful event that deservingly honors your commitment to the students of the DeKalb County School District.

The Academy of Educational Excellence Awards will honor selected classified and certified staff for exceptional achievement. This red carpet extravaganza will highlight new positive changes as well as continue the traditions of the past. The event’s committee is working diligently to secure a venue that will accommodate all honorees and their guests.

Please accept my sincere apology for the inconvenience. I appreciate your patience and understanding. I look forward to seeing you at this extraordinary employee celebration.


Michael L. Thurmond
Interim Superintendent


What Thurmond doesn’t say – or may not even know – is that the Monday, May 20 date was already a result of a postponement! The “Gala” was originally scheduled for Friday, May 17.  Many of these teachers’ families had made arrangements to attend on the 17th and had to cancel, unable to reschedule for Monday due to short notice and work commitments. Now, the 20th date has been bumped to some yet unnamed day in August with no care or regard for the these teachers or their families! This is absolutely pitiful, hideous and sad. This event goes on every year – and should be assigned to an individual with historical knowledge. It should be a slam dunk. Who exactly dropped the ball — twice? Or could it be that Thurmond and our leadership at this point just couldn’t fit our top teachers in their schedules – or worse, perhaps we have no money left to pay for it!

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22 Responses to Please Respect the Teacher of the Year in DeKalb

  1. On another note regarding teacher’s workloads, this email went out as well — ironically with this event happening at the same time as the canceled Teacher Of The Year Awards…

    From: Postmaster Thursday, May 16, 2013 8:00:47 AM
    Subject: The Relay For Life of DeKalb County
    To: News Flash
    Attachments: events for relay.pdf Adobe Acrobat Document 380K


    To: All DeKalb Employees
    From: Michael L. Thurmond
    Subject: The Relay For Life of DeKalb County
    Date: 16 May 2013
    Attached: Events for Relay Flyer

    Dear Teachers,

    It’s that time…..time to Relay and we need your help! The Relay For
    Life of DeKalb County is this Friday night, at Adams Stadium. Let’s
    honor the DeKalb County School District’s commitment of 100%
    participation and make one last push to support the American Cancer
    Society’s efforts to end cancer! Whether you host a Fundraising Friday,
    a last minute coin war, a pot luck for teachers or a final push to sign up
    survivors, let’s show the community that our school system is committed
    to fighting this disease and celebrating more birthdays! We would ask that
    you distribute the attached flyer throughout your school so that the
    families of DeKalb County may come together to celebrate our success this
    Friday night at 7 PM. Thank you and see you there!


    Michael L. Thurmond
    Interim Superintendent


    Not only is this demanding a lot from teachers as they try to wrap up the school year . . . it is directly in violation of BOE policy. And it has apparently been violated for quite some time.

    DeKalb County Schools Board Policy
    Policy KEB: Solicitations

    The DeKalb County School District and its schools and centers shall not sponsor fund-raising activities.
    Parent Teacher Associations, booster clubs, and other school support groups may conduct fund-raising activities within guidelines and procedures established by the Superintendent.
    Student organizations in middle/high schools may conduct fund-raising activities to support the organization’s approved budget and also may cooperate with community organizations in raising funds. All fund-raising activities must comply with the guidelines and procedures established by the Superintendent and must be approved by the school principal.
    No fund-raising activity may remove or distract students from classroom instruction, and all fund-raising activities must be voluntary for students, parents, and employees.


  2. Bizarre — just bizarre.

  3. H.A. Hurley says:

    They make time and $$$ available for unethical, illegal activities and cronyism. But, the most important matter are kids and teachers. Yeah, let’s wait until August when many excellent teachers are working in other school systems. Mr. Thurmond, is long on schmoozing, repeating the same schmaltzy stories, ignoring the urgencies of running the DCS, and putting off deadlines and PEOPLE.
    Another concern, given the state of our EdReform nationally and in GA, some of the BEST teachers may not be rehired because they received a failing evaluation due to test results. You laugh, it is not funny! Happening all over the US due to RTTT and mill$$$ already spent.

    Thurmond is predictable! No urgency, late, and schmooze your way out of any conflict. Feels familiar in DCS. Still an improvement, because schmoozing could turn into snoozing! Zzzzzz
    Dr. Phil would say…How’s it working for us?

  4. wiserthanmyself says:

    Notice how the RFL invite doesn’t say “tomorrow”–that would make it too obvious how badly prepared they are. Talk about last-minute-ness! Great that you point out this violation of Board policy, which seems to be designed to prevent sponsorship of favored causes in this climate of nepotism. Postponing the recognition of outstanding teachers and staff seems SO unnecessary: it’s about performance this year, not during the summer. Besides the insult to employees’ time and scheduling conflicts, it’s a bad choice because many of these employees may have left for greener pastures by August. This administration can’t seem to act intelligently even about normal employment-type issues like a recognition banquet.

  5. Confused Former Teacher says:

    As a former teacher in Dekalb this is not a surprise, it seems that Dekalb continues to play by their own sets of rules. I learn the hard way that if you don’t bring a lawyer or you are not related to someone in Dekalb you won’t get a fair shake. Mr. Thurmond doesn’t know education so he continues to rely on the people in charge. Respect teachers who win teacher of the year…..and please make sure you don’t Harlem Shake.

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    Hurley, I wish I could cram your e-mail down Thurmond’s throat. What is wrong with this man? He is so… ignorant. I tell you I don’t know where he and his good old nutter friends came from. His actions though extremely limited stand out as a major statement about his major stuidity. (their -his the same thing!) is insulting, degrading, and reeks of a too glib a big-mouth. Supt. Thurmond, good-bye and don’t expect to be missed by anybody but your likewise ignorant buddies (staff).

  7. Augustus says:

    Actually, staff were asked to be a part of Relay for Life several months ago so it is not a last minute deal. But per Board policy, there is no real way to raise money for this cause. Fundraising of any sort is not allowed.

  8. SRO says:

    Please…lets start with “learn to respect teachers period”

  9. Kim says:

    I do not know if there is a direct correlation but the former employees who also supported the DeKalb Public Schools Foundation used to support the organization and delivery of this recognition event. When Dr. Atkinson came in she pretty much told the independent Board of the Foundation to take leave and she’d handle this function going forward. Everything went splat! All the volunteer groups, including the Cross Keys Foundation, had to scramble to recover our funds from their accounts and to establish our own 501(c)(3) statuses to survive. It was a real kick in the pants for most of these small groups with little to no fundraising base in their communities. I understand Lakeside Foundation stood up to help some of the groups that couldn’t pull off the transition on short notice as we did. Just occurred to me that this could be yet another ripple affect of a rash decision last summer.

  10. info says:

    Look at the “News and Info” section or the district’s website. On March 12, this banquet was announced in its recognition of principals of the regions. This banquet was announced again on April 26 when the regional teachers of the year were announced.

    What does the budget or SACS have to do with this banquet scheduled more than two months ago? Hasn’t the superintendent been able to schmooze with Elgart, attend a community forum, and still make it to a board meeting in one day?

    Haven’t he and the board praised central office for their efforts?

    Maybe the same person responsible for this banquet was also responsible for the budget input meeting that was to have taken place last night.

  11. Concerned Citizen says:

    Dear Info: How can we find out who this person in the CO is? There is no excuse for this major put-down of teachers! Am I preaching to the chorus? Once a mad man is addicted to his power, he will continue. Who can stop this foolish and mean-spirited fool?

  12. Not Amused says:

    The Interim Superintendent should be focusing all of his attention and resources to getting our school district’s accreditation back on track. This is not the time for “business as usual” high priced noshes and red carpet photo ops for teachers and staff. Would-be attendants (and you onlookers) should be more understanding and focusing/offering your energy to righting the ship. You sound like a passenger on the Titanic would fully expects tonight’ planned party to go on even though the ship is taking on water!

  13. info says:

    So I’ve just reviewed the SACS progress report for May.

    I still don’t understand what an on-site SACS visit on May 16 and May 17 has to do with a banquet on Monday. But the “expenditure freeze” (p. 13) might explain it.

    What’s really scary about this “progress report” is the absence of teachers and students. In fact, it appears that the “achievement gap” will be narrowed simply by implementing more testing, more monitoring, more collecting of data, and more meetings (pp. 22-23). I can’t find one mention of smaller classes, more teachers, or more instruction.

    I don’t know what this Rtl is, but it sounds like an educational panacea. From all the meetings and monitoring, I assume this will be another way to justify increasing class sizes and teacher loads. I’m afraid.

    Apparently, the benchmark testing went so well this year that Thurmond and Howe will continue to promote the idea that teachers will use “benchmark data to regularly plan for instruction” (p. 22).
    Seriously? Has anyone in curriculum and instruction actually reviewed the data? At the high school level, only @ 6% of all test-takers were proficient on the Math, Biology, 9th grade literature, and American literature tests.

    From what I can tell, we’ll continue to use Pearson. This will mean spending more money on tests students aren’t passing.

    The report also claims that there have been interviews with teachers, parents, community members, etc… (p. 9). Can anyone confirm this? I don’t know anyone interviewed.

    Scarily, it would appear that no one (even Ramona Tyson who has been overseeing this school system for a while) knows what type of instructional resources the system has (p. 32).

    Shockingly, only 23% of parents/guardians have “parent portal” access. I guess that’s why Dekalb continues to produce redundant (and costly) paper reports.

  14. H.A. Hurley says:

    Info: I wonder what reading level the SACS report is written in? Can folks in CO read, comprehend and implement it? Reading your account, I get that renewed SINKING FEELING! We are walking in quicksand. Thurmond was brought in to get us back on our feet, not to continue moving the same muck and shoveling more sh*t.
    BTW, RTI is RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION: a purposeful individualized teaching approach for children who are struggling and may need to be referred for psych testing/sped? Have to remediate and keep data during 9-12 weeks to address the students’ needs. Important process.

    Back to our DCS administration. We need to bring in someone like General Schwartzkopf. Mobilize troops, unite us, someone with brains, work ethics, brains, organization skills, brains, humanity, brains, brains…..
    Oh, my!? Help us all!

  15. No Longer Teaching in Dekalb says:

    Ok, so this time last year, I was looking for a job outside of the DCSS after spending 13 years at the same facility. I still try to stay informed about the activities within the county as I am still an educator (different metro school system) and a taxpayer.

    We are nearly 4 months into an entirely new BoE and Superintendent. Yet, we still see some of the same “what in the world were they thinking” type of decisions being made in these positions. I truly hope tings get better, not just for the sake of public commentary or employee morale, but for the sake of our Children. We’ve been doing a disservice to them (the children) for years with all the changes in curriculum, testing expectations, funding (“…gotta spend all those federal, Title 1, RT3 dollars in the budget so they can give us some more for next year..”), polices, and leadership.
    This year I made several thousand dollars less than in Dekalb, traveled nearly an hour every day to work, and made the sacrifice to serve in a school (and system) that was much less hostile, stressful, but much more rewarding to me as an educator. I’ve enjoyed my year here and have been invited back next year in spite of budget cuts.

    Please Dekalb, get your act together or you may lose many more teachers like me.

  16. @ All: We have a suspicion that this rescheduling fiasco is really some kind of budgetary issue. In the past, there was a good deal of private fundraising done ahead of time to pay for the event. We’re told corporate and community donations would bring in up to $75,000 for the Teacher of the Year program. Either this fundraising was not done – or it was done and that money was also pushed into the general budget to cover deficits (as were the after school and per pupil funds apparently). We have a very strong feeling that we have not been told the truth. There is NO reason that the budgeting process and a SACS visit would effect an annual gala dinner honoring the Teachers of the Year. Especially when you consider that at the same time, these same administrators are insisting that all teachers and schools participate in a cancer fundraising event (that actually violates Board policy) and encouraging these same teachers to attend the related cancer fundraiser event on the same evening as the TOTY banquet had been rescheduled the first time. Pretty demeaning and insulting IMHO.

  17. BTW, we are very much in support of the Relay for Life. We are always so happy and proud to see the communities in DeKalb come out and raise money for this very important cause. That said, in reality, for system administrators to openly encourage participation and competition in a school system-wide effort does actually violate Board policy…

    If you’d like to participate in the event tonight at 7pm – here is a link:

    So far, 100 teams and 1,367 participants have raised $436,119.85

    For a breakdown and/or to donate to a team’s total, click here:

  18. @ Not Amused

    We are not amused.

  19. In response to earlier comments:
    1. During training for the TKES, the new overkill eval system, we were all told this was just a practice year and no one could get fired based on the evals. So anyone who was fired needs to pull out the training handouts to give your lawyer.
    An even more frightening problem for teachers next year will be the results of the Student Learning Objective (SLO) tests which become part of the data used in TKES. Training on that showed how very difficult it is for the SLO data to help a teacher’s eval. The creators of TKES seem to see teachers as the sole factor in the learning of a child. I can see legions of teachers asking for transfers from the Title I schools before the SLO data causes them to be fired. Oh, and this year, we all post-tested and graded our own students. Conflict of interest, AJC?
    2. Yes, there have been interviews. I was one of 9 teachers who attended a 90 minute “focus group” in April. It was held at the Palace. It is part of a study being done by a firm regarding how to improve student success.
    There was a man who moderated/listened and a young woman who took copious notes. Nothing was recorded and it was all non-attribution. No one wore a nametag, and we were all quite honest. The man said the report would take many weeks to compile so I assume it is in the works. He also said we were among many who were being interviewed, either individually or in focus groups.
    3. I have not seen the SACS report mentioned, but if you mean RTI (Response to Intervention), it refers to teachers providing extra help to struggling students and documenting it all to the Nth degree. Eventually this allows a teacher to refer the child to the Student Support Team (SST: Tier 3). This eventually (and I mean usually this takes all year) may lead to a referral for actual services such as testing for Special Ed, speech testing, etc.
    What it actually has done is cause many teachers to just give up on getting help for all but those who need academic or behavioral help the most. Given all the other demands that are constantly being added to the workload, there is virtually no time for interventions, let alone preparing all the documentation to get to Tier 3. I have sometimes wondered if all the data collection is not just a ruse to avoid or delay providing services to children.
    In the decade I have been teaching in this county, I have often thought the demands put on teachers could not get worse. I was wrong; every year something new just hits. This past year, it was several new things. To keep up, we would all have to work at least 60 hours a week. But most of us are just too burnt-out by now.

  20. Kim says:

    @dsw re: private funding … Yes, precisely. The DeKalb County Public Schools Foundation raised the funds and organized the Teacher of the Year event. The Foundation maintained a significant bank balance at the time they were kicked to the curb by Atkinson. I think your suspicions are not misplaced. Where is the money that sat in that account? Did the folks who donated get a refund? I believe much of the fundraising was targeted specifically for this event and recognition. It would be a betrayal of trust at best and an IRS violation at worst to use the DCPSF finds for operating or general budget.

  21. Yes, Kim it is troubling indeed. And judging by the fact that our interim superintendent is using saved up After School Care money to enhance his 2014 budget leads us to wonder if the TOTY money wasn’t somehow absconded as well. The trust is still nowhere near where it should be.

    On top of that, our CFO has ‘resigned’ over this. That means we are now on our third CFO and third superintendent in three years!

  22. Rainbow Need Help!!!!!!!!!!2013-2104 yrs says:

    Please help my children school! I have watch the school unfold before my eyes these last three years. Never have I seen a principal that doesn’t truly care about children, as the current one. She has ran off all of our GREAT teachers, instructional coach, paras, assistant principals, parents and students whom loved Rainbow Elementary. Rainbow use to be the school were people entrusted their children education too. This school has LOST exemplary status under this principal leadership. This school needs a change in the principal in order to move this school in the direction it need to go. I hope the power to be that read this make a move because this hurts the children not her. A change need to happen in order to see new results!!!!!!!!!! I’m a concern parent and I want all the parents in the Rainbow Community to call the county office and let’s fight for our children rights for a better education in our school because our current principal track record in leadership is a grade of a “F” for the three years she has been at Rainbow. It takes a real principal to fulfill Mrs.Snelling and Dr. Roberts shoes and she is NOT IT!

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