Michael Thurmond’s evaluation

So, now comes the time for Michael Thurmond’s evaluation. We’re certain he had it, however, none of us is privy to the details.

However, we would like to post it out there for the people to review. We went back over his ’90 Day Action Plan’ (which, if you remember, was turned in a couple of weeks late), and we found his stated goals to be cleverly unquantifiable.

Here they are:

Executive Summary
The document outlines the strategic focus of the DCSD for the next ninety days. The plan includes five major goals and objectives:

  • Address AdvanceED/SACS action items and work to achieve unconditional accreditation status;
  • Develop and implement a balanced budget for FY 2014;
  • Prioritize student academic achievement and career readiness; strengthen parent, adult guardian and mentor involvement;
  • Develop and implement a plan that will improve operational efficiency throughout the district;
  • Continue to rebuild trust with internal and external district stakeholders.

So, what do you think? How did he do? We’ve decided he’s impossible to evaluate based on these criteria. But then again, getting approval on this vague, over-simplified list of difficult to assess ‘goals’, which is really more of a ‘to-do list’, does make him look so clever as to be brilliant!

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32 Responses to Michael Thurmond’s evaluation

  1. Certified Employee on Food Stamps says:

    Well, in my humble opinion, take a look at PATS — that will help address the last part of the plan (Continue to rebuild trust with internal and external district stakeholders) — Not achieved … better yet — not attempted! Morale is still awful considering we (employees) were given 1 furlough day back (to money we were already supposed to have). They buy cars for administrators that make twice what classroom teachers make. I’m so sick of being negative, but come on!!!!!!

  2. concerned citizen says:

    That’s five “U’s” big time.

  3. Embarrassed Employee says:

    There should be some way to indict and prosecute DeKalb School System. I agree with the first poster and if you gave him/her a “thumbs down” then you have not seen what they call a paycheck for us. I am $26 away from qualifying for food assistance. Our pay checks should come with a food voucher to save me the hassle of applying. I drive my 14 year old car and hope for the best. I know some of you are saying get another job, well heck, I happen to be one of the few people that can say I love my job! I love educating children. Thurmond is an entertainer, plain and simple. He will not make any progress or meaningful changes. The best thing the Area Supers can do is drive those new cars around to each and every school and personally give us a bonus check on Monday morning. And let me be real clear, when I say every employee I mean every employee that touches a child during their day.
    Next year’s resignations will look even sadder.

  4. d says:

    To follow up on Embarrased Employee – this isn’t a DeKalb specific thing, but the way the state hasn’t been fully funding K-12 education is sad. For the past few years, open enrollment has encouraged educators to enroll their own children in Peach Care rather than insure them through the State Health Benefits Plan.

  5. howdy1942 says:

    Well, we have a new school board, but Mr. Thurmond wanted to keep the old one. He did take action to, as I understand it, eliminate the legal expenses associated with the Heery Case – and that is good. He did come out and meet with the communities and made a lot of promises. It appears that he has made some headway in establishing a dialog with SACS where there was none before.

    There remain a lot of questions about him, especially delivering on his promises. He has been too quick to defend the administration and too slow to take action to fix the problems they caused. If he had an accurate understanding as to just how poorly the public views the Dekalb County School System, he would been much more aggressive setting expectations of the staff, with reporting results to the people, with clearly communicating staff reductions – identifying them by title and expense, with communicating exactly where that $21 million in “new” money came from and why it was “missed”, and he would have taken firm action to have stopped those cars (“service sedans”) from even being proposed at this time, if ever. Giving those cars such a high priority at a time when our teachers are still being required to take furlough days, when our class sizes are increasing, and given the gravity of so many other issues at the DCSS the decision to buy those car is just poor planning, poor judgment, and and bad execution.

    I would grade him at C- at this point, He needs to deliver on all those promises that he made and he needs to especially address and declare that he is not playing games with the size of the staff by simply moving them to the schools with little or no change in their functions. He needs to understand just what “staff” is – it is all that is not teaching and not directly supervising teachers. He has a serious, serious problem in Human Resources that must get fixed. And he needs to restructure his priorities. Finally, he really needs to focus on the terrible image that the DCSS has with the public.

  6. @howdy: I don’t think he’s cut the Heery legal expenses. There’s no way to do that – the case is the case. We are (and have been) on a contingency contract with King & Spalding. In theory, they only get paid if DCSS wins the case – and then only from the proceeds. HOWEVER>> the contract actually states that if King & Spalding isn’t happy with the award (IF there even is one), they can go back and bill for their time to when they negotiated the contingency contract with DCSS (Josie Alexander).

    March 2011 —

    …..the district’s construction contracts have spawned criminal charges against former top school officials and a civil suit against the school district by its former construction management companies that has already cost it more than $20 million to defend.

    But the fee deal with King & Spalding, which is representing the district in the civil case, has taken center stage as it has become entangled in the criminal case.

    The fee contract, inked in June 2008, allows King & Spalding to collect both its standard hourly rates and a contingency share of whatever damages the school district may collect-should it win its $100 million counterclaim.

    If the case settles in a way the firm does not like, it can convert its contingency payment to hourly fees.

    Lawyers for the district’s former construction managers claim that those terms give King & Spalding so much power over its client that the firm could effectively veto an attempt by the school district to settle the case.

    (Read the whole post about it at the original DSW >> http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/03/and-winner-is.html )

    +++

    In addition, King & Spalding still bills DCSS anyway – it has been said it’s for legal fees they consider special or somehow outside the ‘contract’… In fact, in the FY 2013 (2012-13 school year) DCSS paid King & Spalding a whopping $1,754,196.00!

    (check it out in the recently released vendor spending report >> https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/April%202013%20Vendor%20Spends%20Report_453490qv1e04450ficzf55ifibytuh.pdf )

    +++

    You can’t just say you won’t spend money on attorneys — The only way to reduce legal fees is to behave in a way that won’t get you sued.

  7. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – Agreed!

  8. Embarrassed Employee says:

    O’ Howdy! Can you apply for the job of Super? You are so right about Thurmond, he is always including the Admin in his discussions, “uhhh, isn’t that right Ms. So and So, that’s what the data shows right?”it’s like he doesn’t get that we don’t trust Ms. So and So and could really give 2 red pennies what they think! Ugggg

  9. In addition to the legal fees associated with Heery – DCSS can never win this case IMHO, because their star witnesses have been indicted on criminal charges — and Heery got a glowing report from MGT America (the firm later hired by Tyson to do the 2020 Vision plan). Lewis did not like that – so he hired another firm, that wrote a bad report about Heery… which is suspect.

    This is from the old DSW blog petition asking to settle the case:

    –MGT of America in a May 2005 audit reported that “an overall on-time and within budget completion in the face of a nearly 20 percent funding shortfall is evidence of the professionalism and experience of the Heery/Mitchell Joint Venture.”…”The [school system] is to be commended for hiring a competent agency representative,” MGT concluded.
    –Lewis then hired Rubino & McGeehin of Bethesda, Md., to become the new auditor, and its 2006 report was highly critical of Heery/Mitchell, although it did not accuse the companies of fraud.

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2012/01/petition-to-end-civil-lawsuit-with.html

  10. Regarding a comment made on another post, but relevant here:

    I think Thurmond chooses to believe Marcus Turk and Dr Walker (Thurmond’s long-time colleague) that there never was a budget deficit. They think Atkinson lied or something. Notice that the guy she hired to replace Turk is already gone, thanks to Thurmond.

    Folks — always remember — hiring Thurmond was the last major action the former board took – just before they were all suspended. Thurmond then spent his first few weeks using all his contacts and connections to try to save the board. Obviously, he failed.

  11. dsw2contributor says:

    dekalbschoolwatch @August 3, 2013 at 11:47 AM – “hiring Thurmond was the last major action the former board took – just before they were all suspended. Thurmond then spent his first few weeks using all his contacts and connections to try to save the board. Obviously, he failed.”

    No, Thurmond is winning. DCS is not searching for a permanent superintendent, so Thurmond is just running the clock down until the next election, when the former board members will be reelected to their old seats.

  12. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @dsw,

    **In addition to the legal fees associated with Heery – DCSS can never win this case IMHO, because their star witnesses have been indicted on criminal charges — and Heery got a glowing report from MGT America (the firm later hired by Tyson to do the 2020 Vision plan). **

    Perhaps you did not hear, Judge Birch (the special master assigned to look at all claims) eliminated a bulk of Heery’s claims again the school district. This was done in an order he issued on April 2nd. The school district will get less than expected ($33M is the high estimate) but still seem to have a winnable case. This is why Heery attempted to settle recently.

    Ironically this story appeared in the June 7th newspaper and was not discussed much. This happened after a Heery official and another citizen sued the school district for incurring illegal debt for legal fees. Did that Heery official know the results of Judge Birch’s decision and decided to throw another smoke screen for the citizens of DeKalb? Do we know if this case is still pending, especially given the renegotiation of the contract with Khayat’s firm, King & Spalding?

    This was discussed on the GetSchooled blog and had only 9 comments, the fewest for a blog with DeKalb in the title. Maybe there are some that don’t want to see DeKalb win against Heery for possible overcharges?

    http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/jun/10/dekalb-schools-lawsuit-never-ends-few-signs-progre/

    Given some of the changes in the DA office along with other high profile cases, it is fair to wonder if the case against Lewis and Pope has any foundation (RICO charges were dropped). The rest of this year should be real interesting.

  13. True enough contributor. It certainly looks that way. He always says how much he’s enjoying the job — why not? He’s getting paid twice what he got as labor commissioner – almost twice as much as the Gov himself! Add to that a free car, free gas, free maintenance, a $2000/month cash spending account with NO accountability required and all kinds of public perks, and it’s a cake job! (If you don’t take it too seriously.) So, the ‘aw shucks’ I just want to help out position he started with – along with a promise that one of the very first tasks will be to find his replacement, has very solidly turned into a long time gig — probably setting up a very nice retirement.

  14. Here’s a copy & paste of the press release regarding the K&S contract:
    Bear in mind that DCSS paid King & Spalding an additional whopping $1,754,196.00 FY 2103!
    (check it out in the recently released vendor spending report >> https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/April%202013%20Vendor%20Spends%20Report_453490qv1e04450ficzf55ifibytuh.pdf )

    So, read this with a healthy bit of skepticism.

    From the school district:

    The DeKalb County Board of Education voted yesterday to amend a legal agreement that allows a lawsuit alleging fraud, waste and mismanagement by a former construction firm to move forward at no further expense to DeKalb taxpayers. The amended agreement with King & Spalding also eliminates a provision that would have required the school district to pay upwards of $30 million in legal fees if the district elected to settle the case against the law firm’s recommendation. With that provision removed and King & Spalding shouldering all future costs, the case against Heery can proceed on its merits without the specter of taxpayers paying tens of millions in legal fees.

    “This new agreement allows the parents and taxpayers of DeKalb County to seek justice in the Heery matter without the massive risks and inherent costs associated with the previous agreement,” said Board of Education Chairman Melvin Johnson. “We are appreciative of King & Spalding for acknowledging and removing these financial pressures on the district, and for moving forward with us in partnering in the Heery case.”

    The DeKalb County Board of Education alleges in a Superior Court lawsuit that Heery, in its role as manager of school construction projects, defrauded the school system and mismanaged tens of millions in taxpayer dollars.

    Under a previous “contingency” agreement with King & Spalding, the school district would have been saddled with $30 million in legal expenses if the school district settled against the advice of its legal counsel. The new agreement eliminates that provision and removes from taxpayers all future legal fees and expenses associated with the case.

    “The agreement the Board approved today allows us to seek justice for every parent, student and taxpayer in DeKalb County – without the odious concern for whether we can afford justice,” said DeKalb Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “It also ensures that $6 million already paid to King & Spalding will be returned to taxpayers in the event of a judgment or settlement in the case.”

  15. howdy1942 says:

    I tend to believe that this whole Heery mess could have been avoided had the DCSS simply managed, supervised, and observed what was happening. As I understand it, this was a $500k problem and should have been kept at that level. If Heery did the work and it met specifications, then Dekalb should have paid. If not, then any shortcomings should have been addressed then and a resolution reached. Trying to get $100 million was ridiculous and foolish on the part of Dekalb and any law firm representing Dekalb should have so advised Dekalb. I’m not blaming Dekalb or Heery, I’m just saying that this whole matter got way out of hand and the Dekalb School Board should have been a big part of that resolution. Given the sheer amount of legal fees paid by Dekalb is indicative of widespread incompetence at the DCSS. The problems of DCSS have not just been cited by SACS, but also by a grand jury, and by the State on a number of occasions.

    The Dekalb School System is in disarray, a big mess and the same people who got us into this mess are not capable of getting us out of this mess. We need a permanent, ethical, trustworthy, competent, and energetic superintendent that the School Board can trust and all of us need to get out of his/her way. I hope that the new superintendent would begin by removing all department heads, area superintendents, and directors – Dekalb is at the bottom of everything in education and there is absolutely no reason for any of them to be retained. The administration needs to be reduced by at least 20% and that should not come from custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, mechanics, etc. We need to pay our teachers and get all those people who provide “advice”, “development counseling”, and otherwise interfere with them doing what they are supposed to be doing – get these people gone! The governance and the administration of the DCSS has been the problem. Get it fixed first and get the emphasis back on the classroom. We have the money – we just need to allocate it properly!

  16. For those with little knowledge of the back story:

    The strangest, most ridiculous thing happened at the time Heery filed the $500,000 lawsuit (plus $1 million for breach of contract for a total of $1.5 million). Dr. Lewis hired Pat Pope, who was going by the name Pat Reid at the time so that the board would not know that she was married to Vincent (Tony) Pope, a major architectural vendor of DCSS SPLOST projects. Pat had already been serving as a ‘consultant’ to Lewis on SPLOST II projects and was also serving as Vice President of her husband’s firm. Lewis was not pleased that MGT America had a glowing report of Heery in their audit, so he hired another firm to do an audit of Heery. This second company, Rubino & McGeehin of Bethesda, Md. had a negative report. Armed with this, Lewis fired Heery (in an ’emergency’ as he often did) and hired Pat ‘Reid’ (Pope). Pat actually lied on her job application stating that she was married, but not revealing her married name. This is also where she tells that she had been serving as a consultant. But when Lewis presented her to the board – as a great candidate he ‘found’ by using an expensive ‘search firm’, the Lanta company, he never mentioned the consulting or the connection to Vincent Pope. ( Read >> Some testimony for your reading pleasure )

    Fast forward – Heery sues for the unpaid balance of $500,000 plus the million. What does Lewis do? He hires a consulting firm to do a ‘study’ as to how to respond. The firm, Neilsen-Wurster/Marsh charged $3.6 MILLION for the ‘study’ and the stupid sitting board at the time rubber-stamped it with nary a raised eyebrow! Thus began our years-long lawsuit that has drained the operating budget year after year. And this is why Heery claimed

    Read this post for a recap:
    And the Winner Is… Why – the lawyers, of course!

    Interestingly, in the above post, in March, 2011, “The Daily”, a legal newspaper in Atlanta reported a very different amount paid to King & Spalding from the amount Thurmond is touting:

    • After paying $8.7 million to King & Spalding, $3.6 million for a study conducted by Neilsen-Wurster/Marsh, and millions more for other experts, the school system ratcheted up their countersuit to include racketeering and boosting damages to $100 million.

  17. This is from Atlanta Unfiltered — from the time when this story was unfolding. Jim Walls did a lot of investigative reporting. His facts can be trusted and he links to documentation.

    DeKalb construction probe complicates multimillion-dollar suit on cost overruns

    Heery/Mitchell claims its dismissal was just a pretext to place the projects under a new construction manager. In court papers filed last week, its lawyers said ”it was terminated pretextually by the School District to facilitate fraudulent activity in the same projects Heery/Mitchell had been managing.”

    “… a key component of Heery/Mitchell’s defense is that its termination as SPLOST II program manager was pretextual, in that the School District’s actions to remove Heery/Mitchell from involvement in the selection, deployment, and coordination of architects and contractors and to facilitate the ascension of a DCSD employee now under criminal investigation over her role in discharging Heery/Mitchell’s former duties …”

    It worries us a lot that we have a superintendent who thinks he can just put less money in the budget for attorneys and it will be so.

  18. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Meow.

  19. @Fred: It really would be so nice if the AJC would share what they uncover freely with the public so that we could all be informed. For those without a subscription to the AJC (on paper or online) — this is what ‘Fred’ is talking about:

    Two DeKalb County residents are alleging in court that their local school district has incurred illegal debt for lawyer fees.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Mike Bowers is representing citizens who claim that it is unconstitutional for the school board to go into debt. (It is! You can’t take on a public debt or bond without a vote!) One is a VP for Heery, and the other is a construction executive elsewhere. Bowers said he has never seen a contract so onerous and so ugly. Of course, Mike Bowers also defended Cheryl Atkinson in the case of the ‘missing’ text messages (which we theorize is what really made her step down).

    From the article:

    DeKalb had paid around $6.5 million in attorney fees to King & Spalding by 2008, when the firm agreed to start billing on a “contingency” basis, meaning its pay would come from any judgment or settlement. The lawyers had logged $19 million in unpaid fees by last summer. The contract also compels DeKalb to pay those fees directly if the district settles the case against the law firm’s will.

    That clause has stymied some school board members who are tired of paying and want the case to go away. Melvin Johnson, the school board chairman, didn’t seem upset about the new lawsuit, even though he is named as a defendant.

    Though DeKalb is no longer paying for the lawyers’ time, the contract compels the district to continue paying the firm’s expenses. The AJC reported last summer that DeKalb had spent more than $19 million on the case, mostly for expenses. During the final six months of last year, DeKalb paid King & Spalding another $1.4 million, according to district records.

    “We want to eliminate the legal fees to the degree possible,” Johnson said. He said the board wants “some closure” in the Heery case, and has told Superintendent Michael Thurmond to reduce the district ‘s overall legal bill. “The amount of money that we’re spending on legal fees should be directed toward student learning,” Johnson said.

    Jeff Dickerson, a district spokesman, said he discussed the new lawsuit with Thurmond. Dickerson implied DeKalb would not work hard to protect the contract with its lawyers: “The school board and administration would not look kindly on authorizing any new spending on any new legal cases, including this one,” Dickerson said.

    King & Spalding had no comment.

  20. DeKalb has been battling its former construction manager Heery International Inc. since 2007. The district has been seeking more than $100 million over allegations of billing fraud and mismanagement, but so far taxpayers have been the ones paying. Legal fees and court expenses have cost $18 million, while the district’s law firm, King & Spalding, has piled up another $30 million in unbilled lawyers ‘ time that would come out of any settlement or judgment.

    Signaling his firm’s willingness to strike a new deal that wipes the billing slate clean, Robert Khayat Jr., a lawyer with King & Spalding, emerged from a private meeting with the school board on Monday to say publicly that his firm would write off the $30 million, while also assuming all other costs associated with the case.

  21. Word Wall says:

    Victory in Every Coutroom!

  22. Another comment says:

    Heery will win, because Lewis and Pope made up the whole firing so that they could hire Pope’s Husband and their set of Contractors and receive kick backs. Heery’s reputation is beyond reproach in the Atlanta Design and Construction Community. I would offer to be an expert witness for them.

    Pat Reid Pope or what ever her name is has also lied about her degree. She does not have an actual Purdue Construction Engineering and Management Degree from the Civil Engineering School. I do! I was a TA, at the time she claims to have gotten the degree there. Lets say their were very few women. I know for a fact that there were no black women in the program, at the time. She is just a big fat liar and a fraud. She can’t keep her stories straight. I do not know how anyone can not remember the companies they worked for in their professional career. I worked for a bank in Facilities Management for three years. During that time it was sold and bought/ merged and changed its name 3 times. I tell everyone all three names when reciting, My work history. I went and got my Interior Design License in 1994 the one year you could based on your degree and 10 years experience. I found they later sold the assets of the bank to three different banks. My personal files ended up with Wachovia in Charlotte, but since I took my IRA they did not have any record of me working their. So I ended up tracking down a former VP of the bank, whose house I had designed on the side. He signed off that he had been a VP of all three named banks and I had worked their as each of the titles I had doing design work. I also could have found many furniture and carpet vendors who would have signed that I worked for the bank and worked with them on design projects.

    The only reason a so called professional forgets about working somewhere, the name you would conveniently forget were ones you were fired from. Now I have forgotten a few short term supervisors that were passing in the wind after a 30 year career. Most of my past bosses are retired at this point in time.

  23. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @dsw, thanks for sharing excerpts from the May 4th article. It’s too bad the paper went to a new model that requires paying for certain articles as it means the greater community may not be informed of all developments. This along with the June 7th article had very important information for DeKalb citizens.

  24. Fred — You said, “it is fair to wonder if the case against Lewis and Pope has any foundation (RICO charges were dropped).”

    With regard to the case against Lewis and Pope, do you mean IF the RICO charges were/are dropped? Or do you know something we don’t know?

  25. Just Saying says:

    Mr. Thurmond seems like a nice man, but the school system is without leadership. If you work in a school, you may get 10 emails a day from “people in charge’ requesting 10 different things. We have Region Superintendents that either have not worked in DeKalb Schools or have been removed from the schools for a long time. They do not offer much help.
    On the North end of the county, the services of social workers have been cut. So we will have fewer people to provide services for our schools.
    I love my school. I appreciate my principal. I would hate to be a principal in DeKalb. I dread returning to work. I was under the impression that things would get better. That has not happened. I am going to have to make some very difficult decisions. I cannot stay in DeKalb. The schools have to beg for everything, It is not the fault of the Plant Services people. They cannot give you things that they do not have in stock.
    We must have people trolling on this site. When I read people trying to explain the need for the new cars, I knew that person was not in a school.
    I cannot get desks for my classroom. The AC in our building continues to malfunction. When it rains, it rains in our building. I am sure there are a lot of people that would agree with these problems. We should not worry. The Leadership in DeKalb will be able to get in their cars and come to our schools to assign us more to do with less.
    We have never been provided with our salaries for the 2013-14 school year. When you do not know your salary, how can your contract be legal and binding?

  26. Concernedmom30329 says:

    In the coverage of the dropping of the Shneiderman murder charges, I heard something about the RICO charges being dropped in the Pope/Lewis case. However, I can’t site my source, so that is what I have.

  27. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Thank you Concernedmom30329. That is when I heard about the RICO charges being dropped also. Regretfully I don’t recall seeing anything in the mass media regarding this. There was a story from April on WSB TV that suggested there were concerns with the RICO indictment however this was prior to the new charges being filed.

  28. Concernedmom30329 says:

    I think I may have heard it on The Georgia Gang — when they were discussing whether the DA was overwhelmed. Someone might have said the RICO charges were dropped. Again, take this at whatever value you want — no idea how accurate it was.

  29. Oh. No wonder we didn’t hear about it…

    😉

  30. “I cannot get desks for my classroom.” Just a reminder that the cash flows freely when it is taken from the SPLOST funds, but for standard issue requests that require funding from the general fund, schools must go without because the lawyers have taken so much. Yes, the lawyers that have been necessary to fight both for and against various people over the misuse of the SPLOST III and II funds. So, SPLOST helps some, but harms accounts that pay for salaries, books, state tests and other minor things like that. But, how many people here will be talking about how we shouldn’t punish the children for the adult problems when they hear that their own school is on the next SPLOST list? If we don’t learn from the mistakes of our past ….

  31. howdy1942 says:

    We obviously need a new District Attorney. It seems that he is obsessed with Sneidermann and Burrell Ellis and everything else seems to have fallen through the crack. I hope that I’m wrong, but I have said for over two years that Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope will never be convicted in Dekalb County. It will be an insult to the people if this case does not even make it into the courtroom.

    On the other topic, can SPLOST IV funds not be used to repair roofs of school buildings and buy desks for our kids? For what we spent for those “service sedans”, we could have fixed a lot of roofs and/or bought a lot of desks. Our teachers need to have the tools they need to teach our kids and Mr. Thurmond needs to tend to that issue.

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