Many people are saying the fields are ready, the ‘deck has been cleared’ and want to ‘move on’ – us included! However, we don’t think the fields are tended nor has any deck yet been cleared. So we would like to move forward with eyes wide open and full knowledge of where we’ve been, where we would like to go and an honest plan of how to get there from here including assessing who, of our current staff, can get it done and who, of our current staff, is holding us back and needs replaced.
There are still unresolved issues – still many questions that were never answered in the criminal trials of our former superintendent, our COO and her husband – still a long row to hoe. If we don’t pull all the weeds, they certainly will regrow and flourish. For those who are new to DeKalb schools, or for those who may have forgotten our journey, we thought we’d share a well-written look back from one of our regular bloggers.
One essential requirement to get our school system back on track is the full, unqualified support of the residents of Dekalb County. That cannot happen until all of the facts regarding what has happened in recent years are laid out for the people to digest and be assured that justice has been served and that measures are in place to prevent any re-occurrence.
There is just too much smoke to know the truth at this point. Our school system was driven into the ditch and that occurred over at least a 10-year period. As some have pointed out, Eugene Walker has a PhD from Duke University and we must assume that he is an educated and knowledgeable man. Tom Bowen is a lawyer. Others on that board were similarly well-educated. Why did our school system go downhill so far and so fast? Former school superintendent, Crawford Lewis made a plea deal and the Chief Operations Officer was convicted of crimes against the public. Dr. Lewis testified that he tried to fire Pope and was stopped by two [former] school board members. Who were they? Why did they stop Lewis from firing Pope? How deep in the administration did this criminal behavior go and did it reach the level of the school board? What are the details of board members trying to influence hiring decisions by the superintendent? Why didn’t the board investigate the leaks surrounding candidates for the position of superintendent (when the next superintendent, Dr. Atkinson was hired) as they had promised that they would do? Exactly why did Dr. Atkinson leave? What does she know about what happened during her watch as superintendent? How did the former board get away with hiring Michael Thurmond in a secretive manner just before it was removed by the Governor? Why did the current board vote to hire Thurmond as permanent superintendent without conducting a search? Why did we have so many law firms under retainer? Why did we have so many legal problems? Why was Ramona Tyson kept on at her interim-superintendent salary even after she was no longer filling that position? Why was the District Attorney so quick to ignore what was going on in the school system and state that it could “govern itself”? Why was the District Attorney so slow to prosecute Lewis and Pope? There are just tons and tons of questions that need to be answered. I don’t know the details of what happened when Cherry and Freeman were at the helm, but I do know that the school system of their day was among the best in the nation. Dekalb was a destination for parents wanting their children to attend quality schools. What happened?
Until the public better understands what actually happened in the DCSS, until the present board and superintendent stop stonewalling the public, until the present board starts getting its priorities in order such as initiating a full and open search for a permanent superintendent, until the board and superintendent gets it focus on the classroom and not the administration, until the board and superintendent choose to be completely open and honest with the public, and until the board and superintendent stop fighting our teachers and show at least some empathy for them, this superintendent and board will be denied the support they so desperately need.
We want to start fresh too – but first, we want honest answers. The ‘deck’ still has more work to be done in order to truly be ‘cleared’. Moving forward in denial, without fully clearing out the past is just not healthy progress.