The long and winding row yet to hoe

long-row-to-hoeMany 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.

About dekalbschoolwatch

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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48 Responses to The long and winding row yet to hoe

  1. Another comment says:

    Glad you brought the ups and downs back

  2. Another comment says:

    This clearly shows that Dekalb should be broken up into 20 or so one high school with feeder neighbor hood / town or village city controlled districts. Each district would only have a volunteer elected board of neighborhood professionals. A $150-$160k supt. a well respected principal at the end of their career who has outstanding people and administrative skills, who is fair, and lives in the community. All Principals of the schools must be required to live in the community of the school. They do have to reapply and be selected by the new supt. Each District has less than 20 people doing All other non-teaching jobs, with the exception of driving bus and cafe. small districts bus service can make money by bussing kids to private school. ( I went on the public school bus to and from catholic School in NY state, the state paid, we paid taxes). The Bus requirements will go down due to district size going down. Combining Middle school and high school bus routes. Districts could forgo the misery of middle school all together by going K-8, High school, or K-7 and 8-12. They are Separate districts gone is the palace and its waste nepotism. The separate magnets can become state charter schools, so everyone can still go in the lottery and apply.

    There is only plus, plus form breaking this district up into districts by each High school. The divisions of the community are too great. Each community of each High School area needs to have the control and responsibility of their own district, which consists of the High school and feeder schools. This is about children not Adults. Employees need to live in the district of the school they teach in . You have to be part of the community not Russian Roulette of move the bad teachers every couple of years.

  3. Fred in DeKalb says:

    “As far as I can tell, Mr. Thurmond has created even more positions which also lack a job description and/or salary evaluation. I wish that members of the board would start requiring a valid job description and salary evaluation to be in place before it even considered approving a new hire.”

    Can you shed any insight regarding this allegation? Are there any positions in particular you are referring to?

  4. Word Wall says:

    Any rational observer knows that the system has a serious problem — it is ridiculously top-heavy. The priority is not on the classroom, where the students are. Educrats are speaking the jargon to each other — and rewarding each other with money and protection. Basically, for them, buying textbooks and paying teachers is just plain boring. Getting expensive new technology, big contracts, and paying consultants (who offer flattering perks and future kickbacks) is just more exciting for them — but the game doesn’t work when the books are ragged and the good teachers are running for the exits. The palace is so caught up in their own smuggy-buggy mindset that they look down on the ‘peons’ who actually teach (and try to control) the kids. Even the best principals are intimidated by the $160,000+ crew of punitive “codetalkers” in the Palace. The absence of decent textbooks (ask any teacher) and money for basic social security equity, when contrasted with the money budgeted for say, wireless laptops, ESIS, SLOs, “thinking maps” and a battalion of lawyers illustrates this 180 degree disconnect. The new board is part of the problem, as they refuse to question these “experts” as they conspire to bypass the real hard working professionals, those who make heart-breaking sacrifices every day for the good of students — the 7000 professional, highly qualified, experienced teachers of Dekalb County Public Schools.

  5. midvaledad says:

    According to this year’s budget Tyson’s salary is $160, 647. -line 121 for the division of Strategic Management & Accountability.

  6. midvaledad says:


    I don’t know what positions the other poster was referring to, but I can think of a few positions that have been created: Director of Communications, social media person, chief of staff, executive legal officer, communications coordinator II, communications coordinator III.

  7. Isn’t the “division of Strategic Management & Accountability” also something new?

  8. midvaledad says:

    No. The division of Strategic Management & Accountability was created for Tyson when Atkinson came.

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