Originally posted at the AJC blog, “Get Schooled”. CLICK HERE to join their conversation.
By Lynn Deutsch
The DeKalb County school board is making a mess of the search for a permanent superintendent. The state’s third largest school system is in danger of being leaderless when the interim superintendent’s contract expires in June.
The system is in dire need of a strong, proven leader who can make systematic, meaningful and thoughtful changes to address a myriad of pressing issues.
The lack of a sense of urgency and the inability to come up with a transparent process raises questions about this board’s understanding of the challenges facing a system where 11 high schools have a graduation rate of 66 percent or less and more than a third of all 8th graders did not meet expectations in math on the CRCT.
When Gov. Nathan Deal replaced the former Board of Education, I was pleased. I expected, however, the appointed and newly elected board members would immerse themselves in the history of the school system and strive to learn from mistakes made by previous boards.
However, observing the board during this critical time, I believe history is simply about to repeat itself. The board is not setting up a process similar to the one that City of Atlanta used which allowed ample public input and was led by individuals with a long history of civic involvement.
Rather, it seems in DeKalb the board is willing to let bureaucrats be involved with the hiring of their own boss. This does not seem like a model for success. Rather it appears the process is being designed to hire locally. Instead of attracting a nationally (or even regionally) recognized leader, the process seems to be a repeat of previous superintendent searches gone bad.
Representatives from the various regional parent councils within DeKalb came together to form a system-wide parents organization called Parents Council United last year. At a time when DeKalb County is literally falling apart, the need for such an organization is critical.
While I am not a member of Parents Council United, I believe their position sums up exactly what needs to happen with the DeKalb superintendent search and why it is so critical corrections in the process be made now.
Parent Councils United of DeKalb believes the level of public engagement and transparency demonstrated by the formation of an independent superintendent search and selection committee will build a more trusting and inviting environment when we welcome a new superintendent to our DeKalb community.
PCU has done more than simply issue a statement; they have reached out to a cross-section of civic, business and educational leaders from DeKalb asking if they would serve on a search committee if invited. It is time for the DeKalb Board of Education to show they understand the “DeKalb Way” so many cling to hasn’t worked out so well.
In fact, it might not be misguided to say the “DeKalb Way” has led to a system that regularly fails students and their community.
I challenge the DeKalb Board of Education to step back and reassess the direction they are headed with the superintendent search. Put in a process that is transparent with a team of civic leaders who can assist in attracting top talent to a system desperate for the right leader.
Lynn Deutsch is the parent of three children. She has served on numerous committees at the local and state level, including the Citizens Planning Task Force and the Master Teacher and Academic Coach Implementation Committee. She is also a Dunwoody councilwoman.