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DeKalb's new school chief will arrive to cheering section. Can't promise it will last.

There are a lot happy folks in DeKalb with the hiring of Kansas City, Mo., superintendent R. Stephen Green to run the county's schools

I can't predict how long the good will toward Green will last, but he is arriving to quite a welcoming committee. (It usually takes about nine months for the euphoria over a new school superintendent to fade.)

Green's main challenge will be improving academic performance in DeKalb schools. The district has weak leaders in some of its schools, and it will be incumbent on the new superintendent to change that.

The DeKalb school board won praise today from Parent Councils United on the process and the selection.

The group -- representing parent councils countywide --  issued this statement today:

Parent Councils United congratulates the DeKalb Board of Education on its selection of R. Stephen Green as the next Superintendent of DeKalb County School District.  PCU has spent the last year advocating for a transparent and purposeful superintendent selection process.  Our Board of Education has risen to the challenge, showing a unity of purpose and leadership in bringing DeKalb such an outstanding leader.

With full accreditation and the confidence of the community on the line, it was imperative that the Board of Education demonstrate transparency and integrity in its search and selection of Dr. Green.  Throughout the process, the Board has communicated with the public by maintaining a superintendent search page on the DCSD website. The Board also enlisted a group of DeKalb citizens, the Community Liaison Group, to assist in narrowing the field of candidates.

The Board stayed focused on its goal, even as it terminated the contract of its search firm and weathered the related publicity.  Board members did their due diligence, reassessed their candidates, visited their finalist’s system, and coalesced around a strong message: “The Board is committed to the completion of the search process and the selection of DeKalb’s next Superintendent.”

DeKalb’s Board of Education has earned the respect of the public.  This selection process was a valuable step in forging a stronger foundation of trust within the district.  PCU offers the Board its gratitude for forging ahead with integrity in the face of many obstacles.  We look forward to partnering with our unified Board of Education and welcoming Dr. Green to DeKalb County.

And speaking of statements, DeKalb school board chair Melvin Johnson issued one today about the hiring of Green and the impending departure of Michael Thurmond. This statement is quite a paean to Thurmond:

On behalf of the DeKalb County Board of Education, it is my privilege and honor to announce that the Board has selected, Dr. R. Stephen Green, as the sole finalist to be superintendent of the DeKalb County School District. Before I go into details about Dr. Green’s outstanding qualifications and the bright future we see under his leadership, I must pause and recognize the enormous debt of gratitude we owe the current superintendent, Michael Thurmond.

During the past two and one-half years of Mr. Thurmond’s tenure, we have faced some of the most critical challenges imaginable including loss of accreditation, budget deficits, lagging employee morale, low academic achievement, and widespread frustration and anger by parents and other stakeholders.

Today, we have:

  • Gotten off probation and stand one step from full accreditation
  • Replaced a $14 million deficit with a growing $81 million surplus by managing our resources in a more prudent and responsible manner
  • Made the District one of the national leaders in school choice with nearly 50 schools offering education alternatives
  • Eliminated all teacher furlough days and hired one hundred new teachers with plans to hire 200 additional teachers next school year
  • Created greater opportunities for parent engagement
  • Improved graduation rates and test scores
  • Changed the narrative about measuring academic growth as well as achievement
  • Improved safety in schools
  • Decentralized regional superintendents to place more decision-making in local schools
  • Created 21st Century learning environments with significant investments in classroom technology
  • Restored a sense of pride for the 14,000 District employees

In his proposed budget, Mr. Thurmond will leave a legacy of increasing salaries for experienced teachers and establishing the first ever for any school district a minimum wage for the lowest paid employees – the people who come to work every day making sure that students arrive to school safely and on-time, receive a nutritious meal and learn in a safe and clean environment.

Mr. Thurmond has built a foundation for future growth and improvement.

I will close these comments with one of Mr. Thurmond’s most powerful and insightful quotes: When we lose sight of our goal to help students, we get into trouble.

Thank you, Mr. Thurmond.

Now, to the big announcement.

The DeKalb Board has undertaken an exhaustive, open, deliberate process for selecting a new superintendent. Community involvement and input were our top priorities. Sixteen members of a community panel assisted in selecting the replacement for Mr. Thurmond. We held six public hearings around the District. More than 120 candidates from around the nation responded to our advertising and outreach efforts. With the help of our community liaison group, we selected eight very well qualified semi-finalist candidates. After conducting our in-person interviews with each of them, we quickly coalesced around Dr. Green as a uniquely qualified and outstanding candidate.

Dr. R. Stephen Green, currently superintendent of Kansas City Schools (MO), has been selected by the Board as our sole finalist. By law, we are required to wait 14 days from this announcement before offering a contract.

Dr. Green is the experienced and well-suited education leader we need in DeKalb County. He brings an impressive track record to the District. Dr. Green brought back the Kansas City Schools system to provisional accreditation. He has demonstrated innovative approaches to teaching and learning and moving student achievement forward.

Dr. Green was named the winner of the 2015 Pearce Award as the best superintendent in the state of Missouri.

In addition to his education experience, Dr. Green has also served as president and executive director of the New Jersey Teaching and Learning Collaborative, not-for-profit organization founded to provide ongoing technical assistance, professional development and advocacy for local and state policy reform.

This position will be a homecoming for Dr. Green. He will be able to join his children and grandchildren here in the Atlanta area. We anticipate that in the next few days we will be able to announce a visit to the District by Dr. Green.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.