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DeKalb parents group: Hire new superintendent rather than entice Thurmond to stay

As Monday's DeKalb school board meeting showed, community support exists for keeping Michael Thurmond in charge of schools.

The DeKalb school board fired its search firm this week amid disturbing allegations about the CEO, but continues to move forward in its effort to replace Thurmond, including interviewing semi-finalists Friday and Saturday.

The school board meets in executive session Wednesday afternoon, which may signal it's now ready to name finalists for the post.

In the meantime, one county-wide parent group is making clear the district needs to hire a new leader rather than entice Thurmond to stay. Here is a letter penned by Parent Councils United to the yet-to-be-chosen superintendent.

May 5, 2015

Dear New Superintendent,

DeKalb County is ready for you! We don’t know who you are, but we have been hearing about you for the last few weeks. Our Board’s Community Liaison Group is impressed by you. They became acquainted with you on paper, discussed your accomplishments, and highly recommended you to be interviewed by our Board of Education.

Last weekend, our BOE members left their interview with you energized and excited by what you could bring to our district. We know that you must have inspired them because they have been able to stay focused on completing their search for you in the midst of many distractions. We commend our Board for staying true to their goal of finding you, so that you can bring strong visionary leadership and continue the progress made over the last two years.

If you watched our Board of Education meetings yesterday, you are aware of the distractions our Board is facing. Board members voted to terminate the contract with our superintendent search firm, PROACT, in the midst of controversy surrounding the firm’s CEO. PROACT’s sister company, SUPES Academy, was involved in a no-bid contract with Chicago Public Schools. This contract is now under investigation.

As documents have been released during the course of the investigation, the PROACT/SUPES CEO has come under fire for his behavior in the 1990’s. Luckily, the Chicago scandal has nothing to do with you. Our Board has an independent relationship with you and doesn’t need the search firm to facilitate that.

You may be hearing that some citizens are asking our current superintendent to stay in place.  This phenomenon happens with any leadership transition—people are apprehensive of change.  Mr. Thurmond has told us that he is not interested in the job and is stepping down on June 30, 2015.  We understand the sentiment regarding Mr. Thurmond; he is beloved by many in the community.  Because of this, we believe he can help smooth the path for you.  He has the best interests of our students in mind, so we expect that he will help you transition into the superintendent role and share the wisdom he has gained over his tenure.

We want you to know that parent leaders are not the only DeKalb stakeholders who are ready to welcome you. Parent Councils United (PCU) hosted a roundtable discussion with some of DeKalb County’s most influential leaders, such as Interim CEO Lee May, DeKalb Legislative Delegation Chair Howard Mosby, and Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect Al Edwards. During this January, 2015 meeting, we discussed cityhood initiatives, annexation movements, reform efforts, and DeKalb County schools.

The group acknowledged the quality of the school system impacts all areas of the county and that finding you was/is a top priority for DeKalb. PCU has reached out to metro Atlanta and DeKalb leaders from various organizations. These leaders stand ready to welcome you. They are affiliated with organizations such as the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Leadership DeKalb, Leadership Atlanta, the Junior League of DeKalb County, South DeKalb Improvement Association, DeKalb County Council of PTAs, DeKalb Municipal Association, the Latin American Association and our metro Atlanta universities.

PCU is supporting our Board of Education as it hires you, and we will support you as you transition into the role as DeKalb Superintendent. PCU includes executive board members from Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council (DCPC), Emory LaVista Parent Council (ELPC), South DeKalb Parent Council (SDPC), and Tucker Parent Council. We pledge to do whatever we can to help you so that you can lead us and our children into a bright DeKalb County future.


Parent Councils United


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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.