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Opinion: DeKalb parents ought to get involved in superintendent search

DeKalb parent and education advocate Allyson Gevertz offers advice today on what county residents can do to support school reform. Co-founder of the countywide parent advocacy group Parent Councils United, Gevertz had urged the DeKalb school board to involve the community in the search as it has now done.

By Allyson Gevertz

Both the government and the school system have made steps toward reform -- CEO Lee May's Operations Task Force and Gov. Deal's removal of DeKalb's Board of Education members -- but the bad news keeps coming.

At this point, cityhood movements, annexation proposals, and potential constitutional amendments demonstrate DeKalb citizens' desire for change. The two concerns that are repeatedly voiced at community meetings are the quality of the school system and the ethical standards of DeKalb's leaders.

What can DeKalb citizens do right now to support reform in DeKalb?

Demonstrate support for the individuals that have been charged with helping our Board of Education choose our next school superintendent: the Community Liaison Group (or Superintendent Selection Committee).

Here are the members:

William Boone, Political Science Department, Professor at Clark Atlanta University

Rick Callihan, CEO and Owner of Ameriglo

Diane McClearen, 2016 President Elect DeKalb Chamber of Commerce

John Evans, President, DeKalb NAACP

Rhina Fernandes Williams, Asst. Professor of Multicultural Education, Georgia State University

Urcel Fields, Vice President of Network Management, Amerigroup

Carolyn Finnerty, Parent

Lance Hammonds, NorFalco Account Manager – South Atlantic Region

Gwen Johnson, Citizen

Barbara Lee, Retired DCSD Educator

Katherine Kelbaugh, Principal, The Museum School

Kerwin Lee, Pastor, Berean Christian Church

Michelle Penkava, Representative of Parent Councils United

Al Tiede, CEO & Owner of Horizon Windows Atlanta

Eliezer Velez, Managing Director of Youth Programs, Latin American Association

Betty Willis, Senior Vice President, Emory University

What does that support look like?

1. Pay attention to the superintendent search.  The search firm, PROACT, provides updates on the DeKalb County Schools website:

2. Tell your Board of Education members you are happy with their decision to appoint a Community Liaison Group.

3. If you see a member of the liaison group, thank them for their service. They have a huge responsibility to help select the next leader of our district. It will take an incredible amount of volunteer time and energy.

4. Do not ask group members or Board of Education members for confidential information. Respect that their ability to successfully do their job is 100 percent contingent on their ability to maintain confidentiality. Superintendents will not consider working at a system where names and contract details are leaked. Our Board of Education learned this lesson during a previous superintendent search.

5. Buy into the process. PROACT has taken information from focus groups, community engagement sessions, and online surveys to create a Position Profile.This profile will guide the search firm, as well as the Liaison Group and Board of Education, as they narrow the field of superintendent candidates. If you have input for the Board or Liaison Group, email PROACT's CEO, Gary Solomon, at He has said that he will take public input (including candidate resumés and recommendations) and include it in the equitable evaluation process used for all candidates.

6. Expect the best from the Liaison Group. As a group, they are tasked with bringing their life experiences and good judgment to the table. Expect that they will do their job with integrity, then hold them accountable. Expect them to find us an outstanding superintendent.

Once the Liaison Group has done their job and we have an outstanding superintendent, we will also have something else that could help solve DeKalb's problems: A group of citizens who has brought transparency, integrity, and ethics to their public work. Soon, we will be asking them to run for office.



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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.