Thursday, February 7, 2013

Atkinson Quits DeKalb School System

The old saying goes, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen".

DeKalb School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson is no longer DeKalb Superintendent and is on the next Greyhound back to Ohio.  She will leave behind her tax-payer SUV, probably leaving the gas tank on Empty. No matter the financial payout for Atkinson, it is still cheaper than years of legal fees. No need to pile on here, but it is worth noting her former school district in Ohio is in a mess.  Like her or not, Atkinson was not ready for Prime-Time in DeKalb.  Very few people are really qualified to handle a job like DeKalb Superintendent.  I think the DeKalb Superintendent job is the toughest job in Georgia.  What job is harder?  The only jobs close to being as difficult as being the DeKalb Superintendent is being a parent of a child in DeKalb schools or a teacher/admin in DeKalb Schools.

Being successful here is a challenge.  No way does the work of a Board or Superintendent raise student learning to any significant degree, but the Super needs to have the right people and the right programs in place.  And the Super needs to set the standard, and set it high.  Unfortunately the past three Supers have failed the children of DeKalb.  One has to ponder aloud if by hiring a gym teacher, a typing teacher, then a Super from a very small district in financial crisis, that the Board actually wanted a strong superintendent. It seems that Pot of DeKalb Taxpayer Gold (over $1.2 billion in money intended for educating children) is too tempting for some.

And the interim superintendent?  Well, expect more of the same.  It gets tiring to keep up the fight against DeKalb Schools.  Many people join the battle then realize getting change in DeKalb is like trying to staple running water to a tree.  At some point people give up and move on.  But others stay and fight because they know they are right and they want to expose the fraud and waste.  Until the DA or GBI starts putting people in jail, nothing will change in DeKalb - ever.

DeKalb School System has so many moving parts that it is difficult to use a cookie-cutter approach.  What is needed in one part of DeKalb is not what is needed in other parts.  There has to be a way to break up this failed entity. A new school board and a new superintendent does not fix all the problems.  The big problem is the lack of qualified personnel at the Central Office in Stone Mountain.  The Central Office is filled with overpaid and incompetent personnel.  Nothing can change that except a Superintendent from outside the metro area - and one who does not believe in the Friends and Family program.  The DeKalb  School System is not in business to educate children - it is in business to employ people who could not gain employment in the open market

Back around Christmas I posted HERE that the best thing is for DeKalb to get a new superintendent. Removing the Board does nothing.  People voted for the Board, and in the USA we don't simply remove elected officials.  Trial lawyers are licking their chops to take on nine lawsuits if the Board is dismissed by Governor Deal.  What lawyer would not want to win a slam-dunk case against the State of Georgia in front of the GA Supreme Court?  So those of you dreaming of a Board removal and signing petitions, move on. Next time the Board members run for office get more involved in get a candidate you can trust in the race.  Elections have consequences, and those of you in DeKalb not pleased with your Board member please organize now.  The Board will not be removed and those of you spinning your wheels on this issue (including one local Senator and a couple of other DeKalb County political folks) need to understand you are once again not aware (or not willing) to address the real problems.

So what's next?  DeKalb has to have a superintendent, so an interim is in place.  Ramona Tyson will not be the next superintendent, don't worry.  I think Governor Deal needs to appoint the next superintendent, working a deal with the current Board.  What kind of deal from Deal?  How about no removal of the Board, but Deal names new superintendent? That could have happened prior to the botched State Board of Ed hearing earlier this month, but not much chance of it now.

Based on how DeKalb has hired Superintendents in the past, expect the next full-time Super to be yet another inexperienced person in way over their head. 

Hiring two superintendents would be ideal.  One for finance and one for curriculum would be nice.  But that makes too much sense.  The next superintendent needs to be someone willing to reorganize DeKalb Schools and clean out the central office.  It needs to be a person not currently employed by DeKalb Schools or by DeKalb County.  Perhaps one or two people from the last superintendent search would be interested.

It will be interesting to see how the legal issues work out with the now former-superintendent.  Will the Board be on the hook for any legal fees should more lawsuits be filed?  How many pending legal actions are there (if any) involving Atkinson?

I wish Atkinson well.  She did the honorable thing by resigning.  If her heart is not in it and she feels she cannot succeed in her current environment it makes no sense sticking around.

The only sure fix is to break up the district.  With three new districts Board members will be more accountable.  And when people can no longer point to other parts of the super-district and place blame, maybe then people will accept they do not have the right leadership in place.  If only the Governor had some sort of Executive Order.  The new districts plan is a long shot, and takes years.  And the DeKalb Delegation has no power.  All the power players are from Fulton County.  And they benefit from our demise, at least in the short run.  But long term the State will suffer as will the PCID if the issue is not corrected.  Instead of trying to build apartments and sell us on more MARTA maybe the PCID power brokers can talk to the Governor.

And so ends another chapter as another chapter begins in the Book of DeKalb County Schools.