Ga. governor, metro Atlanta school system tussle
As the legal and political drama unfolds, DeKalb County's interim schools superintendent, Michael Thurmond, said everything is going on as normal. Thurmond took the helm of the troubled school district about four weeks ago after the previous superintendent reached a "mutual understanding of separation" with the board, leaving the district halfway through her three-year contract. Thurmond's appointment marked the third time in three years the board had to find a new person to lead the district.
"We have 15,000 employees who reported to work. Our teachers are in the classrooms. Our bus drivers are transporting kids to school and back. Cafeteria workers are preparing the food," he said. "We are going about our business of focusing on job No. 1, which his educating our children."
Still, he said, he'd like to see the situation with the board resolved sooner rather than later.
"It's time for us to pivot from the courthouse and judges and lawyers and focus on agenda item No. 1, which is earning full accreditation for the district and giving our full attention to improving academic performance," he said.
Education experts say the flap won't have a noticeable impact on the ability to provide an education — at least immediately. Longer term, the situation becomes more urgent as time passes, said Jack Parish, a former Henry County superintendent and a professor of education administration and policy at the University of Georgia's College of Education. Some important issues that boards might be considering this time of year include budgets for the coming fiscal year, approving personnel recommendations and actions, and looking at instructional materials for the coming school year, he said.
Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, declined to comment specifically on the situation in DeKalb County, but he did say that problems with a school board can end up hurting students the most when they jeopardize a district's accreditation.
"A school district that is not accredited is graduating students who may or may not be able to get into the schools of their choice, who may have some problems advancing in their education and their careers as adults," he said, adding that it can also affect property values in a community. "It's sort of a black eye for everyone.
Randy Faigin David, who has four children in DeKalb County schools, attended Friday's hearing. She said she originally favored the governor's removal of the school board members but said her thinking is evolving.
"Now I don't know, and I'm not even sure I care, as long as we take care of our kids," she said. "We're losing a lot of time focusing on this stuff and not focusing on our kids' education."
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