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DeKalb Superintendent seeks support to help troubled district

10:13 AM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- DeKalb County School's new interim school Superintendent, Michael Thurmond, is asking for help with the troubled school district.

Tuesday, Thurmond spent part of his second day on the job trying to drum-up support for the troubled school district. The former lawmaker went to the state capitol for support.

"I need your help," Thurmond told a joint delegation of DeKalb legislators. "The DeKalb School district needs your help, your insight, your direction."

He also met with the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and spoke by phone to State School Superintendent John Barge to set up a future face-to-face meeting. Thurmond also met Tuesday with the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce.

He is a former state labor commissioner and former head of DFACS, but he has never run a school district. He says he didn't have experience in the other fields he headed either, but he focused on leadership issues in those positions and plans to do the same for DeKalb County Schools.

But helming the DeKalb School system may prove his toughest challenges yet.

"The problem is this (DeKalb County) board isn't a board anymore. It's actually nine political leaders who have their own alliances and allegiances," said Dr. Mark Elgart, CEO of AdvancED/SACS, the agency that put the DeKalb School Board's accreditation on probation. "They pursue their own interests, in spite of what the system needs."

Last fall in the SACS/AdvancED report, Elgart asked the DeKalb board to clean up its act, on everything from board dysfunction to a financial crisis that includes questionable spending, such as $20 million for new textbooks that no one has ever seen.

Under state law, the state school board must consider whether to recommend to the governor that the entire board be removed and replaced. Last month, the body questioned DeKalb board members for nearly four hours, without making a decision.

On February 21, the state board of education will once again have the DeKalb Board before them to decide whether to recommend that the governor remove the entire board.

Thurmond said he's been asked by the DeKalb board to be its spokesperson at that meeting.

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