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DeKalb superintendent search begins

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DeKalb superintendent search begins

DeKalb County School District Administration and Industrial Complex on Mountain Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

This story has been updated. 

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA —The DeKalb County School Board at its Sept. 12 meeting voted to hire a firm to search for a new superintendent, and if they start now, a candidate could be identified this spring.

When hired, the new superintendent will be the fifth person in the position in five years.

The current Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley took over when Cheryl Watson-Harris was fired by the BOE on April 26. Before Watson-Harris, the position was held by Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson, who took over when Dr. Stephen Green parted ways with the district in November 2019.

The BOE voted on Sept. 12 to retain the services of the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) for $20,000 to jumpstart the search. GSBA advocates for local control of public education by offering programs and assistance to local boards of education and school systems.

Dr. Sam King, director of Superintendent Search Services at GSBA, gave an extensive presentation at the BOE meeting on the organization’s plans to attract a new superintendent through a local, regional and national search.

The BOE employs a superintendent to act as the Chief Executive Officer of the school system, he said.

“This is likely the most important job task that you have as a board,” said King.

Board member Dr. Joyce Morley said at some point the board will have to face the history of the DeKalb County School District and the failing decisions [made] over the last 15 years.

“I was glad to hear the criteria. When they were talking about what it takes for a superintendent, and what you should be looking for. Qualifications. We have most certainly missed the mark in the last three. We keep paying for them to come in, and we keep paying for them to go out,” Morley said.

Former superintendent candidate Rudy Crew was voted down by 4 of 7 board members – including Morley –  in May 2020. In 2021 DCSD paid Crew $750,000 to settle a lawsuit in which Morley was named as a co-defendant. Crew alleged that he was discriminated against due to his age and race. Court documents assert that Morley had complained to “multiple people” that Crew did not respect Black women because his late wife was white.

“We keep investing in people who don’t have an investment in our children. When do we stop? We still haven’t stopped paying past superintendents because of poor decisions made by the board,” Morley said.

GSBA Executive Director Valarie Wilson said her mission is good governance.

“We believe that when the superintendent and the board are working collaboratively, in alignment, that reads high student achievement. You’ve often heard me say at our trainings that if there is dysfunction in the boardroom, there’s dysfunction in the school system,” Wilson said.

In other news:

Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith during a Human Resources report said as of Aug. 31, DCSD made 606 new hires since the Aug 10 Board of Education meeting. The district also severed 133 contracts. The district has about 270 openings, but the numbers are changing daily, according to Ward-Smith.

Board member Anna Hill asked for clarification on teacher compensation, in response to a letter she received.

Ward-Smith responded that some salaries were frozen due to being above scale when the $2,000 teacher bonus was announced. Ward-Smith said teachers can contact her directly and she will investigate.

Interim SuperintendentTinsley said the district is due for a compensation study. Board member Marshall Orson agreed, adding the market has changed significantly.

“The last few years, the market’s been so dynamic. We’ve found ourselves having to make significant adjustments within the timeframe of the previous comp and class study because the market has taken off. It’s important to convey that regardless of what we do … the comp and class study is very likely to adjust significantly based on what market conditions are,” Orson said.

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