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DeKalb’s interim superintendent receives award during state of the county address

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DeKalb’s interim superintendent receives award during state of the county address

DeKalb County Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley received a W.W. King Bridge Builder Award from county CEO Michael Thurmond during the State of the County Address on April 26 at Pullman Yards. Photo courtesy of DeKalb County School District.

Atlanta, GA — DeKalb County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley received one of three W.W. King Bridge Builder Awards that county Chief Executive Officer Michael Thurmond presented during the State of the County Address on April 26 at Pullman Yards.

Thurmond said Tinsley saved the school district at a time when the DeKalb County School District was at its lowest point. 

Tinsley has worked for DCSD for over 30 years. She came out of retirement last year to fill the role of interim superintendent after the DeKalb School Board unexpectedly fired former Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris. 

“Dr. Tinsley has provided stability and momentum, ensuring our students and educators have the support they need,” a video presentation said during the event. “For her unwavering dedication to the education of our children, DeKalb County presents Dr. Vasanne Tinsley as a 2023 recipient of the W.W. King Bridge Builder Award.” 

Thurmond thanked Tinsley for putting DeKalb’s children first. Tinsley said the recognition and award are “extremely special” to her. 

“I continue to believe that the real hope and possibility in our world rests with our children. I remain proud to show up every day with unwavering advocacy for all children of DeKalb regardless of their address, regardless of the zip code, regardless of their skin color,” Tinsley said. “We must do what’s right for children all of the time, every day, all day.” 

R.L. Brown Jr., prescient of R.L. Brown and Associates, received a W.W. King Bridge Builder Award as well. Thurmond said Brown is a personal hero of his. 

“R.L. Brown is DeKalb County,” Thurmond said. 

R L Brown & Associates provides comprehensive professional services in architecture, planning, interior design, and construction management, according to the company’s website. Brown founded the company in 1984 and has focused on building communities for private and public clients. 

“His work in architecture, planning, and design, combined with his strong business skills, have helped him improve the places where we live, learn, work and play,” a video presentation said. “His commitment to civic and business leadership, continuing education and community service have always been an integral part of his business model.” 

James Miller, chairman of Ameris Bank, also received an award. Miller is also a long-time board member of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Callanwolde Executive Director Andrew Keenan accepted the award on Miller’s behalf. 

Miller is the past chair of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the Decatur Rotary. He is also the current chairman emeritus of Emory’s Carlos Museum. 

“He got involved in Callanwolde in 1971,” Keenan said. “That was the year DeKalb was raising money, and the community was raising money to save Callanwolde, which could’ve been torn down…Jim was in his 30s when he did that.” 

During his State of the County Address, Thurmond noted the state Legislature passed a $1.2 billion special purpose local option sales tax bill for DeKalb County. 

“It will generate $600 million in capital improvements in our cities and in unincorporated DeKalb and generate $700 million in tax relief for DeKalb property owners,” he said. 

The remainder of his address focused on questions about greatness. 

“The question coursing through my mind right now is if for some reason you and I choose to pursue greatness, what is the most direct path from where we are to where we need to be,” Thurmond said. 

Also, during the State of the County Address, Hilton Howell, CEO of Gray Television, awarded $50,000 to the John Lewis Commemorative Task Force for the statute of the late congressman that will be on the Decatur Square. 

For years, activists rallied to move an obelisk celebrating the Confederacy from outside the Historic DeKalb County Courthouse on the Decatur Square. The monument was removed on June 19, 2020. It will be replaced by a statue commemorating Rep. John Lewis.

“I hope this gets you over your goal because John Lewis was a unique human being. He was a unique treasure for the state of Georgia. He was someone that we can all honor, that brings us all together, that makes us proud,” Howell previously said at the county’s bicentennial celebration. “I could not think of a more noble statue to arise in the courtyard of this county’s courthouse than one dedicated to the living memory of John Lewis.”

DeKalb Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett are the co-chairs of the John Lewis Commemorative Task Force.

“Mr. CEO, I am speechless,” Davis Johnson said during the State of the County Address. “When I say that John was a giant of a man that met no strangers, I mean it.” 

“He is so deserving of this,” she added. 

The task force announced Basil Watson as the artist who will create the John Lewis statue on Dec. 29. The task force has raised over $700,000. Garrett said Watson has already started the process of making the sculpture.

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