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DeKalb School Board says tearful goodbye to interim superintendent

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DeKalb School Board says tearful goodbye to interim superintendent

DeKalb County Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

DeKalb County, GA — The June 12 DeKalb County School Board meeting marked the last regular meeting for Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, who returned to the school district in 2022 to deal with a crisis the school board created for itself.

She received a tearful goodbye from board member Vickie Turner, who was chair when the board abruptly fired former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris in April 2022. Turner had previously voiced support for keeping Tinsley as Waston-Harris’ permanent replacement. Tinsley retired from DCSD in 2020 and previously served as the deputy superintendent of student support and intervention, and began speaking with board members about taking over as interim before the board fired Watson-Harris.

The board never gave an official reason for firing Watson-Harris, but it happened after the board removed Druid Hills High from a list of projects to be referred to the state for possible reimbursement, prompting students to make a video showing the unhealthy conditions at the school. That drew the attention of the state officials and the board, under pressure, added the school back to the district’s facilities plan. One of Tinsley’s first tasks was addressing many of the concerns Druid Hills High students documented in their video.

By all accounts, board members were happy with Tinsley’s performance, and she was among the top candidates for the permanent job. But Turner joined five of her fellow board members in selecting Dr. Devon Horton as the next superintendent.

During the June 12 board meeting, Turner cried as she talked about what Tinsley’s time as superintendent meant to her.

“For me personally … you really were an answer to prayer,” Turner said. “I thank you for being a woman of integrity. I thank you for being a woman of commitment.”

Board member Dr. Joyce Morley, who was recently found to have violated the district’s ethics code during the superintendent search and who voted against hiring Horton, heaped praise on Tinsley during the meeting.

You love children and I think what got me more than anything else, is you love DeKalb County,” Morley said. 

She received thanks and praise from other board members as well.

Tinsley, clearly moved by the board’s remarks, said the district was “in a pretty serious state” when she arrived.

I am indeed humbled,” Tinsley said. “I thank the board for your vote of confidence. I thank you for the support you have shown me as interim superintendent, and I thank you for understanding those difficult decisions that needed to be made.” 

She described her job as “a lonely seat.”

It’s a difficult seat to sit in. Because you can’t please everybody,” Tinsley said. 

In other business at the June 12 meeting, the school board:

— Heard from four parents who wanted the district to share the Be SMART program in schools.

Be SMART is a group that advocates for the safe storage of firearms.

For more information about Be SMART, click here.

— Heard from parents and students at Lakeside High about the need for lighting for athletics fields.

— Approved spending about $9 million on roof replacement projects. The board awarded a $5.3 million contract to SRS, Inc. for roof replacements at DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts and Free Form Middle School. The board also awarded a $4 million contract to Tecta America SE, LLC for roof replacements at Redan Elementary School and Sam Moss Service Center.

— Renewed the district’s excess workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance coverage with Star Insurance Company for $272,800.

— Renewed the district’s property and cyber insurance coverage with Alliant Property Insurance Program (“APIP”) for a premium cost not to exceed $3,321,129

— Approved contract extensions with seven vendors for behavioral intervention services. The contracts are not to exceed $2 million. The vendors are: Cobb Pediatrics (DBA Stepping Stones), Comprehensive Behavior Change, Core Therapy, Kadiant, Maxim, Pathways (Rebecca Lamont), and Southern Behavior Group.

— Approved the purchase of translation and interpretation services for $1.2 million with the following vendors: Alta Language Services, Language Line Services
Real Time Translation, SeSo, Inc., Translation Station, Inc. and Zab Translation Solutions

— Approved a memorandum of agreement between DeKalb County School District and Laurel Heights Hospital worth $450,000.

“DCSD has served as the fiscal agent for Laurel Heights Hospital (LHH) since 2007,” the June 12 school board agenda says. “LHH is an educational program for students placed in its care by the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR), The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  Based on a revised law that went into effect on July 1, 2018 (HB 853), public school students who are admitted under a physician’s order into a licensed psychiatric residential treatment center would be exempt from paying tuition or fees to the local school system. This law allows these students to continue their education and stay on track academically while receiving long-term medical and psychological treatment.”

— Approved a memorandum of understanding with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta worth $250,000.

“It is requested that the Board of Education approve the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta and DCSD in the amount of $249,983 to provide Level Up: In-School Mentoring services to 100 students at Lithonia Middle School during the 2024 school year,” the June 12 school board agenda says.

— Purchased professional services to provide staffing augmentation and monitoring for network, data center, and cloud services from GreenPages Technology Solutions. The purchase cost is not to exceed $3 million.

— Purchased managed print services from Lexmark International for $1.7 million.

— Purchased e-rate consulting services from Educational Funding Group, Inc. for $70,000.

— Paid Computer Aid, Inc. $3.2 million for temporary IT staffing resources.

“During the fiscal year 2024, the district will need to continue leveraging contracted services to support the district’s technology-related initiatives,” the school board’s agenda says. “These services will augment the existing staff in the various departments.  Once the assigned project or task is completed, the contracted resources will be removed.”

— Approved a $6 million contract extension with Genuine Parts Company (NAPA). The contract is for parts for the school district’s vehicles.

— Awarded a $950,000 contract to Sutherland’s Food Service, Inc., for school nutrition grocery products.

— Awarded a $175,000 contract to Gilbane Building Company for construction management services for the new Sequoyah Middle and High School projects.

— Awarded a $260,000 contract to Croft & Associates, Inc for architectural and engineering services at Livsey Elementary

Zoe Seiler contributed reporting to this story.

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