Former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond has an impressive resume, but does he have what it takes to turn around the troubled school district? That is the tough question some parents are asking.
Thurmond was voted in 7-2 by members of the board Friday. His placement comes after the former superintendent Cheryl Atkinson quit.
Board members said terminating Atkinson's contract early was a mutual agreement.
"This is now our fourth superintendent with a majority of this board," said concerned parent Barbara Arne. "I am not particularly happy that she suddenly resigned, and the board is in a position of having to find an interim immediately."
Parents said that Thurmond is a career politician, not an educator and worry about his personal connections to some of the board members.
"I just really hope that Gov. Deal is paying attention, and the State Board of Education is continuing to monitor the situation to see where their focus is," said a concerned parent Jennifer Hatfield.
Thurmond will have a one year contract with a salary of $275,000.
His first goal is to get DeKalb schools off of SACS probation. The board was placed on probation because of conflict and infighting within the board. Thurmond praised the board for making him the interim superintendent and said his hiring was the first step to fixing the districts problems.
"I would like to think that I am part of the answer, I am part of the solution and I think that speaks very well of this board, and once again I want to compliment them for recognizing I have some skill sets to help us move forward," Thurmond said.
"The Board and Dr. Atkinson each determined and believe that it is in the best interest of all concerned that there be a mutual separation and they wish each other well in all their future endeavors," the board said in a statement.
Atkinson was chosen to be the new superintendent in August 2011 when she resigned from her superintendent position in Lorain, OH, a district with approximately 8,000 students. DeKalb County has nearly 100,000 students.
Parents who have been following the progress of the district said they are not expecting big changes with Thurmond as the interim superintendent.
"I am very, very, disappointed with what I have seen with the years and years I have been involved in DeKalb Schools," Julie McKenna said. "And as my children are now getting into the high school years and we can't lose accreditation. We just keep getting lectures from the chairman of the board about what the parents should do, and the parents keep trying to tell the board what they need to do for our children, they are not focused on the children."
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