Recently appointed DeKalb County Schools' Superintendent Michael Thurmond told a group of Dunwoody homeowners that he felt the district needed to stop funding the legal fight over six school board seats.
"We are spending way too much on attorney fees," Thurmond told the crowd Sunday night.
The fight is over six out of nine DeKalb County Board of Education seats. Gov. Nathan Deal ousted those six members after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put the district on probation because of their governance issues, specifically mismanaging money.
Thurmond came into his role in February and has been making the rounds to different parent, stakeholder and student groups trying to put people at ease. He spoke to the Dunwoody Homeowners' Association Sunday night knowing that it was in support of a new state bill that would allow it and other newly formed cities to create their own school districts if they want.
"I can understand the frustrations that parents, taxpayers have with our school district," Thurmond said. "There have been major challenges, major problems. I come here tonight to reassure them that I am committed as the superintendent of DeKalb County Schools to do everything I can to turn the page and move in a new direction."
Parent and Dunwoody HOA board member Adrienne Duncan said she hasn't put her children in DeKalb County Schools because of all the problems the district has had for years.
"I saw a lot of problems coming a while back, when they started cutting teachers' salaries, when they started furloughing teachers," Duncan said. "I didn't want my kids in a school where the bottom could drop out at any time. "
Thurmond said his first goal is to get the school system off of probation.
"Failure is not an option. We will not lose accreditation," Thurmond said. "We are dedicated to doing whatever we need to do to answer the challenges that have been raised by SACS. We've already begun the process and we're making progress every day."
A panel put together by Deal has been sifting through more than 400 applications for the six open board positions over the weekend. One state lawmaker who has been updated about the board's progress said panelists have already begun interviewing candidates and could have names in place by the end of the week. Thurmond said he's not focused on who will be selected for the new board.
"I'm not following that process very closely. My job is to run the day-to-day operations of the district. I'm looking forward to working with whoever the governor supports," Thurmond said.
Many parents' questions dealt with what Thurmond planned to do to keep valuable teachers from leaving the district. Thurmond said he's making that a priority as well.
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