Former Labor Commissioner named interim DeKalb Schools chief - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Former Labor Commissioner named interim DeKalb Schools chief

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Dr. Cheryl Atkinson is superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. Dr. Cheryl Atkinson is superintendent of DeKalb County Schools.
The DeKalb County Board of Education has named former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond the interim leader of DeKalb County Schools. The DeKalb County Board of Education has named former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond the interim leader of DeKalb County Schools.
STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -

The DeKalb County Board of Education has named former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond the interim leader of DeKalb County Schools after the resignation of the current superintendent.
 
The DeKalb County School Board finalized their separation agreement with the current superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Atkinson. The school district says Atkinson's departure was in the best interest of everyone involved.
 
The separation agreement with Atkinson pays her over $114,500 over the course of the next five months.
 
The district was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting agency, through the end of 2013. A hearing before the Georgia Board of Education is scheduled for February 21.
 
The district's separation agreement with Atkinson would require her to participate in that or any other legal matter resulting from her time with the district.

Dr. Mark Elgart, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which oversees Dekalb Schools, says the district is operating under an even darker cloud now following the departure of Atkinson.

"Opens up a lot of questions about how the system's going to move forward. They have now another search, which they struggled with last time. They have a board that is struggling even naming their own chair, so they're in a period of greater uncertainty," Elgart said.

The third-largest school district in Georgia has complex problems. SACS has accused the DeKalb board of interfering in operations. The district has a $25 million deficit, and now, a leadership void. Parents said they are frustrated.

"I'm disappointed. I think she was definitely trying to do the right thing. It was hard, with the board the way it is and some of the politics and the friends of the family and the history in DeKalb County, but she was making an effort," said Allyson Gavertz.

The nine-member school board will go before the State Board of Education later this month to legitimize themselves or face removal by Gov. Nathan Deal.

"If this system cannot take corrective action and the governor has to step in, it is in the best interest of students so that the system does not lose its accreditation in the process," Elgart said.

Elgart said he is very concerned about this troubled district. He says these problems go back some 10 years.

Prior to serving as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor, Thurmond was the director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.

"We are delighted Mr. Thurmond has agreed to serve as our interim superintendent," said Board Chairman Eugene Walker in a statement released on Friday. "Our school district is facing significant challenges, and we need a leader with a strong record of making fundamental changes in large, complex organizations. Throughout our state, you'll find almost universal agreement that Michael Thurmond has consistently demonstrated those abilities."

Thurmond's contract is for 12 months.

"Well, I'm walking into a great opportunity, an opportunity to serve children, to continue to serve my state and this nation. I have great faith that the challenges that we face will be met and overcome," Thurmond said.

Thurmond will be sworn in on Saturday at the school board headquarters.

Click here read to Atkinson's separation agreement

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