DeKalb County mayors condemn firing of superintendent

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The firing of DeKalb School Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris on Tuesday has drawn criticism from several DeKalb County leaders including DeKalb County CEO and former DeKalb School Superintendent Michael Thurmond and more recently from the mayors of all 12 of DeKalb’s cities.

In a letter sent out through the DeKalb Municipal Association and signed by each mayor, the mayors stated their concern that the board was moving the school system backwards and called for “serious changes” to prevent the “chaos” within the school system.

For those who may not remember, in 2012, the school system’s accrediting agency placed the school system on probation leading then-governor Nathan Deal to replace six school board members. Shortly thereafter, Thurmond was appointed superintendent to get the struggling school system back on its feet.

You can read the full letter below.

As Mayors, our greatest hope is that our children arrive home from school safely and smarter. We’re concerned that the DeKalb Board of Education’s recent decision to remove Superintendent Watson-Harris could jeopardize the future outcomes for DeKalb students. This decision may have a long-term impact by making it difficult to attract and retain a new superintendent as well as other leaders.  

We stand with DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond on his call for the School Board not to take DeKalb backwards.  The board’s actions over the last few days indicate a need for new policies and procedures to address governance of the DeKalb School District.  We are ready to work with the DeKalb legislative delegation to craft legislation which will protect DCSD students and educators. Serious changes are needed to prevent the chaos that seems to occur every few years in the DCSD. 

The current situation is a symptom of a larger ongoing problem with DeKalb Schools.  In the past, the focus has been on the acute issues while ignoring the chronic challenges both in governance and management.  It is time to address both, and the DeKalb Municipal Association stands ready to assist.  

Cities make up 60% of the County population, and it is our duty to be engaged in ensuring successful outcomes for students in DeKalb. To that end, on April 21, 2022, the DeKalb Municipal Association formally established an Education Committee made up of mayors and council members.  The purpose of this committee is simple – improve outcomes for DeKalb students.   Education is a lifeline for our communities’ children.  A good education, in a safe facility, should be the norm across DeKalb.

A strong school system will lead to a better economic future, reduction in crime and a healthier population for DeKalb and its cities.   As leaders, we know that governing can be difficult.  The first step is acknowledging that there is a problem.   We implore the DeKalb School Board to take the steps necessary to right this ship. 

Mayor Jonathan Elmore, Avondale EstatesMayor Lynn Deutsch, Dunwoody
Mayor John Ernst, BrookhavenMayor Shameka Reynolds, Lithonia
Mayor Brian Mock, ChambleeMayor Melanie Hammet, Pine Lake
Mayor Beverly Burks, ClarkstonMayor Beverly Jones, Stone Mountain
Mayor Patti Garrett, DecaturMayor Pro-Tem George Turner, Stonecrest
Mayor Joseph Geierman, DoravilleMayor Frank Auman, Tucker

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