07/07/2014 – Public Comments

Public Comments

Speakers (Names might be misspelled)

  • Tim
  • Carla Westin Brown
  • Ann Woods (DeKalb County employee)
  • Byron Merritt (President SW DeKalb High School PTSA)
  • Cooky Huff (2nd Vice President – SW DeKalb High School PTSA)
  • Money Fodderham – Parent at SW DeKalb
  • James Waddel
  • Penny Long – Parent at SW DeKalb
  • John Evans
  • Kelvin Griffin

[00:00:50] Tim


[00:04:08] – Carla Westin Brown
I come before you again to express my concern about the bullying, harassment and unprofessional treatment I received at Redan Middle School during the 2011-2012 school year. The hostile work environment and the failure of the DeKalb County School District to handle this matter.

You all have not only covered up and allowed this particular principal’s poor leadership and ill behavior, but you participate in and cover up the same behaviors by other administrators and the area superintendents who condone this behavior.

For example, CJ and four other teachers from SW DeKalb were reassigned at the end of the school year. Why? Because she dared to speak out. She dared to bring the unacceptable sub par leadership at SW DeKalb to your attention in a public forum at the May 2014 board meeting. The reassignment of these teachers is clearly an act of retaliation.

You depend on your area superintendents to resolve these issues, but you can’t rely on them because they’re all in bed together. They are friends and family and will protect their own. They tell you that they resolved the issue, but that just means they participated in another cover up.

Additionally, the Director of the Office of Internal Affairs/Legal Affairs, is a huge part of the problem. He addresses the cases he chooses and literally ignores the others. Outright refusing to grant level 1 hearings and denying due process. This is a violation of board policy and state laws and guidelines. He’s double dipping. His serving as a Georgia State Senator is a conflict of interest. He’s making the laws that govern the school district. Law makers should not be law breakers.

When are you going to stop this behavior? You are the new superintendent and board. We expect more from you. I ask you today that this be the last day that you overlook the bullying, harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation, personal vendettas, and numerous other ill behaviors from the principals, area superintendents and Director of the Office of Internal Affairs.

With the many challenges presented in the classroom today, teachers need the support of their administrators. Teachers need your support. We need to all remember this is the DeKalb County School District. We must all put students first. There is a climate of rotteness and a culture of complacency in the DeKalb County School District.

Mr Thurmond, you once stated that everyone can lay one brick when discussing bridging the gap between North and South DeKalb. I want to challenge you to lay the first brick. That is the brick of integrity. Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right. Theodore Roosevelt, I will remain positive, professional, persistent and present until you do the right thing. I won’t back down.

[Clapping from the audience]

[00:07:37] Ann Woods (DeKalb County employee)

[00:10:15] Byron Merritt (President SW DeKalb High School PTSA)

This representative group of SW DeKalb High School parents have gathered here this evening to obtain justice for teachers who have been reassigned for speaking out about problems at SW DeKalb High School. To ask Mr Thurmond to reinstate the 5 teachers that have been reassigned away from SW DeKalb by the Area Superintendent by what looks to us as retaliation because they raised the serious concerns about how SW DeKalb High School was being run.

In September of 2013, 25 SW DeKalb High School teachers attended the PTSA general meeting and gave us a document listing 15 issues affecting the running of the school and impeding their ability to teach effectively. The document also included specific examples of the problems and made recommendations that would bring positive resolution to the matter.

We have 88 9th grade students coming to SW DeKalb HS on waivers this August. We have 80 9th grade and 10th grade students not reading on grade level. Our graduation rate has dropped to 7th from the bottom in the county. The very teacher who has run our Summer Bridge program and 9th grade academy to help these struggling new students to get up to speed has been reassigned further impeding these student’s progress and guaranteeing the graduation rates will continue to decline.

It is imperative that our children have role models in front of them that reflect character, critical thinking, principled action, and the courage to act even when it puts one’s job on the line. These are precisely the teachers we want and need in our school. This is the critical behavior that has been instrumental in our freedom struggle in this country since the first slave ship landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

We celebrate Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King. Yet, when a contemporary Harriet Tubman or Fannie Lou Hamer stands in our midst, we strike her down. Have we forgotten the bloody past that took to get us here. If ever there was a time we need women and men of courage and strength and integrity, it is now.

These are the model teachers we want standing in our school. We can run a school system of scared and intimidated teachers who are forced to go along to get along and we will lose the hallowed American democracy in one generation. Black people will find themselves back in the hostile segregated South and wonder how we got here. Very simple, we failed to protect the courageous ones God has placed in our midst.

SW DeKalb has been the crown jewel of education in South DeKalb. We have been awaken from our slumber and we accept responsibility for the performance of our school. We know the teachers we need and want in our school. Respect our judgment as God fearing and spirit led women and men. Reinstate our teachers. Do not retaliate. Give us a chance to rebuild SW DeKalb and restore it to its former glory.

[applause from the crowd]

[00:13:49] Cooky Huff (2nd Vice President – SW DeKalb High School PTSA)

President Obama said, “We have not chosen the circumstances in which we were born. But, we can determine the circumstances in which we live.”

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

As a proud parent of a magnet student at SW DeKalb HS. As the 2nd Vice President of the PTSA and as a homeowner in the SW DeKalb area, I am here to let you know that I am displeased with the recent state of events at our school.

We have had teachers who have been reassigned. We see it as a form of retaliation. It is my job to personalize it for you. We want to hone in on one great teacher. We have a teacher who has been here for 17 years. She teaches our special needs students. She has shown her love in her care for them by being there for them day in and day out. She also serves as the co coach for the SW DeKalb JV and Varsity softball team in her off-time. This teacher showed her concern by going to the principal and letting her know she was concerned about her classroom being reassigned. Her students were mentally and physically challenged. Her classroom was relocated to the back of the school. As an intelligent woman, she let the principal know that she would have problems in the case of an emergency. The principal responded flippantly, “If we ever decide to add an elevator, then you’ll be OK.” That shows the disdain for her and her students at that time.

Please right the wrong from reassigning them. We’re not asking, we are demanding that you stand up for us as we stand up for our children. We deserve the same education, the same love, the same care as the other side of DeKalb county. Not only do we want our teachers put back in place, but we appreciate the survey about our principal. We have the person we want as the principal.

[applause from the crowd]

Money Fodderham
James Waddel
Penny Long
John Evans
Kelvin Griffin

[00:17:27] Money – Parent at SW DeKalb
[00:20:51] Penny Long – Parent at SW DeKalb

[00:24:06] John Evans
I’m here on a mission of mercy. I know these legal services are floating around somewhere. We’ve heard the ones you had retired. We want to know where the process is. The one thing we have as a problem at the NAACP is that we can never be sure blacks are going to be represented. We want to make it clear that we are expecting that process to work.

If you know you don’t have all the ingredients, you have to do something to make it work. The makeup of this board and the makeup of this county almost demands that we have good representation from black law firms. We are not talking about who what or where, but we are certainly talking about having some. I think you all understand what I mean.

If we don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it. If we have control and we don’t use it, nobody else is going to work it out for us. We have to take what we have and mandate that we want some black firms in that process. I know that realistically that in a normal straight forward bid process we won’t make it. I know we won’t make it. So, we’re asking that those believe in doing the right thing to make sure that the ingredient of black law firms is involved in the process.

I don’t know what you have to do. I don’t know what you’ve done to date. But that process needs to be looked at to make sure that we have representation. We can’t say it too many times that we need black representation in the legal matters of this system. I hope that you all will certainly put your minds to it, whatever you need to do to massage it.

Make sure you do that, for if you don’t, I say it will be an injustice to this district. We’ve had black representation most of the time here recently. We hope and expect you to do it again this time.

[some applause from crowd]

[00:27:09] – Kevin Griffin – supporter of SW DeKalb HS

[00:29:40] Willie Pringle
I’m here on behalf of our children and community.