4 – Michael Thurmond

DeKalb Schools Superintendent
Index – 2014 Summer Leadership Conference

Alice Thompson – Deputy Superintendent
If there was ever a David, we know who it is.  This man has slewed many giants than any Superintendent we’ve ever had.  Although there are many smooth stones, I will name five stones that he has accomplished.
1. Eliminate the budget deficit
2. Restore DeKalb County School District off probation
3. Increase student achievement through growth, which we call our GAM … Growth And Achievement
4. He reached a settlement with the biggest lawsuit in the history of DeKalb County School District
5. He restored the Cost Of Living raise for the first time in 6 years and eliminated all furlough days for teachers.
Michael Thurmond – Superintendent
Thank you Alice Thompson for your kind words and leadership as Deputy Superintendent on school leadership.  Thank Dr. Johnson for his constant council and support as well as the members of the board.  I want to welcome our board of elect.  I want to first and foremost thank you for all you have done, working with our council of PTAs, working with our teachers and other stakeholders.
It can be said without any reasonable doubt, that at the most critical moment in the history of the DeKalb County School District, the many men and women in this room and beyond, rose to what some thought was a challenge that could not be overcome.
As I stood in the back listening and engaging this moment, I could not help but feel a sense of true pride in you … in terms of what you’ve done and what you have accomplished.  David and Goliath by Gladwell is currently my favorite book and I hope you all follow through on Dr. Thompson’s assignment.  There will be a pop quiz … just kidding.  It’s an interesting look at how we face challenges.  It’s how you have faced challenges in DeKalb County.
Cause if we could bring David from ancient times to 2014, I can tell you that at the moment David step forth, all the polls said he had no chance.  I can tell you without any reservations in my mind’s eye that in 2014 all the bloggers spoke the most harsh and negative terms about him … his qualifications.  And about the fact that he had no chance just like they have done for DeKalb County.
But David had something.  He had what you all have.  Number one, he has faith.  You all have faith in public education.  And you know that public education is trans formative.  David had what you have, which is courage.  All courage is is the ability to overcome your fears, to go places where others will not dare.  All anyone, everyone can talk about somebody ought’a do something about public education.  Somebody ought’a do something about those poor children.  Somebody ought’a do something about that group of children.  But, you are the men and women who get up every day and actually try.
David was surrounding by neh sayers.  He was inundated by negativity.  They told David you’ll never get off probation.  They told David that you’re broke and you’ll always be broke.  They told David that your children can never achieve and grow.  They told David that you have nothing of worth that should be preserved or protected.
I’m in a school, but the Devil has been, is, and always will be a liar.  I’ll be back later in the week.  I will finish my lecture.  I will provide you with a gift, if between now and then I can secure it for each and every one of you that you will be able to use any day, anywhere, anytime.
I want to thank you for what you all were able to accomplish on the standardized assessments at the elementary and the middle and the high school level.  In a few minutes you will see it for yourselves.  The numbers do not lie.  You did it.  You did it because you rose to the challenge.
Say a prayer for my lovely wife. We are facing major health issues.  She said, Michael don’t talk about that.  Say a prayer for her.  OK?
More importantly, you gonna teach these children in a few weeks.  You gonna lead the teachers, right?  And don’t let ever let anybody take you back to where we were.  Don’t you go back there.  Because I will always follow DeKalb, I will always love DeKalb.  I’ll always have it deep in my heart.
And I want to thank you Dr. Johnson for allowing me to come to DeKalb at this critical moment.  You know David went running into the valley, but no one else would go.  I remember when the board called me that day and I was so impressed.  I’m sitting there Saturday morning watching cartoons.  I get this call, “I’d like to speak to Michael Thurmond.” I said this was he.  He said, “Do you want to be the Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools?”
I said, “Hmmm … maybe.”  And I hung up the phone and I said, you know what this is so cool.  They have asked me to come to lead the third largest school district in the state of Georgia.  I get over to the board and I found out that the first eight people they asked said ‘No’.