05/01/2013 – Thurmond at DCPC

Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council
Wed 5/1/2013 @ 9:15 AM

Meeting Summary
Michael Thurmond was visibly disconcerted during his Q&A with the DCPC (Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council) on Wednesday. He steered away from citing too many data points and made it clear he intends to spend a lot of time and money on low performing schools saying “lifting from the bottom” and getting parents involved will elevate all schools. Terry Nall and Fran Millar peppered Mr. Thurmond with facts as he refused to support dual accreditation for high schools across DeKalb. Mr. Thurmond implored parents to acknowledge things were getting better to no avail. One parent summed it up saying before they endorse this administration “What I’d like to see, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is to see a commitment to some sweeping changes”.
DCSD Updates

  • Commencement Speakers – As reported in the AJC, Governor Nathan Deal is among several high-profile figures who will give commencement addresses for DeKalb County high schools.
  • 90 Day Plan – The 90 day action plan has been released.
  • SACS – DCSD is prepared and looking forward to the upcoming SACS/AdvancED visit.
  • United Parent Councils – Representatives from parent councils across the county came together recently to discuss how they can improve the district in concert.
  • Top 15 High SchoolsUS News and World Report reported that 3 of the top 15 high schools in Georgia are in DeKalb.
  • $16 Million Dollar Deficit – Given the new funding mandates, DeKalb is fortunate to have only a $16 million dollar deficit.

Fact Checker

Thurmond: US News and World Report reported. And the media covered it in passing that of the 15 highest performing, top high schools in the state of Georgia, 3 of them are located in DeKalb County.”
The fact that most of the traditionally highest ranked schools in Georgia didn’t break the top 20 calls into question the methodology of the report. DSW has a good thread on that, Where’s Lakeside on the US News list of top high schools.
Thurmond: “We are projected, primarily, the only evidence of mandated increases and insurance costs and health costs and step increases mandated by the state, a $16 million dollar operating deficit for F.Y. ’14.”
While it is true that benefit costs determined by the state have increased, this happens frequently. DCSD should be able to build in some increases to benefits just as private companies are forced to do.
Thurmond: “We will on this week impose and implement and enforce a strict nepotism policy. One that did not exist in the district. “
There is an Employment Of Relatives Policy, but it just doesn’t use the word ‘Nepotism’. The policy is consistent with state law which prevents the hiring and promotion of relatives of the board to positions of AP or higher. It delineates when board members must abstain from voting on a hire. It demands that every employee disclose all familial relationships with the board and senior staff. If an employee does not, they are subject to termination.
“The District permits the employment of qualified relatives of employees, provided such employment does not, in the judgment of the Superintendent or his/her designee, create actual or perceived conflicts of interest. d. All District employees are required to disclose, on an annual basis, whether they are a relative of any other current District employee.”
Thurmond: “We’re not going to spend $9.2 million on attorney’s fees in 2014.”
The budget process just started, no cuts have been made to date, and Mr. Thurmond doesn’t know enough about education administration to be able to accurately make this prediction. I would drill down hard on this one. I don’t expect the data to bare Mr Thurmond’s prediction out.

Q&A Summary
Question: It’s not a wise policy for the administrators to tell principals to control their parents.
Thurmond: Parents are an untapped resource we are going to use to lift this district up from the bottom.
Fran Millar: What are your thoughts on the charter clusters and dual accreditation?
Thurmond: I will not support anything that undermines the value [of full district accreditation]. I love charters, I love theme schools. But at the end of the day, I gotta fix [all the low performing] schools.
Question: Exactly what is your strategy to get parents in low performing schools more involved?
Thurmond:To reach out to you and reach out to parents across the district. … To encourage the [parents] to participate in the education of their children.
Page Olsen: I disagree with you on dual accreditation. Also, school councils have been neglected, underfunded, and need a larger role in the selection of schoolhouse employees.
Thurmond:I agree with that. The policy on the table being discussed is that the council would have an advisory role.
Question: We’re looking for some big moves to show that you mean what you say.
Thurmond: What we have to do is evolve and to accommodate. Things are getting better every day.
Don McChesney: We have a nepotism policy. Please stop saying we don’t.
Thurmond: Even if we had it, but it’s not respected, not adhered to, then in my mind we don’t have it.
Stan Jester: Why can’t you just implement the old one?
Thurmond: It wasn’t strong enough. It doesn’t really make sense.
Question:Class sizes are too big.
Thurmond: Oh, absolutely.
Question: Will DeKalb once again be asking for a waiver from the state that their class sizes be 8 students higher than the state maximum.
Thurmond: It’s a status quo budget.

3 responses to “05/01/2013 – Thurmond at DCPC

  1. Don McChesney

    This is a grat idea. I appreciate your diligence and time in trying to report the factual happenings at DCSS. I feel that with the hiring of our current superintendent all we have done is to continue to line the pockets of the well connected in our school system. Our BOE and our superintendent really do not seem to know much about the job they are supposed to be doing.

  2. Kim Edwards

    Don McChesney:”Our BOE and our superintendent really do not seem to know much about the job they are supposed to be doing”.
    That may true to some level; but I have watched and sat in on some of the meetings when you Mr. McChesney was on the board and it seems like you all didn’t know much about the job you were supposed to be doing ether. You and the rest of the board knew about the ‘Nepotism’ and I don’t recall seeing any changes under your leadership…. Also, why not try helping the board instead criticizing them. At one point you had support and people did give you a chance. Try to be more supportive and say words that will help and not hinder improvement. Thanks

  3. Kim – you wouldn’t know what Mr. McChesney did or didn’t do about nepotism. There were lots of conversations. There are plenty of policies that the administration needed to enforce. The one about nepotism was on the books. The board cannot enforce policies. That is completely a job for the superintendent. The board can’t tell the superintendent who to hire and where they should be placed. That would be a clear case of micromanaging. If you want to be really confused, read the SACS report. They got mad at the board for asking the superintendent to comply with a policy. Everything isn’t what it seems.