Board extends contract; Thurmond now superintendent
Ken Watts | 10/11/2013, 6:02 a.m.
After eight months on the job, Michael Thurmond can ditch the word “interim” and is now the district’s third superintendent in three years.
The DeKalb School Board voted unanimously at its Oct. 7 meeting to extend his contract to June 30, 2015.
Dr. Melvin Johnson, the board’s chairman who pushed the vote to make Thurmond the superintendent, was happy with the results.
“Mr. Superintendent, congratulations,” he said to loud applause from the audience. “You are no longer ‘interim.’ You’re a superintendent.”
Thurmond said he is pleased to stay in DeKalb.
“I want to express my appreciation to the board for its trust in me and, more importantly, trust in the men and women I work with every day.” he said. “I have been thrilled and delighted to be surrounded by some of the hardest-working educators anywhere in the state or the nation.”
Thurmond’s interim contract was set to expire on Feb. 8, 2014.
Though he had committed to serving for one year, Thurmond, a lawyer, former state representative, former state Labor Commissioner, former head of the state Division of Family and Children Services, author, and college professor, changed his mind. Many parents were glad that he did.
“He’s stepped up and he’s done the job,” said Emma Jean Archer, whose son attended Rainbow Elementary and Lakeside High.
“He understands and he shows that he understands,” said Janice Gardner of Lithonia, whose five children graduated from Stephenson High. “He makes himself available to parents. I think he’s the best superintendent DeKalb’s had in many, many years.”
“I think his priorities are right and classroom instruction seems to be improving under his leadership,” said Janice’s husband, Larry Gardner.
Thurmond’s contract with the district continues his $275,000 a year salary and $2,600 in “routine expenses.” Before the vote, Johnson said that in the short time he has been on board, Thurmond has brought badly needed stability to the district and strengthened its efforts to regain full accreditation after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the district on “accreditation probation” on Dec. 17, 2012, citing inadequate governance.
Dr. Mark Elgart, CEO of SACS parent company AdvancED, told the board on April 3 that keeping steady leadership is key to making progress.
“You cannot have the superintendent position be a rotating position,” he told the board, which includes five members appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. “You cannot have it constantly going in and out based on political differences. If you have the right person, you need that person in place for a longer time to make a difference in a system of this magnitude and complexity.”
Reacting to Thurmond’s contract extension Tuesday, Elgart said board members “need to continue their focus on improvement with sustained effort and stable leadership.”
SACS will return in December to review the district’s status and determine whether to upgrade its accreditation.
Thurmond, who has maintained that he wants to return to his law practice at Butler Wooten & Fryhofer, says the district continues to make strong progress toward regaining full accreditation and he does not envision staying beyond 2015.
“This is my last extension.”