By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
Tom Bowen, Chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Education
If Cheryl Atkinson is the best that the search firm and/or school board can come up with for superintendent of the DeKalb County School System, then they ought to let me pick a superintendent. I guarantee you that I can find someone — even in Georgia — who is competent, is a proven leader (someone who actually has people WANTING to follow him or her), and treats people with respect and dignity. Oh, by the way, has anyone on the DeKalb Board of Education ever heard of Dr. Samuel T. King next door in Rockdale County? That might be a good starting point. But, then again, maybe Chairman Tom Bowen doesn’t want a strong leader. Have you ever thought of this? Perhaps ole Tom wants a weak person, someone whom he can control.
I suspect that there is more to this than what meets the eye. Perhaps some side deals have been made. I don’t think that this thing happened in a corner. Phone calls are easy to make. Perhaps assurances have been given to board members or via intermediaries that no wholesale changes will take place, especially in Human Resources. Perhaps a certain law firm will end up to serve as school board attorneys. Perhaps certain vendors will sell their educational wares to the school system. I just don’t know. But, when we are playing educational ball in the Big Leagues, and the team’s home office puts someone of Atkinson’s caliber on the pitcher’s mound, this just makes you wonder. Why? She hasn’t been successful even in Class A Ball. Why bring her to The Show when you know that she will be whacked out of the ball park? Now you have a lot of Front Office in-fighting taking place and skirmishes in the dugout all during the game. Surely more that what meets the eye is involved. Or, is Tom Bowen just this incompetent? And he wants to take Burrell Ellis’s place at the Chairman of the County Commission? Ha! DeKalb is a mess indeed.
I was basically sitting out this round of fights on the various blogs…because I have tried to follow the adage of leaving people alone when they are beating up themselves. Hey, I wonder if Mark Elgart, the greatest educational hypocrite in Georgia, is bemused with all of these shenanigans in DeKalb County? Mark, it doesn’t look like the DeKalb County Board of Education is sitting around holding hands and singing Kum Ba Ya like you have demanded. Oh, Mark, you have become a caricature. You are a joke when it comes to “standards.” I believe that your real standard is to do what the business community wants you to do. You have become a willing puppet. Just a puppet on a string. SACS has become a hollow organization which is used when the Big Business Mules get together and want to take out certain school board members.
Granted, Superintendents Jim Cherry and Jim Hinson were despot-like, but they were competent. Freeman and Hallford (did I spell it correctly?) were much nicer. Johnny Brown came to town from Birmingham huffing and puffing but he too appears to have been more competent than Cheryl Atkinson. Crawford Lewis was in over his head, as evidenced by what happened under his watch. There appears to be a downward spiral in the DeKalb Superintendent position. The U. S. S. DeKalb looks like a rudderless ship tossed to and fro on the educational waves and about to be shipwrecked.
The DeKalb County School System, under the non-leadership of Chairman Tom Bowen, appears to be imploding. And now Bowen wants to bring in someone from little Lorain, Ohio who appears to be as incompetent as Clayton County’s Edmond Heatley from Chino Valley, California. Did Glenn Brock recommend Atkinson to DeKalb County? I know that his search firm recommended Heatley to Clayton County and Michael Hinojosa to Cobb County and Robert Avossa to Fulton County. How do you judge a search firm’s effectiveness? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? I think that the public is gagging on many of Glenn Brock’s selections.