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Oakhurst Elementary students learn ‘healthy can be fun’

Oakhurst Elementary School’s second annual health fair featured dancing, exercising, planting and vegetable tasting Oct. 4. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

Students at Oakhurst Elementary School in Decatur danced, planted, played, stretched and washed as part the school’s second annual Health and Wellness Fall Festival Oct. 4. “A day like today is important because it shows [students] that being healthy can be fun,” said Elizabeth Hanna, coordinator of school health for City Schools of Decatur. “It […]

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Walmart Superstore comes to Stonecrest Corridor

Store associates dancing

A project that interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May described as having been “on-off, on-off, on-off, for quite a while” was definitely on the morning of Oct. 2 as he, along with other elected officials, community leaders and Walmart officials opened a Walmart Superstore on Mall Parkway near the Mall at Stonecrest in Lithonia. “People […]

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PATH Academy principal named Charter School Leader of the Year


Suttiwan Cox, principal and CEO of DeKalb PATH Academy, is proud of her students. “We have the best kids in the world, because they have the best teachers in the world,” Cox said Sept. 26, a day after receiving the Georgia Charter Schools Association’s “Shoot for the Moon” award recognizing her as the 2013-14 Charter […]

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Student seeks to dispel stigma of homelessness

Oglethorpe University student Awet Woldegebriel has set out to show a different side of homelessness with his new film series “One Hundred Cups, One Hundred Stories.” Photos provided

Oglethorpe University student Awet Goitom Woldegebriel said he wants to break through the misconception that most homeless people are alcoholics, drug addicts or are homeless because of bad life choices. He has created a short film series to highlight stories of Georgia’s diverse homeless population titled “One Hundred Cups, One Hundred Stories.” Throughout the series, […]

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Redan coaches, player win Georgia Dugout Club honors

Redan High School baseball team won the Class AAAA state title in May, the program’s first state title. Head Coach Marvin Pruitt (far left) and assistant coach Chris Hardnett were named Class AAAA Co-Coaches of the Year

  Redan head Coach Marvin Pruitt, assistant coach Chris Hardnett and former pitcher Brandon Baker all recently picked up honors for the 2013 state championship season from the Georgia Dugout Club. Pruitt, the all-time leader in wins for a DeKalb County baseball coach at 488-325-5 overall, and Hardnett were named Class AAAA Co-Coaches of the […]

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Politicians read to children during Georgia Pre-K Week

State Sen. Emanuel Jones reads to children at Alpha Academy in Decatur. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

With three children of his own—ages 16, 19 and 23—Sen. Emanuel Jones said he’s “daddy-qualified.” Jones spent some time Oct. 3 reading to pre-K children at Alpha Academy on Snapfinger Woods Drive in Decatur. “I was just overjoyed,” Jones said after sitting of the floor with the children and reading Pete the Cat and His […]

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School board extends Thurmond’s contract to 2015

by Andrew Cauthen

Mike Thurmond is no longer the interim DeKalb County School District superintendent. The school board voted unanimously Oct. 7 to extend his contract until June 2015.
“Mr. Superintendent, congratulations. You are no longer interim; you’re the superintendent,” said school board chairman Melvin Johnson as board members and the audience applauded.
 “I’m excited and I’m proud and I’m delighted that the board demonstrated their support for what we’re trying to accomplish in our work,” Thurmond after the board meeting. “I’m just looking forward to coming to work tomorrow and continuing to try to move the district forward.”
Thurmond said he is “blessed to be surrounded by great individuals, outstanding educators who are very focused. We’ve got great stakeholders. Clearly from all objective accounts we’re moving in the right direction and I’m just excited to be able to continue in that regard.”
Thurmond, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor, replaced Cheryl Atkinson after the school approved a separation agreement with her. 
Shortly after Thurmond was hired, six members of the school board were suspended. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed replacements after the school district was placed on accreditation probation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the agency that accredits the school district through its parent company, AdvancED.
Thurmond said he decided to stay in the position longer “to continue to stabilize the district.”
“We’ve made a significant amount of progress but there’s work to be done and I think it’s just in the best interest of the district,” Thurmond said. “We need stability and to have an additional turnover as it relates to the superintendent right now with SACS pending would not be a good idea.”
Thurmond said he is encouraged by the district’s progress toward addressing the concerns of AdvancED.
“We’re investing a tremendous amount of time and energy and resources in that, [and] reaching out to all stakeholders throughout the community, so I feel positive,” Thurmond said. “We just have to really focus and work hard and be prepared when they arrive.”
Thurmond said a top goal of his is to continue to build the district’s fund balance.
“We have a $9.5 million fund balance for the first time in several years, but that’s nowhere near where we need it to be,” he said. “We’re going to continue to create fiscal stability, continue to be a trust among our stakeholders, return to a fully accredited district with no caveat and, most importantly, invest time and energy in improving academic achievement and performance of our students.”
Thurmond’s biggest challenge in the district has been “working and encouraging people to believe again,” he said. “There’s been so many disappointments. There was so much distrust and frustration and sometimes even anger. 
“We’re building support throughout the district,” Thurmond said. “And people are hopeful and they are happy, to some extent, and we’re working together, so that’s good.”
At the end of his contract, Thurmond said, he hopes to turn a restored district over to a permanent, “more traditional superintendent.”
“No superintendent should ever have to face what I faced when I came in February,” Thurmond said. “That is my goal—when I turn the keys over in June 2015—and I will turn the keys over in June 2015—we will have a more stable district. We’ll have a district that’s focused on improving academic achievement and a district that works to continue to build trust among the stakeholders.”
David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said he is “delighted” with Thurmond’s extension. 
“He’s really empowered employees,” Schutten said. “He’s turning the school system around and he’s provided good vision and leadership for the school system. He really does believe in not making all of the decisions out of the central office. He is empowering principals and in turn teachers will be empowered.”

Mike Thurmond is no longer the interim DeKalb County School District superintendent. The school board voted unanimously Oct. 7 to extend his contract until June 2015. “Mr. Superintendent, congratulations. You are no longer interim; you’re the superintendent,” said school board chairman Melvin Johnson as board members and the audience applauded. “I’m excited and I’m proud […]

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DeKalb County sanitation workers will get union

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Oct. 8 to amend an ordinance to allow for sanitation workers to organize a union. Photos by Daniel Beauregard

Cheers arose from DeKalb County sanitation workers Oct. 8 as commissioners removed the final hurdle to allow them to begin forming a union. The board of commissioners voted unanimously to amend Chapter 20 of the DeKalb County Code to allow sanitation workers to organize in much the same way as DeKalb County police and firefighter […]

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