DeKalb’s newly hired interim school superintendent said he started Feb. 12 under a school bus.
He wanted to make sure two school employees had received a memo he sent to school personnel.
“They thought I had lost my mind,” said Mike Thurmond.
“You have to open up the lines of communication,” said Thurmond, adding that he will be transparent as superintendent.
“I don’t have a magic wand, but I am willing to commit myself to working with all the stakeholders to develop solutions,” Thurmond said. “I can’t tell you what every solution is but I can tell that we are committed 100 percent to finding those solutions.”
Thurmond made the comments Feb. 12 when he met with the DeKalb County legislative delegation in Atlanta.
“We want to emphasize that we understand that missteps may have been made,” Thurmond said about his strategy when he speaks to the Georgia Board of Education Feb. 21. “We want to focus on the future, not on the past. We want to let the state school board know that we are committed, we’re focused, we’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to …restore full accreditation to the DeKalb school district.”
Thurmond said the DeKalb school board has decided that he will be the spokesman when it appears before the state school board to address DeKalb’s accreditation probation.
During his year-long role as the interim superintendent of the DeKalb County School District, Thurmond said, he will focus not on the deficits in the school district, but on the assets.
“We have people who are dedicated, who love children, who want to do the right thing,” Thurmond said. “We need to do what’s right for our children.”
Thurmond began his public service career in 1986, after being elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County. While in office, he was the only Black legislator elected from a majority White district.
After three terms in the legislature, Gov. Zell Miller selected Thurmond to help transition welfare recipients to work. Thurmond created the Work First program, which helped more than 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move into the workforce, saving more than $100 million in tax dollars that were reinvested in child care, training and other support services, according to Thurmond’s biographic profile.
In 1997, Thurmond became a lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government; in 1998, he was elected as the state’s labor commissioner.
After serving his third term as labor commissioner, Thurmond made an unsuccessful bid to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.
When asked about his lack of educational experience, Thurmond said, “I had no experience working at DFCS. I had never worked for the Department. of Labor. The key for a great leader is to know what you don’t know.”
Thurmond said that his experience so far with the county’s school board members is that “they are beginning to learn to work together.
“What I’m beginning to see from the board is a real clear vision,” Thurmond said. “We are going to be successful at the end of the day.”
Thurmond said his goal is not to protect the school board from AdvancED, the agency that put the district on accreditation probation.
“My goal is to do what is right for the children,” Thurmond said. “The school board made it clear that my priorities should be focused toward the children and not toward the board.”