This story has been updated.
DeKalb County, Georgia — The DeKalb County School Board has kept a low profile for weeks after its controversial decisions to remove Druid Hills High from a list of repair projects and fire former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris.
Key school board members responsible for those decisions have not returned messages seeking comment on articles posted on Decaturish.com, and the district spokesperson does not always respond to questions.
Now, with a deadline looming to put the repair project back into the district’s facilities plan, the school board has scheduled a virtual closed-door meeting for Monday at 10:30 a.m. The closed meeting, known as the executive session, will be “for the purpose of discussing permissible matters relating to personnel, litigation, land and student appeals.”
The DeKalb County School Board at their May 9 meeting again excluded Druid Hills High from the district’s repair plans. The council adopted a local facilities plan at this meeting, but did not include Druid Hills High. On May 12, the state Department of Education ordered the DeKalb County School Board to add the high school back to the plan by June 1 or risk being cut from state facilities funds. . The directive was part of a corrective action plan for high school issues brought to light by students who made a video that garnered media attention.
Council members tried to call a meeting for days, but council members could not agree to do so. The board is facing many questions – and registering requests – from Decaturish and other media about their recent actions.
In related news, a spokesperson for the state Department of Education said the department is “hiring Dr. Tanzy Kilcrease, the outgoing chief of staff of the Bibb County School District, as a special appointed to work with DeKalb on the issues identified in our Corrective Action Plan and to work to resolve systemic operational issues across the District.This will be in addition to our facilities team’s work with the District.
Here is additional information about renting from the state Department of Education:
We are hiring Dr. Tanzy Kilcrease, outgoing Chief of Staff for the Bibb County School District, as a Special Advisor appointed to work with DeKalb on issues identified in our Corrective Action Plan and to address systemic operating issues in the whole district. . This will be in addition to our facilities team’s work with the district.
Dr. Kilcrease was previously Chief of Staff for the Bibb County School District, overseeing all district operations and overseeing the maintenance/facilities departments, capital programs, safety and risk management, energy management, city police. campus, technology, transportation, school nutrition, and athletics. Previously, she served as Deputy Superintendent and Associate Superintendent in Bibb County, as Director of School Improvement in Peach County, and earlier in her career as Principal of several county schools. de Bibb and a middle school teacher. She holds an Ed.D. in instructional leadership from Argosy University, an honors degree in administration and supervision from Georgia College and State University, a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Georgia College and State University, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Georgia College.
His responsibilities will include, but not be limited to:
– Collaborate and coordinate efforts between the Georgia Department of Education and DeKalb County schools regarding the published corrective action plan; monitor the plan.
– Evaluate the current operations of the DeKalb County School District and make recommendations for increased efficiency and effectiveness; monitoring the progress of the implementation of these changes.
– Ensure that DCSD develops and executes a plan to fully resolve their urgent and critical facilities issues.
– Assist in the establishment of a District Rapid Response Team to address additional facility issues identified by students and stakeholders.
– Support the development of best practices and a standard for quality facilities to address systemic issues throughout the district.
The school board in February removed the Druid Hills modernization from a list of projects, sparking a controversy that has continued to escalate. Following this decision, high school students produced the infamous video showing unsafe and unsanitary conditions at their school. This caught the attention of the Georgia Department of Education, and resulted in a visit by the GA DOE facilities team. In April, the school board again refused to reconsider the modernization project, instead opting for a plan that board members claimed would address district-wide repairs. Following this meeting, State Superintendent Richard Woods sent a scathing letter about conditions at the school, saying recent repairs were mostly cosmetic. The school board responded the next day by placing most of the blame on then-Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris. Later that day, the school board fired her.
Investigative reporting from Decaturish revealed that more was happening behind the scenes. A private investigation firm hired by the district to investigate allegations of sketchy promotions and questionable use of federal coronavirus relief money on employee bonuses has produced a report who exonerated Watson-Harris. This investigation began around the time the community of Druid Hills High began lobbying the school board to remove its school upgrade from the district’s list of projects. After the private investigator interviewed Watson-Harris on April 26, the DeKalb County School Board fired her unexpectedly that same day.
The state’s Corrective Action Plan for DeKalb County Schools notes that many maintenance issues at the school remain unaddressed, including some previously identified through work orders prior to the GA DOE’s visit to Druid. Hills High.
The DeKalb County Fire Marshal also visited the high school on April 26, the same day the school board fired Watson-Harris. The fire marshal found numerous infractions and the facility failed his inspection. The fire marshal has given the school district until May 10 to resolve the issues. It is not clear whether the issues identified by the fire marshal have been resolved.
The other schools are not named in the corrective action plan; however, GA DOE also makes a series of recommendations “to ensure that each DCSD installation meets a standard of safety and quality”.
These recommendations include hiring a permanent and qualified chief operating officer, reorganizing the maintenance department for maximum efficiency, and “[eliminating] the current flow of paper/pencil work orders and adopt electronic processing of all work orders at the school level.
Another requirement of the corrective action plan directly targets the DeKalb School Board:
“The governance team must operate in a deliberative and transparent manner to restore public trust,” the corrective action plan states.
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