Board chair: Druid Hills High problems fall on DeKalb superintendent

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

DeKalb County Board of Education Chair Vicki Turner on Tuesday pointed a finger at the district’s superintendent over the facility issues at the aging Druid Hills High School.

In a letter responding to criticism from a state official, Turner said Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris is “empowered to promptly address any situation that threatens to jeopardize” the safety and health of students and others.

ExploreUPDATE: DeKalb County school board fires Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris

A day earlier, Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods in a letter chastised the school board over conditions at Druid Hills High, which he called unacceptable. A facilities team from the state Department of Education visited the school recently after students released a video documenting poor building conditions.

Turner said she was concerned with the state’s conclusion that repairs at the school had been “solely cosmetic.” She said in her letter that communication between the board and superintendent had “broken down” over how to address facilities issues districtwide.

“The superintendent is charged with the responsibility of the day-to-day operations to address immediate and critical function needs in accordance with the policy and budget,” Turner’s letter said.

Since February, the board has twice passed over modernizing the school at an estimated cost of $60 million. Instead, last week, the board changed its overall plan for building repairs across the district, putting smaller but critical updates at schools ahead of select major projects.

ExploreGeorgia school superintendent says DeKalb mishandled Druid Hills High

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

ExploreDeKalb school board favors districtwide fixes over Druid Hills repairs

Watson-Harris had cautioned against moving ahead with the alternative plan without more vetting. Two of seven board members voted down the plan.

“I just wish we had time to really understand the proposal and be able to offer the proper information,” Watson-Harris said at the meeting.

Watson-Harris and her team, as well as outside contractors, spent $2 million and more than a year on a comprehensive master plan for the district. That plan spanned the next decade and included the modernization of Druid Hills High School.

The school has been the center of a districtwide debate after students’ video showed water-damaged ceilings and walls, electrical hazards and plumbing issues.

“Let me be clear: each and every student in DeKalb County Schools has a right to functioning bathrooms; air-conditioned and heated classrooms; spaces free of mildew, mold, and flooding; and safe conditions to learn,” Woods said in his letter to the school board. “Each and every facility in DeKalb County Schools should meet that basic standard — at present, Druid Hills High School does not.”


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