Georgia Dept. of Education appoints adviser to help fix DeKalb schools

Students have been pushing the DeKalb County Board of Education to modernize Druid Hills High, but the board has repeatedly opted not to. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Students have been pushing the DeKalb County Board of Education to modernize Druid Hills High, but the board has repeatedly opted not to. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

A state spokeswoman called the action an “unprecedented move”

The Georgia Department of Education is hiring an adviser to work with the DeKalb County School District on solving “systemic operations issues,” a state spokeswoman said Thursday.

The spokeswoman, Meghan Frick, called it an “unprecedented move.” It comes after the state said last week that the school system must commit to modernizing the aging Druid Hills High School as a condition for accessing millions of dollars to improve buildings across the district.

The state-issued 21-page corrective action plan also outlined requirements to address safety concerns at all schools and alter the way the district approaches maintenance.

The DeKalb school board has repeatedly opted not to modernize the facility for a price tag of $60 million, but has faced ongoing pressure from the community and state leaders.

ExploreGeorgia officials tell DeKalb school board to fix Druid Hills High

The state is hiring Tanzy Kilcrease, the outgoing chief of staff in the Bibb County School District. Beginning in June, she will work with DeKalb on issues identified in the corrective action plan. The state’s facilities team will also continue to work with the district.

The state Board of Education must approve the district’s five-year facilities plan before it can be reimbursed for any construction costs.

Last month, Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods called conditions at Druid Hills High “egregious” after a team of state officials visited and evaluated the campus. He said in a letter to the board in April he would not recommend the facilities plan for approval if the Druid Hills problems were not addressed.

But some members of the DeKalb school board blamed Cheryl Watson-Harris for conditions at the school in a response to Woods’ first communication about the school. She was fired from her role as superintendent later that same day.

Woods answered back that the board was eroding public trust and is responsible for conditions at schools.

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

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Tanzy Kilcrease was hired by the Georgia Department of Education to help the DeKalb County School District with facilities improvement.

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Department of Education

Tanzy Kilcrease was hired by the Georgia Department of Education to help the DeKalb County School District with facilities improvement.

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Department of Education

Combined ShapeCaption
Tanzy Kilcrease was hired by the Georgia Department of Education to help the DeKalb County School District with facilities improvement.

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Department of Education

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Department of Education

The state Department of Education had already assigned a consultant to assist the school system with facility planning. The new adviser will ensure the district complies with the state’s recommendations.

Kilcrease’s responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

- Coordinating efforts between the state and district to implement the corrective action plan;

- Recommending ways to increase efficiency of the district’s current operations;

- Ensuring the district develops and executes a plan to address urgent and critical facilities issues;

- Assisting with creating a District Rapid Response Team to address additional facilities issues identified by students and stakeholders;

- Supporting the development of best practices and a standard for quality facilities to address systemic issues throughout the district.

ExploreDeKalb school board favors districtwide fixes over Druid Hills repairs

Prior to serving as the Bibb County School District’s chief of staff, Kilcrease was an assistant superintendent and associate superintendent in Bibb County, as well as director of school improvement in Peach County.