DeKalb County Board of Education members Marshall Orson (left) and Michael A. Erwin (right) talk during a special meeting Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The board voted 6-1 to cut ties with Superintendent Steve Green. Ramona Tyson, Green’s former chief of staff and a former interim superintendent who now reports directly to the school board, is now the district’s interim leader. ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

DeKalb County Schools superintendent is out

The DeKalb County Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday to immediately sever ties with Superintendent Steve Green, saying they were hoping to avoid a “lame duck year” with a leader already looking toward opportunities elsewhere.

The board also approved naming board administrator Ramona Tyson as the district’s interim superintendent through the end of the school year. Tyson has worked in the district 32 years, and previously served as an interim superintendent and chief of staff to three former superintendents, including Green. Other terms of her contract — or terms of Green’s separation — were unavailable Monday, but Tyson has indicated she intends to retire at the end of the current school year.

“I want to thank Dr. Green for his hard work,” board chairman Michael A. Erwin said during the board’s special called meeting Monday, adding the board was confident in Tyson’s ability to lead the district through its current transition.

The vote ends Green’s nearly 53-month tenure as the district‘s longest superintendent in a 10-year stretch that saw it fall into debt and nearly lose its accreditation, only to rebound with more than $100 million in reserves and a multiyear accreditation renewal. Green was called a change agent when he first arrived, but results have been mixed under his leadership. The district boasts its highest graduation rate, but standardized test scores have been flat, and teacher turnover continues at the highest rate among metro Atlanta school districts.

Efforts to reach Green for comment Monday were not successful.

In May, Green announced his intention to leave the district after the current school year. He came to the district in 2015 under a three-year contract. In 2016 and 2017, the board approved one-year contract extensions. School board members did not approve contract extensions for Green in 2018 and 2019, which would have kept him here beyond 2020.

A national search already is under way for Green’s replacement.

“The DeKalb County Schools community is truly inspirational,” Green said in announcing his departure. “I am proud to have the opportunity to help lead our students to achieve educational excellence alongside our exceptional teachers and staff. I’m excited to see what the future holds for our District and our students – both have limitless potential.”

District officials set out in late 2014 to find a superintendent who would lead by example, prioritizing student education and addressing morale issues that pushed teacher turnover well above that at neighboring districts. It got a respected veteran educator who never endeared himself to his staff and reportedly ruled by a my-way-or-the-highway approach to leadership.

Several employees said Green’s office had been cleaned out before news began to spread over the weekend of his impending departure.

Board member Allyson Gevertz, who voted against Green’s dismissal, expressed displeasure with the move, saying she did not see the positive impact of parting with a leader in the middle of the school year.

“I am strongly opposed to this,” she said Monday afternoon before the board vote. “It’s fiscally irresponsible. This sends the wrong message to superintendent candidates. I don’t see the win for DeKalb County students.”

Others disagreed. With Green only staying through next June, many felt his focus already was on his next job, which put district progress at risk.

“Green has made clear his desire to move on,” board member Vickie Turner said. “What we don’t want is a lame duck year. It’s time to move forward.”

School board vice chairman Marshall Orson said during Green’s leadership the district became more fiscally stable and student achievement also improved. He said there also were other areas where work is still needed.

“We are in a much better place” than when Green arrived, Orson said. “While I would have been comfortable with (Green) staying the rest of the school year, I’m comfortable understanding it’s time to move on.”

Board member Joyce Morley has said the process of bringing Green into the district was flawed, which left him at a disadvantage as he worked on the district’s needs. She’s pushed for a better transition process as a new superintendent is chosen and transitions into the job.

“We have an obligation … to the students and the residents of DeKalb County,” she said. “We can’t keep pretending things are OK.

“It’s time to get our house in order.”

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