DeKalb Schools set to announce second superintendent finalist

The DeKalb County Board of Education is expected to announce its second superintendent finalist this morning, officials close to the process told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Cheryl Watson-Harris is second in command at the largest school district in the country, serving as first-deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education. According to her bio on the department of education website, she returned to New York after more than 15 years in Boston, where she worked as a principal and network superintendent until 2015. She began her teaching career in New York in 1993.

Watson-Harris, who has no previous experience as a school districts top leader, would lead Georgia’s third-largest district of about 99,000 students as it seeks to transition to some semblance of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. School buildings were closed for the last 10 weeks of the school year, which pushed learning online through online portals to mixed reviews from teachers and parents.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is protecting the identity of the people providing this information because they are not authorized to comment on the matter.

She would replace Ramona Tyson, who has said she intends to retire at the end of the month.

Watson-Harris also brings to the table her own share of turmoil, including allegations she received preferential treatment in receiving placement for two of her daughters at some of the city’s more elite schools.

According to the New York Post, one daughter entered a selective middle school in the eighth grade, though the school normally accepts incoming sixth graders. Another daughter was placed in a school for the gifted and talented known to choose students based on entry test scores and try-outs.

A week ago, she withdrew her name from contention for the superintendent's job at Sarasota County Schools in Florida, which has about 44,000 students.

“That was just a personal choice,” she told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper after withdrawing her name for the position.

The school board initially announced Rudy Crew as its single finalist for the superintendent position on April 23, with five board members heaping praise on the selection during a meeting held via Zoom and aired on the district's public access channel.

Just over two weeks later, in a stunning reversal, the board voted not to hire Crew, with several opting not to say why publicly. The selection had been met with concern from residents who felt Crew’s history -- including allegations Crew bullied a subordinate and obstructed a rape investigation involving a 14-year-old student -- showed he was not suitable for DeKalb.