DeKalb school chief Green to exit next year

Board didn’t give him a contract extension; he won’t ask for another one

In the statement announcing R. Stephen Green's hiring four years ago as the DeKalb County School District's next leader, the former school board chair touted the bright future he expected Green to bring.

The district has taken several steps forward in the last four years, boasting its highest graduation rate as well as regaining full accreditation. But Green’s tenure has been dogged by miscues in teacher recruitment and retention as well as concerns with spending on administrative staff and the steady departure of cabinet members, among other issues.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of Steve Green

Friday morning Green announced next year would be his last, that he decided not to seek contract extensions that have kept him in town this long.

“The DeKalb County Schools community is truly inspirational,” Green said. “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.”

For the better part of the past year, however, board members and other high-ranking district officials said Green was working furiously to achieve the contract extension he was first denied by the school board in 2018. He had received extensions to his initial three-year contract in 2016 and 2017.

Recent decisions, including the dismissal of the district's top communications officials, were to foster goodwill with the board as that extension was sought, people close to the process said. In the end, the votes simply were not there.

Green’s initial contract included a note that he and the board would develop a merit-based bonus system, but that system never materialized. Neither did clear goals and objectives for the superintendent. An attorney for the school district said goals were developed with the school board, but board members said Green’s goals often came from him. That began to change in the last year.

“He was never prepared to succeed here,” said DeKalb County Board of Education member Joyce Morley. “We did not provide the support that would have been necessary to have success. The board picked him — and let him do what he wanted. I disagreed with the process from the beginning.”

The school district regained full accreditation during Green’s time at the helm, as he led it through a process of revival that began in 2013, pushed by Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to remove six of the district’s nine board members amid management problems and a $14 million deficit. The district currently boasts reserves in excess of $100 million.

Hopes that Green’s impact would improve student achievement have not come to fruition, with the district’s standardized test scores flat over the past few years and teacher turnover at the highest rate among metro Atlanta school districts.

It’s had five superintendents in the past 12 years.

The district also has come under fire for its hiring as it employs hundreds of teachers through certification waivers, which allow uncertified teachers to lead classrooms. Many were supposed to work toward full certification, but many remain on staff without clearly laid out certification paths.

Several problematic hires in recent years were eventually found to have been avoidable by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, including a teacher forced to resign in late 2017 after The AJC reported she had been fired from a previous district for allegedly abusing students. Another teacher was forced to retire in 2016 but was rehired in 2017 as a substitute despite a note in her personnel file stating she could no longer be employed by the district. A high school math teacher was hired in 2018 after abruptly leaving several jobs at different metro Atlanta school districts. He later walked off the job at Tucker High School and was allowed to resign.

Green’s cabinet of top administrators has been in a bit of upheaval as well, with the reassignment of the chief of staff and losses of the chief operations officer, chief information officer, chief legal officer, chief human capital management officer and chief communications and community relations officer in the past 10 months.

DeKalb superintendents

Steve Green - 2015 to present

Michael Thurmond - 2013 to 2015

Cheryl Atkinson - 2011 to 2013

Ramona Tyson - 2010 to 2011

Crawford Lewis - 2004 to April 2010

Steve Green

Michael Thurmond

Cheryl Atkinson

Ramona Tyson

Crawford Lewis