Ex-DeKalb Schools HR chief, demoted after ‘health challenges,’ is gone

Leo Brown, the DeKalb County School District human resources chief demoted in 2017 after a mysterious three-month absence less than a year into the job, has left the district.

Brown's last day as a compliance officer in the operations division was Jan. 11, district officials said via email. He gave no reason for his resignation, officials said.

Brown was brought to the district by Superintendent Steve Green in January 2016 to address teacher morale and retention issues. By the fall of that year, DeKalb County Board of Education members were openly voicing disapproval of Brown’s tactics for addressing the issues.

Brown missed two monthly school board meetings — in January and February 2017 — with no explanation. District officials did not initially answer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's inquiries about Brown's whereabouts. According to payroll reports, he was paid for the time he missed, though he was ineligible for paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act because he had worked for the district less than 12 months when he took leave from his position.

When Brown disappeared in late 2016, the district had more than 100 teacher vacancies in the middle of the school year, though it had recently begun using certification waivers to let instructors without state teaching certifications fill some teaching positions, a practice many teacher advocacy groups are against.

"Certification is, of course, valued," Brown said in late 2016. "But we understand there are individuals with content knowledge who can come in immediately and teach. We see the value in content knowledge available to help our students."

District officials let him explain his absence in a release announcing several personnel moves, including Brown's job change, where Brown thanked the district for supporting him during "health challenges." He initially kept his $175,000 salary in the new job, which was supposed to pay a maximum of $64,000 according to the job description posted online.

When he left the district, he was making about $80,000.

Brown did not arrive at the school district with the best fanfare. Brown — whose previous employment included a stint with Kansas City Public Schools during Green's time there as superintendent — was announced as an interim human resources director in January, along with two other interim directors who also had previously worked at Kansas City Public Schools with Green. A search firm had been tasked with finding candidates for several jobs and paid more than $100,000 to do so. But the jobs went to candidates suggested by others at the school district and selected by Green.