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DeKalb schools had central office exits, hiring missteps in 2018

Last year found the DeKalb County School District facing many high-profile departures while letting some ineligible teachers slip into the system.

Superintendent Steve Green lost just more than a third of his cabinet over the course of the year, including former Chief Operations Officer Joshua Williams and Chief Information Officer Gary Brantley, who left in August and September to work for the city of Atlanta. Chief Academic and Accountability Officer Lisa Martin left abruptly in January with little explanation or fanfare. Chief of Staff Ramona Tyson took a job where she will be reporting to the school board. Regional Superintendent Rachel Zeigler retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

In the same time, the district hired Bernice Gregory to take over its embattled Human Resources division, which has been under fire after several questionable hires came to light. She replaced Leo Brown, hired in January 2016 and demoted in late February 2017 after district officials said health issues led to his being absent several months from December 2016 to March 2017.

“The continuing transformation of (the DeKalb County School District) requires a proven and dynamic leader to recruit, train and hire high-quality employees,” Green said when the district announced Gregory’s hire. “Dr. Gregory checks all those boxes. At every point in her career, she’s been an innovative leader that produces results. We’re fortunate to now have her.”

Even with Gregory’s hire, the district has had to contend with more concerns about who is being hired to educate students. District officials said a teacher walked off the job in late November from Tucker High School. Carl Hudson Jr. spent years working as a teacher and administrator in New York before leaving after a 2013 arrest for meth possession. He tried his hand at K-12 education again in 2016, beginning employment with KIPP Collegiate Atlanta High School and Frederick Douglass High School, part of Atlanta Public Schools. Apparently, he walked off both those jobs, too. Green said the meth arrest would not have precluded Hudson from being hired in DeKalb. The district’s hiring process did not suss out the meth arrest, that Hudson had walked away from the two Atlanta jobs or that he misrepresented how long he worked for Atlanta Public Schools.

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Another teacher was charged with murder after Clayton County authorities arrested about a dozen gang members in a 2016 double-homicide. Michael De’Sean White taught fifth grade at Toney Elementary until he was taken from the school in handcuffs in March.

In October, Freedom Middle School teacher Zachary Meadors killed himself after allegations surfaced that he was having sex with one of his sixth-grade students. Meadors was hired by the district in 2017, but was not certified to teach when approved by school officials.

Among 2018’s early successes is the Family IMPACT Hub, developed to help provide services to families that district officials hope will affect student achievement. Several parents have prepared for and earned GEDs through a Hub program.

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