DeKalb Schools turns to longtime leader to head district’s transition

Ramona Tyson
Ramona Tyson

Ramona Tyson’s ascent on Monday to the DeKalb County School District’s top job was a bookend that guaranteed the decade would end the same way it began.

In 2010, she assumed the role when then-Superintendent Crawford Lewis temporarily stepped away — and was soon fired — when an investigation discovered a criminal enterprise being run out of the school district and resulted in convictions for Lewis, former Chief Operating Officer Pat Reid and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope.

Both Pope and Reid were found guilty of manipulating contracts worth $1.4 million, including $150,000 Pope was paid that he wasn’t entitled to receive. Reid and Pope were initially sentenced to 15 and eight years, respectively, but had those sentences reduced in 2015. Lewis was convicted as well.

Monday, Tyson was lured back to the role after the school board parted ways with Steve Green, who had announced plans to leave the district at the end of 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.

Green leaves the district amid a state investigation into allegations the district failed to report teachers for various ethics violations, allowing them to keep their teaching certifications and seek jobs elsewhere. Green could lose his state certifications, and various sanctions could be filed against the district.

Tyson was the logical transition play, a 32-year district veteran who began her career with the district in 1987 as a business teacher at Lakeside High School. She’s also been the most consistent presence this decade, either serving as interim superintendent, deputy superintendent or a chief of staff for three superintendents. Last fall, she left Green’s cabinet to report to the school board as their administrator. There, she’s continued helping to lead the district, serving as a vital part of the board’s advisory team.

"With Dr. Green's immediate departure, we have the utmost confidence in Ms. Tyson serving as the interim superintendent," DeKalb County Board of Education chairman Michael A. Erwin said Monday.

Both times, she has indicated she doesn’t want the permanent job. The district has engaged Illinois firm BWP & Associates to find its next leader. The firm has interviewed the board and district stakeholders and held public forums to get feedback to use for vetting potential candidates. Tyson has said she intends to retire at the end of the school year. In 2010, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she had no interest in the position. At the time, she had two children attending schools in the district.

Tyson did not comment for this story.

DeKalb County Board of Education member Joyce Morley said last year when Tyson was named the board's administrator that Tyson had been the district's backbone for the previous decade. Monday, she reiterated her faith that Tyson would allow for a seamless transition as the district worked toward finding new leadership.

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