DeKalb superintendent Green sets course

New DeKalb County school superintendent Steve Green can’t contain his excitement about his plans to continue improving a district that was on the verge of collapse less than three years ago.

Green said he believes he was chosen to succeed Michael Thurmond because of his track record on improving student achievement and dealing with troubled school districts. After the system and Thurmond spent several years fixing mismanagement and financial issues, Green said he’s the right person to return the focus to the students.

“Given the other distractions that were going on, if you have that kind of fury going on … a lot of energy goes into that,” he said. “And the academics suffer.”

Green comes to the district from the troubled Kansas City Public Schools, where he was responsible for helping shape a fledgling curriculum, tackling bad attendance and low test scores and returning the system to accreditation.

DeKalb County Board of Education Chairman Melvin Johnson confirmed Green’s belief. He said Green’s past work in student achievement was key to what the board sought from its next leader.

“His knowledge base of the instructional focus and knowledge of different strategies, as well as his record of studying and addressing student achievement was important,” Johnson said. “I really like his approach, his attitude, so far.”

Green admits that another strong lure for the job was the fact that three of his four grandchildren reside in the Atlanta area.

He and his wife “said during vacation in the Caymans earlier this year if an opportunity opened up near our grandchildren in two areas — either Baltimore, Maryland, or Atlanta — we should throw our hat in the ring.”

He received a contact email from a headhunter about the DeKalb job a short time later.

Green inherits a district that was $14 million in debt in 2013 but is now seeing increased attendance and an uptick in the graduation rate and is on the verge of regaining full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

When he first became acquainted with the district about a decade ago while doing teacher training in the Atlanta area, he said he saw a thriving district that was the envy of its neighbors. He hopes to re-establish that reputation by focusing on student achievement.

Green said he’s established the Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Accountability Task Force to look for gaps in what the district does, with hopes of developing a uniform curriculum, which the district has not had for 15 years.

With a plan in place, he said, “We’re going to hold people accountable” for student success and plan execution.

He also hopes to restart “On the Scene with Dr. Green,” which is what he calls a habit he developed in Kansas City. He gets out of the office on Fridays to visit schools and interact with students and district staff, learning what issues need to be addressed.

Board member Joyce Morley, who was vocal throughout the search process about what she perceived as failings, said she’s met with Green about her concerns, to let him know he has her support. She said she was hopeful from those discussions, knowing he is addressing student achievement and is an advocate for parent engagement.

“One of the major things for me is that he has things in place that puts him in a position of success,” she said. “If he fails, 100,000-plus children fail. I’m more concerned about them.”

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