New superintendent ready to continue DeKalb County Schools’ revival

New DeKalb County school superintendent R. Stephen Green said Wednesday after being sworn in that he hopes to continue work to return the district to fiscal solvency.

Green, who succeeds Michael Thurmond, formally took his new post in a ceremony at the DeKalb County Superior Courthouse surrounded by family, friends and DeKalb County Schools employees.

“I look forward to learning more about what the district and the community needs and making sure we as a school system are focused on what we need to do in terms of making sure … students are career and college ready as they come forth in the community,” Green said Wednesday afternoon outside the courtroom of Judge Gregory Adams, who presided over the swearing-in.

Board of Education chairman Melvin Johnson said the day was more like beginning a new chapter as the district continues to distance itself from the management issues that resulted in a deficit around $14 million and Gov. Nathan Deal’s removal of six board members in 2013.

“We hope to collaborate with our new superintendent and continue the progress we made through collaboration with our past superintendent,” Johnson said.

Under Thurmond’s watch, graduation rates in DeKalb County rose five points from 57 percent in 2013 to 62 percent in 2014. The $14 million deficit is now an $80 million surplus. The school board also approved a move last month to re-institute a retirement system for its employees. Thurmond pushed for pay raises for teachers the past two years, after they had gone seven years without a pay increase.

Also among the improvements over the past three years, Johnson said, were hikes in student achievement.

One goal on the horizon is to achieve unconditional accreditation through AdvancED and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The district is “accredited on advisement,” one step below unconditional accreditation, but hopes to get full accreditation before the end of the year.

“We’re very pleased with where we are, and excited about where we’re going,” Johnson said.

Green said he was interested in a curriculum audit to identify the district’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as focusing on professional development and other areas needing a boost.

“A critical part of my job is setting up a framework and a game plan … to leverage what’s already working well and continue to move that forward,” he said. “I’m comfortable and confident right now. And ready.”