DeKalb superintendent says district has addressed concerns - FOX 13 News

DeKalb superintendent says district has addressed concerns

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Dr. Cheryl Atkinson is superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. Dr. Cheryl Atkinson is superintendent of DeKalb County Schools.

The superintendent of DeKalb County Schools says the district has addressed allegations of mismanagement and poor governance.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson says her first year on the job has been marked with some significant accomplishments, including the introduction of a core curriculum for K through 12.

She said that she understands why people are concerned about what's happening at central office and with the school board. Atkinson said she plans to cooperate fully when the agency that accredits school systems visits DeKalb County for two days next month.

"I believe that this district is moving forward," said Atkinson.

Atkinson said that DeKalb County teachers and administrators remain focused on academic excellence inside the classroom, despite a multimillion deficit and looming questions about the district's future accreditation status.

"The issues that SACS has raised have absolutely nothing to do with our classrooms," said Atkinson.

But Dr. Mark Elgart, the head of the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS), says the district's problems have gotten so out of hand that he's launching a two day investigation to address the issues. He says allegations have been leveled by taxpayers, school district employees, parents and even board members in two different areas.

"Big concerns are effectiveness of the board to govern the school system. And the second is the ability of this board to be good stewards of the system's resources, principally the financial resources of the system," said Elgart.

Elgart says the district went $10 million over budget on legal fees and even more so on utility bills.

"They're budgeting $5 million a year and spending $10 to $15 million," said Elgart.

Atkinson says administrators and board members have plans in place to resolve those issues and says they've restructured salaries, consolidated job position and cut 303 positions at the central office to help address the budget shortfall.

"I think we've done a fairly good job for a first year in budgeting," said Atkinson. "Understanding that we not only had to deal with our budget and a deficit, we worked hard to address whatever concerns were brought -- not just by board members, but other constituents – and tried to fix those."

Elgart say a team of SACS officials will meet with DeKalb school officials and comb through financial records from October 17 - 19. He said the team should be in a position to make a recommendation about accreditation by late November. A worst-case scenario would probation for DeKalb Schools, not a full loss of accreditation, Elgart said.

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