DeKalb: Johnny Goes Marching On!


Well, Ole Johnny Brown doesn’t exactly know where he wants to go, but he definitely wants to leave the DeKalb County School System.  He came into DeKalb with a heavy hand and a big loud bark, and now he’s trying to whimper away with his tail tucked under his legs.  But, of course, he’s telling his cabinet that he’s “being courted.”  Of course, when a superintendent of a school system the size of DeKalb (nearly 100,000 students) lets the “head-hunters” (i.e., search firms) know that he wants to move on, then they get excited because there are always other foolish, gullible school systems in other parts of the country who are looking for a “savior.”  They are willing to buy into the next song-and-dance or buy the next vial of snake oil.  Remember: Test scores have to go up, and surely there’s a “messiah” out there somewhere who’s got the answers.  So, the failed superintendents in one part of the country are re-cycled by these search firms, cleaned up a little, and then they are “re-sold” to another naive school board which desperately wants to raise the standardized test scores.  (Do you remember when the search firm “sold” Stephen Dolinger to the Fulton school board in 1995, claiming that Dolinger’s high school in Fairfax, Virginia had an auspicious number of national merit scholars.  However, when the facts were checked out, his high school, Thomas Jefferson High School, had in fact the lowest number of national merit scholars than any of the approximately dozen high schools in Fairfax, Virginia.  How embarrassing!  But, did the school board rescind the contract with Dolinger?  No.  He stayed as superintendent for about 7 ½ years!  But, if there are inaccuracies on a teacher’s application, we hear of school boards firing the teacher – even if the inaccuracies were unintentional.)  Every time that a search firm lands a superintendent a job, the search firm can make between $50,000 to $75,000.  Now, you see why the search firm has such a motivation to make their candidates look as good as they can.  They “spin” stories of the superintendent’s accomplishments at the superintendent’s previous job.  And, of course, the school board which is trying to get rid of the superintendent dares not to give the superintendent a “bad rap” because the school board won’t be able to get rid of the superintendent.  That’s why the DeKalb Board of Education members will be publicly saying how they will miss Superintendent Johnny Brown – yeah, miss him like a root canal!  The DeKalb County school board doesn’t know what to do with its “mistake.”  (After all, Brown was DeKalb’s first African-American superintendent, and there’s always the racial matter to consider – especially with demagogues like Harry Ross involved.  In fact, one high ranking DeKalb administrator recently stated that Ross helped “kill” Brown in DeKalb by attacking the school board members in public – even calling their names.  Ross is considered to be Brown’s most staunch supporter.)  The “Street Committee” has it that newly-elected school board member Zepora Roberts is about the only supporter that Brown has on the DeKalb County Board of Education.  She still voices her support of Brown at every opportunity.

Recently, Brown announced that he was being “courted” by a couple of school systems.  Initially, he was trying to get on as superintendent of North Forest Independent School District in the Houston, Tennessee area.  This school district only has about 11,000 students.  But, since the DeKalb school board sent Brown a message last month by not extending his contract for an additional year (a practice of extending an incumbent superintendent’s contract each year is traditional when school boards are satisfied with the superintendent), Johnny Brown read the tea leaves.  He knew that his tenure as superintendent in DeKalb was on shaky grounds.  This was the reason that he, all of a sudden, decided to look elsewhere for job opportunities.  This is why he was willing to go to the Texas school system that was much smaller than DeKalb.  But, on the way to Texas, the Memphis, Tennessee system announced its intention to hire a superintendent.  The Memphis system is even larger than DeKalb.  This opportunity was just too tempting for Johnny and his search firm to pass up.  So, Johnny went trotting out to Memphis for an interview.  But, the school board in Memphis did its homework, and the board drilled Brown about the financial problems in Birmingham when he was superintendent there.  Evidently, when talking to the Memphis board members, the school board members in Birmingham were forthcoming about their dissatisfaction with Johnny Brown.  They no longer had to be close-mouthed about Brown because they had already unloaded Brown onto the DeKalb school board last year.  The DeKalb school board members obviously were too naive to see the reality of Brown’s situation in Birmingham.  Remember:  DeKalb was looking for a “savior,” and Brown had all of the answers.  The Birmingham board members were not about to tell the DeKalb board members how zealously they were trying to get rid of Brown.  That’s how the game is played.  But, when talking to the Memphis board members, the Birmingham board members must have told it like it was.  This evidently sunk Brown’s opportunity in Memphis.  But, it also gave his past much more exposure – exposure that he didn’t need.  Now, it appears that the North Forest school board in Texas is backing away from Brown.  It appears now that no school board wants Brown – not even his current school board in DeKalb.  But, what is the DeKalb County Board of Education going to do with its wounded, lame duck superintendent?  The school employees in DeKalb County – as well as the parents – are smelling blood.  This past Monday night, the same Harry Ross got up at the DeKalb school board meeting and offered his shrill support for ole Johnny – as if anyone really cares who Ross supports.  We understand that when Ross got through voicing his support for Brown, he announced that he was on his way to the Clayton County Board of Education meeting.  Wow.  With a friend like Harry Ross, Clayton’s Nedra Ware and Connie Kitchens don’t’ need any enemies.  Ross has spread his bumbling destruction over two of Georgia’s large school systems.  His support appears to be the “kiss of death” for those whom he supports.  (By the way, what ever happened to Ross’s much ballyhooed boycott of Clayton’s white-owned businesses?  His anemic boycott was not even a blip on the screen.  His demagogic ways have essentially destroyed the political careers of Nedra Ware, Connie Kitchens, and Carol Kellum.  Incidentally, Harry Ross claims to have a “doctor’s” degree – but he is apparently unwilling to state from whence he earned this “doctorate.”  Did he ever earn a “doctor’s” degree – or, does he just like the way it sounds?)


The DeKalb school system, like the Clayton school system, is in a state of disarray.  Are there any other school boards out there who need the political advice of Mr. Harry Ross?  Are there any school systems left in the county who will hire Johnny Brown for superintendent?  A word of wisdom to the DeKalb County Board of Education:  It’s a bitter pill that you’re going to have to swallow.  Go ahead.  Swallow it whole.  You don’t have to chew on it.  Just swallow it.  You’ll feel better.

August 20, 2003


NOTE: Since the above article was written, Johnny Brown is now claiming that he “turned down” an offer from the rather small Texas school system.  (This school system has just gotten out of state receivership.  Hmm.)  It’s more likely that the system allowed Brown to save face by having him to say that he turned down their offer.  We don’t believe that they wanted his services.  Poor ole Johnny Brown.  The arrogant and the haughty come crashing down the hardest.

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