Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson gives her State of the System Address on Dec. 3, 2012

Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson on Dec. 3 told a different story about DeKalb County Schools than the story parents have heard.

They’ve been told officials with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools are probing allegations of school board interference and mismanagement. A recent audit report found multiple issues with the school’s finances, including the failure to lay off some central office staff after the school board in 2010 authorized the cuts to save money.

Now the City of Dunwoody is asking whether it can form its own school system independent of DeKalb.

That’s just what’s happened recently, but scandals have roiled DeKalb Schools since well before Atkinson took charge more than a year ago.

Atkinson didn’t address any of the ongoing controversies directly during her state of the system address at the Holiday Inn Atlanta-Perimeter. Instead she urged the audience to focus on “the facts.”

“Don’t be fooled,” she said. “It’s a brighter day.”

She said enrollment is up by 850 students. Kittredge Magnet School was recently named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, one of eight in Georgia. Atkinson said by this time next year, 100 percent of all classrooms will have interactive whiteboards, reflecting an emphasis on what she called “digital natives,” the students of today and tomorrow.

Atkinson said soon all books will be replaced by notebook computers. Schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson predicted that would happen in 2013 and some middle schools already are making the switch.

The system will add 49 new buses to its fleet, two of them fueled with compressed natural gas.  Students will soon be required to take SATs during the school day, she said.

“The facts are compelling,” she said. “They’re also exciting.”

As Atkinson wrapped up her remarks – which began an hour-and-a-half after the event started – the Voices of Stephenson High School choir group filed in to the room. The superintendent prompted the audience to sing and dance with the choir, and they did.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of