ATLANTA (AP) — Board members abruptly fired the leader of Georgia's third largest school system Tuesday, creating further questions about the district's direction.
DeKalb County school board members voted 4-1 in a virtual meeting to fire Cheryl Watson-Harris immediately, after less than two years on the job in the 93,000-student district.
Watson-Harris was DeKalb County's sixth superintendent in a decade, having worked as first deputy chancellor in New York City's sprawling school system before coming to Georgia.
Watson-Harris said in a statement Wednesday that she was “blindsided” by her firing.
“I was unaware that my contract or employment would be discussed during yesterday’s meeting as I was not notified and it was not identified on the meeting notice,” Watson-Harris said.
Vasanne Tinsley, formerly deputy superintendent of student support and intervention, was named interim superintendent.
The district is likely to have to pay the remaining 14 months on Watson-Harris' contract, about $380,000. Before it hired Watson-Harris, the district considered and rejected hiring former New York City schools Chancellor Rudy Crew. The district agreed to pay Crew $750,000 to settle a lawsuit, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The firing came hours after board chair Vickie Turner appeared to blame Watson-Harris for poor conditions at one of the district's high schools in a letter to Georgia state Superintendent Richard Woods. However, Turner and the majority of the board said in a statement that its “relationship with Mrs. Watson-Harris had been deteriorating for some time to the point the association became irreconcilable.”
“The board lost confidence in Mrs. Watson-Harris’s ability to provide the leadership the district needs in the face of...