After weeks of discussions, the DeKalb County School District may soon have a new leader. The school board announced Thursday it’s chosen Cheryl Watson-Harris as its sole finalist for superintendent.
She’s the second sole finalist DeKalb has settled on in the last few months.
In late April, the board tapped Rudy Crew to lead the district. Crew had served as schools chief for systems like New York and Miami, but he had also been criticized for his management style, including mishandling money. A few weeks after the announcement, the board voted against hiring Crew and restarted the superintendent search.
A press release from the district says Watson-Harris has been working in education for 26 years. She has served as a teacher, principal, network superintendent and senior executive director of field support. Currently, she’s the first deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education, the No. 2 position under the chancellor.
“Cheryl Watson-Harris is part of the next generation of outstanding leaders in public education,” DeKalb School Board Chair Marshall Orson said in a statement. “A proven change agent, Cheryl is described as a ‘champion for children.’ She fits the criteria desired by the DeKalb community, including her dedication to high levels of academic achievement, her experience helping lead large, diverse, urban districts, her commitment to equity for all students, and her ability to plan with a long-term vision for the District.”
Watson-Harris started out as an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn. She has served as an assistant principal and principal. She currently oversees all the New York City Department of Education’s executive superintendents and works to support and develop teachers, principals, and administrators.
“Throughout my career as an education leader, I have made it my priority to ensure every child has access to high-quality education and is prepared for successful citizenship in our fast-paced 21st-century global community,” Watson-Harris said in a news release. “I believe the public school system is the heart and soul of our country.”
By law, DeKalb has to wait 14 days before voting on whether or not to offer Watson-Harris a contract. The school board says Watson-Harris will meet remotely with employees and community members. She’ll field questions at a virtual press conference and an online town hall meeting.
If the board approves her candidacy, Watson-Harris will replace current DeKalb Superintendent Ramona Tyson, who plans to retire this month.