DeKalb County

EXCLUSIVE: DeKalb superintendent says she was ‘not given any reason’ for termination

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County’s fired school superintendent says she is a woman of integrity and has not been told why she was terminated.

Cheryl Watson-Harris spoke exclusively with Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne on Thursday, just two days after the board of education voted to remove her as superintendent.

Watson-Harris started in the position in July 2020.

The firing follows weeks of reports on the bad conditions at Druid Hills High School, where her own child attends.

“Everything that’s happening, it isn’t just about me. it’s about the entire school system and what’s really best for the beautiful and brilliant, over 94,000 scholars,” Watson-Harris said.

Watson-Harris said she was blindsided by her firing.

“I was notified by the board of education chair and vice chair that I was terminated. I still have not received any formal communication,” Watson-Harris said.

“Why were you terminated?” Winne asked Watson-Harris.

“I was not given any reason for termination,” Watson-Harris said. “I do not feel that there’s any grounds for me to be terminated and I feel I have been a good superintendent and supported our staff, family and students.


“If you receive notice of termination, will you fight to keep your job?” Winne asked Watson-Harris.

“I will fight to fulfill my commitment to the children of DeKalb County School District,” Watson-Harris said.

“Have you obtained legal counsel to keep your job?” Winne asked Watson-Harris.

“I have. Yes, I have,” Watson-Harris said.

“How would you characterize in a word, or a sentence if you need it, the state of the DeKalb County School System?” Winne asked Watson-Harris.

“In need of improvement. I have been the seventh superintendent in I believe the last 10 or 11 years. The lack of stability in leadership in the seat of the superintendent and other key leadership roles have resulted in antiquated systems, structures that do not allow for the brilliance of many of our staff members to fully be realized, and what I have been doing for the last 20 months is helping to uncover areas in need of improvement, build strong systems and structures,” Watson-Harris said.

“Realizing the state superintendent has said in a letter, how would you characterize Druid Hills High School? Winne asked Watson-Harris.

“Druid Hills High School is one of the highest needs,” Watson-Harris said. “It’s bad. Yes. We have lots of needs in our facilities across the county ... lots of needs. It’s bad. I know that both as the superintendent and also as a mother — my son is a tenth grader at Druid Hills.”

Watson-Harris acknowledged that about three weeks ago, conservative projections at McNair High School were for a graduation rate under 50%, but she said she got personally involved and worked closely with the principal. As of Thursday, the projection is slightly over 61% and tracking toward the state threshold of 67%.