Metro jobs at stake over accreditation of Atlanta schools

If metro Atlanta is going to attract more companies and jobs, it has to deal with the Big Three — education, transportation and water.

Kasim Reed

Kasim Reed

That’s what Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams said when we discussed the local economy recently.

“We don’t have a choice. We have to work on all three of these,” Reed said.

Reed and Williams put education on top of their to-do lists — and spent most of our interview talking about it — now that the Atlanta Public Schools is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. That’s largely because of infighting among school board members. But let’s not forget that the district also is searching for a new superintendent and being investigated over a test-cheating scandal.

If APS loses accreditation, Williams said, “the economic consequences are horrendous.” Even an official warning that accreditation could be lost if certain conditions are not met would hurt Atlanta’s ability to lure companies, he said.

Reed agreed, saying he would try to change how Atlanta Public Schools is governed if it would help save accreditation — although that would require some mighty political lifting.

Sam Williams

Sam Williams

Both think the entire metro area would suffer if APS loses accreditation — not just the city.

Here’s why: Corporate execs are in the driver’s seat these days when it comes to selecting where to make new investments. The competition among cities is steep. So news of a loss of accreditation in a big school system, both said, would cause many execs to scratch metro Atlanta from their search list.

Reed and Williams met with the accreditation decision-maker, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and expect a decision soon.

While they hold their breath on that issue, they’re also trying to wrestle with two other sore spots that detract from the metro area’s appeal — traffic congestion and the tri-state water war.

“We’ve got to take on transportation. You can’t hire from a 50-mile radius,” Reed said. What’s more, as congestion has worsened, competing cities are able to denigrate Atlanta as having “L.A. like traffic,” he said.

Atlanta still scores favorably with corporate execs on transportation because Hartsfield-Jackson provides accessibility to travel around the globe, both said. But the gap has been shrinking between the positive feeling the airport engenders and the negative one from the logjams on the Downtown Connector or Spaghetti Junction, they said.

Both Williams and Reed said it’s critical for voters to approve a 1 percent sales tax to fund an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion in regional transportation projects when the referendum appears on next year’s ballot.

“We’ve got to decide what we’re going to be,” Reed said. “Are we going to be a world-class city or not?”

That partially depends on how much water we’ll have to drink. And that will depend on whether a solution emerges on withdrawing water from Lake Lanier by next year’s deadline, when metro Atlanta could lose about 250 million gallons a day if the stalemate continues.

One thing became clear from talking with Williams and Reed. The city and the region will rise or fall together. It’s not an us-versus-them proposition. We’re all in the same boat, assuming there’s enough water to float it.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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41 comments Add your comment


January 11th, 2011
6:48 am

What a Joke1

January 11th, 2011
6:48 am

Kasim and The Chamber tell it like it is. Bought and paid for. Kasim will end up like Bill Campbell.

A Joke is a Joke

January 11th, 2011
6:56 am

I guess it doesn’t matter WHO is Mayor, someone (above) will always assume they’ll turn into “a Bill Campbell”.

What a Joke!

January 11th, 2011
7:05 am

Franklin didn’t turn into “a Bill Campbell”.

Alton E. Drew

January 11th, 2011
7:34 am

In addition to Atlanta looking less favorable as a city of choice for businesses, there is the possibility of a mass exodus as parents leave the city looking for other educational options for their children.


January 11th, 2011
7:56 am

One thing is certain only black candidates witll be considered by APS to replace a corrupt and incompetent Beverly Hall. The same rule is used in Dekalb also. Former superintendent Lewis is charged with fraud and Hall will be too. Whites need not apply for these jobs.


January 11th, 2011
7:57 am

Henry – you need to read your own paper. You are way behind the times. The APS Board settled the lawsuit back in November. More issues have to be dealt with but since then there has been no indication from SACS that accreditation is in immediate danger.


January 11th, 2011
8:03 am

Water and transportation might be doable.

Henry Unger

January 11th, 2011
8:11 am

Thanks for your comment. The settling of a lawsuit does not eliminate the governance issues that SACS still might have with Atlanta Public Schools. Both Mayor Reed and Sam Williams met with SACS recently and came away very concerned. We will see what SACS does, perhaps pretty soon.


January 11th, 2011
8:46 am

Henry – I agree there are fundamental governance issues that will have to be addressed, but I think settling that lawsuit – and the judge’s subsequent positive comments about the Board’s commitment to working together – were the necessary developments to prevent loss of accreditation. Problems remain, but the more the AJC does to unjustifiably paint a crisis picture, the more it could become a self fulfilling prophecy. I fully agree that it would be a disaster for the city – but is that really what you and the AJC want?

Buzz G

January 11th, 2011
8:47 am

We have enough tax. What we need is less government waste, fraud and abuse.


January 11th, 2011
8:54 am

Playing the city school system’s threatened accreditation trump card as potentially damaging to attracting big business is bogus – a PR ploy much like that of threatening to cut back on interscholastic athletics when promoting a tax increase for local schools. Corporations looking to locate in the suburbs (where most do these days) aren’t worried about the city school system – maybe the counties they are looking to draw employees from (Cobb, Cherokee, Coweta, Clayton, etc), but not the city.

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

January 11th, 2011
9:07 am

Thomas Jefferson’s utopian dream of a world where all have a “free” education is proving to be just like a lot of his other dreams….wonderful, provided that normal humans act better and more unselfish than they are ever going to act.

APS is only the latest manifestation. All parents (black and white) who can scrape (or borrow) the money have yanked their kids out of public schools. The public schools will only get worse. Ultimately, some Jeffersonian Liberal will decree that it’s only “fair” that all kids get to go to “private” schools. And the cycle will begin again. The “haves” are always going to get more than the “have nots” (in this case, a better education for their kids) and politicians like Reed won’t be able to stop it.

Shelly Powell

January 11th, 2011
9:21 am

Stop all the nonsense, if you don’t have expenses to cut, you must raise taxes. The state should stop trying to fund private schools it will never work you can not fund dual systems. Politicians have gone beyond using waste to line their pockets,corporations is where the money is.

Giving tax credit to those who donate to this new fund, After paying for administrative expense including very high salaries to the brains behind this scheme, Will loot like the HOPE program.

If you think looking like a third-world country will make people move to Atlanta, you’ve achieved your goals.

Sam Wms Retire NOW

January 11th, 2011
9:25 am

The fact that Reed and Williams are in the same interview just lends to the already corrupt relationship that the Chamber, APS and the City are engaged in. Sam Wms should step down because of his proven meddling with APS and Reed should do what the rumors are saying he will do: go somewhere else to run for a higher office. Then maybe we can have another shot at putting someone into office that isn’t afraid of criticism or not being re-elected for doing what MUST be done for the City of Atlanta.

Penny Lane

January 11th, 2011
9:32 am


Perhaps this accreditation ‘crisis’ is being publicized so that Mayor Reed can be the hero when he solves it?

Long time commuter

January 11th, 2011
9:59 am

The problem with congestion lies with the city of Atlanta, they have done nothing in 25 years to improve traffic flow from and to the interstate on and off ramps. Their unsynchronized, malfunctioning traffic lights cause traffic to backup onto the interstates, especially the downtown connector. Ten years or so ago, the city had a help desk we could call to report traffic light problems, and they guy there was very helpful, the light would be fixed in a day or two. Now the problems just go on and on and on. I am now retired, and I have absolutely no sympathy for the city of Atlanta, I wish it the worst in all things, just because of the commuting problems they caused me years ago.

What Goes Around Comes Around

January 11th, 2011
10:04 am

Give me a break. They both are just as guilty because they defended Dr. Hall. Sam Williams and the Chamber created that monster (Dr. Hall).


Long time commuter

January 11th, 2011
10:06 am

Clue to APS: Do not hire fat black women to manage to public schools! They are just self promoting, useless bags of wind. I suggest an oriental, male or female, with a degree in the hard sciences or engineering, not in education. Otherwise it will be just more lies, cheating and under performance.

Dave Walker

January 11th, 2011
10:07 am

Unger, are you an idiot? The potential loss of accreditation is not the result of the recent Board dispute.of the “four” versus the “five”. In fact, the heroic efforts of the “five” to wrest control of the school system Board back from the puppeteers at the Chamber (i.e., Sam Williams) may be the only thing that saves accreditation. Ask Judge Goger. He ruled the “five” did not break the law. The “four” have not appealed that ruling, and the 30-day appeal period has run.

To sum it up, Sam Williams and his cronies at the Chamber who basically have been running APS into the ground through EduPac and their pathetic, whitewash “Blue Ribbon” commission, cheating scandal cover up are the primary reason APS may lose accreditation.

Get your nose out of Sam Williams’ ass. Look at your nose in the mirror this morning. How brown is it?

Williams is the evil in all this, who may very well end up in a federal prison for Federal RICO violations when all the dust clears from the local, State and federal criminal investigations.

50 GBI agents working on this?

You think this is the fault of the “five”? You are nuts.

This is the fault of the puppeteers at the Chamber (i.e., Williams) who through Beverly Hall have been trying to “brand” Atlanta nationally by pointing to all the great improvements made at APS, as evidenced through increased test scores.

Now we know this has all been a massive, fraudulent sham, orchestrated by the Chamber, through their puppet, Beverly Hall.

I think APS needs to be put on probation or lose accreditation for one year, so Williams and his unelected group of swine can be tarred and feathered and permanently banished from this State.

If you could remove your head from his behind for one moment, you might actually see a momentary glimpse of daylight and reality here. Otherwise, you are nothing more than another of the puppets of the Chamber, much, much like your former colleague Maria Saporta, who would not recognize real journalism if it hit her over the head with a baseball bat.

Wake up and try some journalism for a change rather then working for the PR department of the Chamber.

Your story and your writing are disgusting.

Dave Walker, a very much clued in
citizen to the perverse relationship between
the Chamber and APS/Beverly Hall.


January 11th, 2011
10:25 am

Beverly Hall kept her job way too long, she was way overpaid for a system with way too many problems that she did not fix.
Franklin was simply a ignorant incompetent mayor.
Campbell was a greedy crook.

Travis McGee

January 11th, 2011
10:28 am

Bev Hall found a bad situation at APS when she arrived. She stayed several years and left with it in worse condition that when she arrived.

In the midst of the turmoil, the Chamber of Commerce injects their interests and stirs up even more confusion and devisiveness.

Between making excuses and petty political squabbing, there are thousands of children who could benefit from a structured, disciplined curriculum that would not tolerate unwarranted distractions within local schools and this highly dysfunctional school board.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Jim B. Jim B said: jobs at stake over accreditation: If metro Atlanta is going to attract more companies and jobs, it has to deal w… [...]


January 11th, 2011
10:44 am

So, the Mayor, Chamber and AJC believe that APS is the secret ingredient for attracting business to ATL. I don’t think so. ATL has become the nation’s poster girl for suburban sprawl. Atlanta’s issues i.e., traffic, congestion, education, water, and politics are well recognized and as a result many avoid coming here. Likewise many who have come here have left or want to leave. Business location, relocation and expansion is based on economics and quality of life. We don’t fair to well on the quality of life point.

It’s hard to fathom that in a short 40 or so years we’ve digressed from the new, shining, southern city that was ‘too busy to hate’ to this sprawling, convoluted mess of that we live in today. The late Griffin Bell once commented that Atlanta suffered from too much boosterism. I think he was right.

[...] wanted to direct you to my colleague Henry Unger’s business blog today where Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams predict dire [...]

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 11th, 2011
10:54 am

Why would any astute corporate locator confuse SACS accreditation with educational quality?


January 11th, 2011
11:10 am

Too little,too late!

Curious One

January 11th, 2011
11:24 am

Corporate executives and Atlanta Public Schools has nothing to do with each other in the classroom ( where do their kids go to school ?)! Just because Rice, Cramer, Williams and other Chamber folk talk about Atlanta Public Schools – it is shallow, meaningless and just feel-good bunk. They have collectively protected Hall and her fraudulent management and student success and now they want to politically protect the district’s accreditation – laughable

Sen. Vincent Fort

January 11th, 2011
11:32 am

The fact of the matter is that the Metro Chamber of Commerce is responsible for APS being in the accreditation crisis. The Chamber engineered the CRCT investigation cover-up. It functioned as a shadow school board without oversight and accountability while controlling the superintendent. As far as SACS is concerned, it is amazing that the only time they have intervened is when there was a change in board leadership: but not because of the CRCT cover-up, the E-commputer debacle that engendered a congressional investigation, nor cooking the numbers related to graduation rates.


January 11th, 2011
11:44 am

Enter your comments here


January 11th, 2011
11:45 am


Clue to APS: Do not hire fat WHITE women to manage to public schools! Look at what KATHY COX did for the State schools. They are just self promoting, useless bags of wind. I suggest an oriental, male or female, with a degree in the hard sciences or engineering, not in education. Otherwise it will be just more lies, cheating and under performance


January 11th, 2011
11:47 am

It was a witch hunt from Sonny Perdue and Kathy Cox to get rid of Beverly Hall.


January 11th, 2011
12:51 pm

Henry, why do you not write about the Chamber of Commerce ties on the accreditor’s board? There is an conflict of interest in Phil Jacob’s position on the AdvancED board and his ties to the business community.


January 11th, 2011
2:06 pm

Reed has not taken the APS bull by the horns. It is highly likely the state legislature and Gov would give him the opportunity to take over APS similar to NY and appoint a new Superintendent himself.

Reed has thus far elected not to try to handle this hot potato. I think Reed has done a great job thus far. But I am disappointed to see him dodge trying to lead on the APS issue.

lukwago isaac

January 11th, 2011
3:55 pm

its quit good but i would like to come there what shld i do

Old South

January 11th, 2011
4:13 pm

The more things change the more they stay the same. In Atlanta (a so called global city) it is now in black and white print that the city leaders care for it’s children, but only in so far as business interests dictate.


January 11th, 2011
7:07 pm

First and foremost most of the people making these comments don’t have kids that either attend Atlanta Public Schools nor live in Atlanta. APS will fail because there is not enough investment of the middle to upper class in Atlanta nor its schools system. Half of the teachers and adminstrators don’t live in Atlanta and most of their kids don’t attend there either. The cops won’t even move to Atlanta because of crime so what does that tell you? Most make their money in Atlanta and tie up the freeways back to the burbs. The rich in Atlanta send their kids to private schools and now even the poor can get section 8 vouchers to get the heck out of dodge. Give up Mayor Reed you are fighting a loosing battle you might as well merge Metro Atlanta with Fulton County and call it a Day!!!!


January 11th, 2011
10:19 pm

You don’t have to live in Atlanta proper to care about it and how it has stalled (and may now be moving backwards) after a meteoric rise in the 80’s and 90’s and the early 00’s. And, to also care about how it is perceived by those who might want to invest here, move their company’s headquarters or regional operations here and create jobs and further progress. I was proud to live in the Atlanta SMSA during those great years, and I am worried about it now. Having said that, I fear that as far as the APS scandal goes, the headline of Unger’s article, “metro jobs at stake” says it all in a nutshell. In Atlanta Public Schools, as well as in countless others throughout the nation, school system priorities are no longer focused on graduating educated and functioning citizens capable of getting and holding a job and raising and caring for their families and contributing to the greater good. They have lost sight of their primary mission, the reason they exist in the first place. The focus today ison the careers of the highly paid (over paid in most instances) superindenents, adminsitrators, bureaucrats, school board members, consultants, and other hangers on, many with ill-defined jobs, who in the whole scheme of things actually do little to nothing to achieve the goal of graduating educated and competent citizens. It is a rare thing when the interests of teachers, economic and otherwise, the soldiers in the trenches and on the front lines fighting the battles every day to grow and educate children, are not sacrificed for the executive, administrative and bureaucratic hirearchies. And sadly, it is even more rare to see the interests of the children sold out for the teachers and the endless, meaningless, adminstrators and bureacrats floating above them. Atlanta’s schoold children were sold down the river in this case, to protect the careers and jobs of the above noted executive, adminstrative, and bureaucrcratic functionaries, the very people who those children depend on most to look out for their interests. And a fraud was perpetrated to hide their malfeasance – no crime, no questionable or unethical activity was beyond the pale. It was, as the article noted, all about their careers, keeping the jobs, and doing anything necessary to make that happen. One can only hope that there will be many criminal indictments once the investigations have all been completed.


January 12th, 2011
11:38 am

Seriously if anyone cared about educaation at all they would have challenged NCLB. The public education system is in peril all together because it is too many factors at play. Someone sat down, decided that all the poor little inner city kids all over the nation were drowning because we were failing our kids. Some idiot said “Ok this is what we are going to do about it. Either you get your kids on grade level in one year or you will be put on the failing schools list. Ok it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that if you have kids from all different backgrounds and all walks of life, some many grade levels behin,d and put them on grade level in a year.!!! And ,oh yeah get your special ed populaion to pass to!!!!!! Well Atlanta taking the dumb approach to this chose to cheat! When everyone in the nation should have been up in arms and said NCLB is stupid and you need to come up with a better mouse trap. Well they didn’t because they think success is measured by some stupid test score!! So when the damn broke now everyone is looking shocked!!!!! Even non-inner city kids have been affected by this because many of their teachers teach toward the test. Really now, if you want to have an issue with anything take it up with NCLB which isn’t going anywhere soon!!!!!!!!! The city of Atlanta and APS is not the only school system that has been affected by this !Superintendent Hall just pissed of the right person to bring her down!! So yeah living in Atlanta and knowing what’s going on is key to dealing with this situation! I know what I’m talking about and most of Atlanta is going on an article in the AJC!!!! Please! If you care so much then I haven’t seen any of you on the Westside or Southside of Atlanta trying to organize with these poor parents to rise up to the board and the city and help these kids! Only when it is sensationalized in the media everyone has something to say!!! This goes way deeper than loosing accreditaion…cheating… and the whole nine!!! Believe me either you would have to work in APS or live in Atlanta to know the real deal!!!!!!


January 12th, 2011
11:47 am

It is going to see how Mayor Reed deals with APS. Mr. Unger as well you know there is a distinct separation in the Northside schools and the south and westside schools as far as student achievement is concerned. We need a new board and new Superintendents who isn’t privy to all of this. Someone who is willing to go in an re-draw district lines !! We need one school system with total student achievement and not one based on race and economic advantages!!!!! Basically they need a whole new overhaul!!!!!!!!

Native Atlantan

January 15th, 2011
9:51 am

I am an upper middle class midtown Atlantan who does have kids in APS, graduated from APS myself, as did 7 of my family members dating back to early 1940’s. The person chosen to be the superintendent DOES need to have familiarity with the history of Atlanta, APS, politics, racial tensions and racial progress. Atlanta politics and education are very complicated and we can’t afford the time it will take for someone to learn it all. When you bring someone in from far away that person will hire 10 people also out of the system which will be exactly what Dr. Hall did. Dr. Hall’s cabinet were all hired by her and they are all beholden to her for thier jobs. No one dares speak up. It is exactly like the story of the emperor having no clothes.