Atlanta school board minority fires back: “Join us in saying yes to the rule of law and no to an illegal coup d’état.”

The 5-4 split on the Atlanta Board of Education is getting wider with this letter to the community by the four-member faction opposed to the change in leadership:

Dear Concerned Atlanta Citizen:

Atlanta’s native son, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nobel Peace Prize Winner and graduate of tlanta Public School’s Booker T. Washington High School) said, “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”

We four stand united in our opposition to the September 13 purported election of Khaatim Sheerer El as Chair and Yolanda Johnson as Vice Chair of the Atlanta School Board, not because we are interested in power for power’s sake, but because we believe the election violated the law and is detrimental to the well-being of Atlanta’s students.  Moreover, we believe that this election and the behaviors linked with it, place student achievement secondary to personal agendas. We are concerned that this action will trigger an investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) of its accreditation of the Atlanta Public School System.  Finally, we believe that even the perception of a dysfunctional Board will hinder the system’s ability to attract and retain a quality Superintendent. That should be of utmost concern to all those who value the welfare of this city and its students.

The governing authority of the Atlanta School Board is its charter, established by the Georgia General assembly. The Charter specifies that the nine members of the Atlanta School Board will elect their chair and vice-chair at the Board’s first annual meeting in January of even number years. At the Board organization meeting in January of 2010, the board unanimously elected LaChandra Butler Burks Chair and Cecily Harsch-Kinnane Vice Chair, each to serve a two-year term.

The Charter also governs how Board members may be removed from office and enumerates six grounds for removal.  The recent attempt to change Board leadership was not predicated on any of these enumerated bases, nor did the attempt follow procedures outlined by the Charter.  Instead, five Board members (Brenda Muhammad, Khaatim Sheerer El, Nancy Meister, Yolanda Johnson, and Courtney English) voted to amend internal Board policy to provide an additional method of removing officers and to do so by a simple majority, despite existing Board policy which requires a two-thirds vote to remove an officer or to amend Board policy.

These five members voted to make these changes despite repeated advice from Veleter Mazyck, the school system’s attorney. Ms. Mazyck, who has over 20 years experience of providing legal advice to school systems, made it very clear to the board that these changes were in conflict with both the State Charter and other existing Board procedures.  Legal information provided to board members also included a second opinion that had been obtained from an expert outside attorney that supported Ms. Mazyck’s position. We made a request to make the outside opinion public. However, the five voted against allowing the public to view this opinion. Despite numerous warnings of the potential for adverse ramifications for the district, the five proceeded against the recommendation of the APS Attorney.

These actions have been so divisive that Atlanta’s mayor found it necessary to attempt to help resolve the issue.  At the August 16, 2010 Board meeting, Mayor Kasim Reed made a dramatic, special appearance.  In his remarks, he noted that the correct authority for interpreting matters of law was the State Attorney General.  He asked for a cooling off period and advised the Board to obtain the opinion of the Attorney General before proceeding.  The five Board members withdrew the proposed changes after his request, and the Board unanimously voted to seek the opinion of the Attorney General.

On August 24, 2010, after a board retreat facilitated by the Panasonic Foundation to promote good school governance, the board rescinded the request of an opinion of the Attorney General at the request of Khaatim Sheerer El. His stated reason for the motion to rescind was a show of good faith to the community that we could work out our differences.   The Board agreed and also passed a motion that if there remains a lack of consensus, the board would again seek the advice of the Attorney General.

Despite this commitment to resolve our internal difference and the unanimous agreements to seek the advice of the Attorney General before proceeding with these controversial changes, the same five Board members added their proposed changes to the September Board agenda. As a result, the school system’s attorney reactivated the request to the State Attorney General. Rather than wait for a ruling by the Attorney General, as requested by the Mayor of Atlanta, the five Board members voted to amend the Board policies to allow for removal of the sitting Chair and Vice Chair by a simple majority vote, then voted for the removal of these officers, and voted to install a new Chair and Vice Chair. In discussion some board members stated that the opinion of the State Attorney General is “just an opinion.” We disagree. The Georgia Constitution clearly provides that the State Attorney General is the appropriate authority for interpreting matters of law. We await the opinion from the Attorney General.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to provide you the facts. We believe, as elected officials and servants of the public, that we are obligated to act in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the Atlanta Board of Education.  Join us in saying yes to the rule of law and no to an illegal coup d’état.  The students and citizens of Atlanta deserve no less.

For OUR Children,

Cecily Harsch-Kinnane
LaChandra Butler Burks
Reuben McDaniel, III
Emmett Johnson

102 comments Add your comment

Ed Johnson

September 21st, 2010
8:35 pm

“Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost”
By Diane Ravitch
http://tinyurl.com/2woax9h

Consider Diane Ravitch’s letter to Deborah Meier an indication of the growing awakening to poor quality K-12 public school system administration of the kind the Atlanta Public Schools system has also experienced, especially over the past decade, and the damaging effects that have come from that administration.

Nothing evidences this growing awaking for the APS system as does the recent so-called “mutiny” by the “5-of-9″ Atlanta school board members. Theirs was a demonstration of democracy in action.

The story by AJC:
“Atlanta School board votes out chairwoman and vice-chairwoman”
http://tinyurl.com/3aamy4c

With the 5-of-9 the Atlanta school board now has the opportunity to go about the hard work of learning to continually improve learning for all involved in quality and democratic ways.

NW Geogia teacher

September 21st, 2010
8:36 pm

This is a soap opera. Someone should sell popcorn and cokes.

David Sims

September 21st, 2010
8:42 pm

No, this isn’t a soap opera. It sounds like El and his gang probably broke the law in order to gain power. Now I can understand why he wants that “task force.” It would be to intercept questions from the public that would be too embarrassing for him to answer personally.

schlmarm

September 21st, 2010
8:42 pm

Sounds like they took drama lessons from the previous Clayton County school board of ed.

David Sims

September 21st, 2010
8:49 pm

@Ed Johnson.

If it is true that the board policy was to elect chair and vice-chair persons for a two-year term, with the election being held in January of even-numbered years, and

If it is true that the board policy was that board policy may be amended only by a 2/3 majority vote among board members, then

Khaatim El and whoever helped him violate those policies worked corruption. Five ninths is 55.6%. That’s 11.1% short of the majority necessary to have taken over the Board of Education legally. The challenge will, or anyway should, win. Khaatim El and his fellow conspirators ought to be punished.

Clayco Parent

September 21st, 2010
8:51 pm

Yeahhh…..Clayton County really enjoyed it’s encounter with SACS- it was a real PARTY. It’s too bad that APS will now get to experience the same. Let’s hear it for NOT learning from others mistakes! APS teachers, parents and students: you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

September 21st, 2010
8:55 pm

They have all- in both factions- proven themselves to be individually and collectively inept. Hopefully, they and members of Hall’s administration will spend all their spare time consulting with lawyers and not be able to screw up APS more than it already is.

Save The Babies

September 21st, 2010
9:44 pm

@Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, LaChandra Butler Burks, Reuben McDaniel, III, Emmett Johnson

I dont give a rats arse about any of you. I think all of you are a bunch of crooks and all of you need to go to JAIL for what you have done in the past and what you have done to our children.

How dare you think that the public is stupid enough to take sides with any of you. As for Ms. Veleter Mazyck she is the biggest crook in the bunch. Is she even licensed to practice law in Georgia? She is just a mouth piece for Dr. Hall and she condones all of the corruption in APS.

The bible says, “YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW”. People are being exposed, just ask Eddie Long.

The Attorney General needs to lock all of you up and throw away the key.

Sam

September 21st, 2010
10:33 pm

This is in response to the poster “in support of Free Market Educator.”

Hi. This is Sam, the guy who wrote the post immediately above yours. Thanks for sharing your recent experience at a Governor’s Honors Academy. You write very well. You didn’t mention what state you attended the school in, but it seems that it definitely wasn’t Georgia.

Wow, what you went through sounds like a total nightmare. I’d say you were definitely a victim of brainwashing by your Academy. The antiestablishment bias of all the stuff they tried to indoctrinate you with is just insane. It basically sounds like propaganda from the former Soviet Union!! That’s terrible as well that they showed you essentially pornographic films. I’m surprised they didn’t hand out condoms to you guys too. :P I can’t believe that one of our states is funding such garbage–what an outrage!!!

I didn’t realize that the suicide rate of post-GH students is often 300 times the state’s average. That’s just unreal. But after seeing the stuff they were trying to indoctrinate you with, I’m not totally shocked.

That’s interesting that you ask why the authorities seemed to care about your physical well-being but much less about your emotional state. Similarly, when I attended GHP, we were forced to be in our dorm by 10:30 p.m., on our hall by 11:00 p.m., and in our room with lights out by 11:30 p.m., which was all very good for our physical well-being. To try to answer your question, I’d say that the authorities are basically blinded and unable to empathize with the emotional needs of the students. (It’s almost as if you’re simply cats and dogs–just give them food and shelter and they’ll all be fine.) In my case (which was over 20 years ago), I would say that they simply assumed (wrongly) that students are just very resilient and should be able to get along fine. In your case, I would say that the authorities were mainly interested in brainwashing you, and thus any “feelings” you may have had about the matter were irrelevant. Plus, it takes a deeper kind of person to care about someone’s emotional state, and obviously the authorities there were not that deep.

Really, what you went through sounds almost exactly like a cult: “Reject everything you’ve ever believed before, but believe everything *we* tell you, because we’re the fonts of all truth.” In fact, I just did a Google search on “characteristics of a cult,” and what you described at your GHA meets just about all of them!!! Instead of calling the school “Governor’s Honors Academy,” your state should just call it “Governor’s Honors Cult”!!

My experience differed from yours in that it was strictly the social pressure that affected me so negatively. Since I was in math, we weren’t presented with any controversial ideas or anything like that. So, at least for my major, I was not brainwashed or abused in any way by GHP, thankfully. And when I felt suicidal, it was only at the beginning of the program, when it seemed I couldn’t fit in. Of course, after the program ended, it was definitely a huge letdown, and I did get depressed. It was like, “Great–now I’m returning home to my boring life, and I have no interesting friends to do anything with.” It was very disillusioning, but I never actually felt suicidal after GHP ended–just really unhappy.

I think it’s obvious, though, that when you’re subjected to brainwashing as you were at your GHC, er, GHA, then going home could easily make a person suicidal. One thing I did share with your experience is that we too felt a kind of elitism. We were never directly told that we were superior, or that we should look down on our parents, regular friends, etc., but the whole program definitely fostered a tacit sense of elitism. I remember feeling as if it were almost beneath me to have to go back to my regular high school and associate with “normal” people again. It was like coming down from a huge high.

Anyway, I think you’re an amazing student to have survived the cultic experiences you described at your GHA. You sound like the voice of reason too, describing it all with a very balanced perspective. I’m not sure I would have survived such brainwashing–it’s no wonder so many of the kids are such a mess when they leave the program. Thanks again for describing your experience. I hope you will have no lasting negative effects from it, and that you’re able to get along OK again with your parents and stuff. I hope all the friends you made there will end up being OK as well. And I hope that something is done about that cultic GHA by the parents in your state before there are any casualties. :( As I said, you are a very strong person to have emerged from this experience the way you have. It was an interesting read, and I hope you’ll continue to share your story elsewhere too.

Sam

September 21st, 2010
10:35 pm

Oops, I posted my comment on the wrong blog page. :( Sorry. For some reason, I can’t seem to get my comments to show up for older blogs.

Boomer, AKA the Swamee

September 21st, 2010
10:55 pm

Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!

APS needs Ray Lewis to come in there and kick some a_s.

Mark Elgart, Where are you?

September 21st, 2010
11:15 pm

Where are you, Mark? So, you just want to beat up on Clayton County and Warren County? What about the Atlanta Public Schools and the DeKalb School System? What about the Cobb County Board of Education which met illegally for 57 times under the legal acumen (?) of the Brock Clay Law Firm of Marietta? Mark Elgart and SACS are big fakes!!!

Bemused.

September 21st, 2010
11:42 pm

I see that Catlady and his cousins are too busy for this blog this evening. They are apparently busy on Catlady’s DeKalb School Watch blog dealing with the Eddie Long Scandal.

Dr NO

September 22nd, 2010
7:29 am

Enter your comments here

Dr NO

September 22nd, 2010
7:33 am

I find myself in agreement with “save the babies” and I will go one step further. Disband this dysfunctional board of upstarts and toss them all in the slammer. Have the Gov or Atty Gen appoint a temp board that will resolve issues instead of a board that scoots around, like a cat, blustering and farting on the carpet.

Given just a wee-beet of authority these wanna-bes and posers behave in typical manner. They are typical, stylin and profilin, all flash no substance LOSERS and their actions also reflect the Obama adminstration.

Ed Johnson

September 22nd, 2010
8:17 am

@David Sims: To a great extent, the APS messes we see today stem from Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce having conspired with the state legislature back around 2000 to change the district’s charter to suite autocratic, Beverly Hall kinds of behavior. Back then, some of us sounded the alarm about damaging effects to come; for example, my scribbling to the AJC included below. By their “mutiny,” the APS 5-of-9 board members have wisely acknowledged damaging effects that have come and now have shown the strength of character to do something about it, although much belatedly. You can appreciate that, can’t you?

October 14, 2002

The background

On May 13, 2002, Gov. Roy Barnes signed Senate Resolution 608. Originally authored by Sen. David Scott and Rep. Kathy Ashe, SR 608 established the seven-member Atlanta Board of Education Charter Review Commission with the charge to recommend any actions or legislation that the commission deemed appropriate. Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce instigated the creation of SR 608 and influenced the commission’s proceedings.

Additionally, SR 608 charged Atlanta Board of Education to appoint the commission’s chairperson. Accordingly, Atlanta Board of Education appointed Dr. Thomas Cole, President (now president Emeritus) of Clark Atlanta University to the commission’s chair.

On September 5, 2002, the commission submitted, in a preliminary report to Atlanta Board of Education, their initial recommendations as revisions to the current Atlanta school board charter. Then, to conclude their work on September 30, 2002, after having hosted several public forums, the commission recommended a revised school board charter in their final report to the legislature.

The bad news

Overall, the commission’s recommendations in both their preliminary report and final report amount to tampering. For instance, the preliminary recommendation to add the following school board responsibility represents the most egregious tampering and exemplifies the overall punitive tone of both the preliminary report and the final report.

“Adopting district-wide policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure for all decision-makers in the district, as well as for students. These policies must meet or exceed the state policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure.”

Because this preliminary recommendation lacked observance of the principle “do no harm,” I challenged it in an open letter read to the record of the commission’s public forum held at Crim High School on September 17, 2002.

Following that, Dr. Cole invited me to meet with him. I did and we had leisurely and honest conversation around the loss of dignity and other damaging effects known to come from treating people, especially children, with carrots and sticks and of having a school system that aims to manufacture a ready-made workforce. Because demonstrably better ways exist by which to improve educational systems, why make law of something so limited and limiting to learning and the human potential, as are systems of reward and punishment?

We also spoke briefly of pay for performance, I myself realizing that it, too, is a form of carrots and sticks that goes back to the industrial days of old, where “training” results from experiments in animal motivation were applied to manipulate and control human motivation on the job.

Today, it is known that far more sustainable economic and societal benefits come with educated people than with people trained to perform with the anticipation of being rewarded or punished. The reason is simple: systems of reward and punishment beget meritocracies, not democracies. And in the words of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad addressing racism, “All meritocracies are limited.”

(My personal operational definition of racism: an extremely insidious form of competition born of contrived, conditioned, or irrational fear of human differences. I have no other conception of “racism.”)

The good news

As the main result of our conversation, Dr. Cole committed to lead the commission to craft different, more progressive language to replace the preliminary recommendation that I specifically challenged. Fulfilling his commitment, the commission’s final report to the legislature states the following as a new school board responsibility.

“Adopting district-wide policies that support an environment for quality improvement and progress for all decision-makers in the district, as well as for students.”

With this, there now exists an ember of a recommendation for everyone in Atlanta Public Schools to win by experiencing success and failure as information, not as rewards and punishment and certainly not as “constructive criticism,” a most obnoxious oxymoron.

Let us hope the legislature will have the openness in the style of Dr. Cole to fan the ember rather than snuff it out through more tampering.

The lingering question

The Atlanta Board of Education Charter Review Commission, now defunct, was made up of persons representing Atlanta Committee for Public Education, APPLE Corps, NAACP, Atlanta Council of PTAs, Georgia-Pacific, and Atlanta Board of Education members (including Emmett Johnson), all of which apparently allowed themselves to be heavily influenced by Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Why were such persons, who are associated with mostly historically and socially relevant organizations, so accepting of the harm their preliminary recommendation would cause to the moral reasoning of those in Atlanta Public Schools and, by extension, in the larger society?

What must be learned from their behavior and what can be done to change it for the better? Please, I stand ready to learn.

Respectively submitted, I am

Ed Johnson

Bev "Cupcake" Hall

September 22nd, 2010
8:27 am

Now hole a minit. We be workin hard to hep theis childrens an it take time for result. There now pass me some desssert.

Jesse Jackson

September 22nd, 2010
8:32 am

Duh accusation is outrageous, miktavous, salicious, miscellaneous, craptavious, spacous, lugaineous, moutainious, spartanius, wackwavious, homosapius, wewaneewainious, expectationous, recognainious, and just unfair.

Shar

September 22nd, 2010
8:39 am

The actions of the faction led by El contravene Georgia law and the governing charter of APS’ Board, and I hope that the State Attorney General quickly issues a public opinion and invalidates this illegal ursurpation.

That said, the reasons behind the coup remain obscure. The ousted four claim it is a power grab for power’s sake, but their own ghastly ineptitude, and possible corruption, over the cheating scandal is plenty reason for most APS taxpayers and parents to want them gone. Remember, this letter is the first we have heard directly from them – the vastness of the cheating, the collusion and coverup with the Metro Chamber, the compromised “Blue Ribbon Panel” on which Burks was a member, the failed investigation, the order by the Governor for a State investigation – on all these matters, these Board members in charge were defensive and mute. Now, someone has taken their sandbox away and they are finally moved to action, albeit only on their own behalf.

Obviously, not a single member of the sitting Board is qualified for office. They should all be removed and replaced by a smaller Board representing taxpayers and parents, not the Chamber and Beverly Hall. The five who have grabbed for power are frauds; the four who sulk are incompentent connivers. Surely we can do better than this with the biggest budget item in the City?

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
9:07 am

Where is Mark Elgart? Doesn’t he want to defend the purity, the integrity, and the sanctity of SACS’s hypocritical standards?

Shar, good sentiments. Perhaps you ought to start up an Atlanta School Watch blog. I am truly impressed with the work that you have done with the DeKalb School Watch blog. You have dealt with some subjects (like the corruption in the DeKalb County Schools) which the AJC finally addressed. Also, you seem to be on to something with the ever-present Jeff Dickerson connection. But, did he not work for the AJC at one time? I see that he is defending the school systems of Atlanta and DeKalb but how does this square with his colleagues on The Georgia Gang on Fox-5 led by Dick Williams? Does he keep them from beating up on DeKalb and Atlanta? I know that they had a heyday with Clayton County. But, everyone had fun beating up on Clayton — even the AJC.

These are just my thoughts. What say ye?

Emmett = Hypocrite

September 22nd, 2010
9:33 am

“The governing authority of the Atlanta School Board is its charter, established by the Georgia General assembly.”

The Georgia General assembly also established the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which the APS Board is suing the state over.

Emmet, you can not have it both ways, which makes you an “A number one hypocrite”.

November

September 22nd, 2010
9:34 am

Is there anyone in the City of Atlanta Administration from the Mayor down or the Atlanta Public School System including the dysfunctional Board of Education? not corrupt? It seems that every day there is news about another Atlanta official doing, or has done something that is wrong or just plain illegal. Folks, this is bad and is getting worse every day that it is allowed to continue. Where is our stupid governor and attorney general or are they too corrupt to want to do anything? I have become convinced that the APS is the most corrupt school system ever in Georgia. I say it should be broken up because it will never be any better and will probably get worse. Maureen, kudos to you for dealing with this day in and day out…..I don’t see how you do it without any vested interest.

Teacher Mom

September 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

Parents know that education in Atlanta has improved dramatically over the last decade thanks to the hard work of the Atlanta Board of Education, the superintendent, the principals, and, most of all, the teachers who give so much of themselves to the students every day. Yes, some mistakes were also made. However, the last time I looked, we still live in the United States where folks are innocent until proven guilty. Not everybody in Atlanta cheated, but you wouldn’t know that by reading this blog. Let’s allow the governor’s investigation to present the facts before we blindly attack the good along with the bad.

What I often see on this blog is criticism by those who couldn’t get elected or haven’t been in a school since they graduated back in the last century! Why not use your time wisely and volunteer at your local school or mentor a child? How many of you belong to a local PTA and actually support the school by attending meetings? We need your time and energy to help build up and repair our schools, not to tear them down!

Maureen, does it ever bother you that there are about 100 negative posts for every one that tries to say something positive?

Crack is Whack and Whitney aint EVA gun be fat

September 22nd, 2010
9:56 am

Tha chilluns be alrite. Les git HIGH!

Bobby…BOBBY WHERE MY CRACK PIPE!!

Maureen Downey

September 22nd, 2010
9:58 am

@Teacher Mom, I think it is a fact in any forum — whether a city council or PTA meeting or a blog — that the focus is on what’s not working rather than what is working And I don’t think that is misplaced as it’s the problems that demand our attention and our best thinking. So, I don’t mind the critical commentary. I do mind the name calling that too many folks resort to in making their points. (I am also dismayed by the number of posts that people attempt to put up alleging that someone in their school or central office is having an affair or slept their way to a better job. I wish all that nonsense would stop.)
Maureen

But to your point, Atlanta is a better system today than it has ever been in my time in Georgia. And I think Dr. Hall has removed 80 or 90 principals in all, which probably contributes to the anger toward her in some quarters.

catlady

September 22nd, 2010
10:21 am

Ms. Downey, the allegations are upsetting but they are likely true. Most CO have some sort of Peyton Place going on. If not that, there are too many cases of nepotism to be counted (I am speaking not of family members hired but family members who cannot do the job they are hired for, or who are given special treatment/privileges.) Whichever it is, it is demoralizing to the rest of the employees. I understand your not printing stuff like that, of course, but don’t believe for a moment that it isn’t happening!

The principals Dr. Hall has removed–were they ones she hired also?

I, too, wonder about the reticence of SACS in getting involved. I know from local experience they are quick to come in and put board members “in their place”, to the detriment of the system.

My opinion, from a distance, is that the Atlanta Board needs to be removed, as it lacks the ability to work effectively. People (SACS, Purdue) seem so much more afraid to do anything than they were with Clayton County, but I am not sure why.

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
10:30 am

Ed Johnson: Thanks for your helpful links. About the lawyers in the Atlanta Public School System: They never know who they work for. According to the Georgia Code, only the Superintendents can recommend “personnel.” Only the superintendent can recommended the termination, suspension, etc., of “personnel.” I can think of only one other school system in the state of Georgia which has a lawyer as part of “personnel.” When a lawyer is part of “personnel,” then the lawyer answers to the superintendent, not the school board. Even DeKalb had this right. (DeKalb’s problem, besides many others, is that it quit using the services of Weekes and Candler which had been the law firm representing the school system for nearly forty years.) The “school board attorney” legally should be representing the interests of the school board, not the superintendent. Inevitably, the school board and the superintendent will be in conflict.

When Dorsey Hopkins, who had been a lawyer on “personnel” (with salary, benefits, etc.) in APS came to the Clayton County School System, he and then chairperson Ericka Davis tried the same thing. They apparently even did a “switcheroo” on the two contracts (that the two of them apparently devised outside the knowledge of other board members) came up with. Norreese Haynes first of all told the board that this arrangement violated the Georgia Code. (Off the top of my head, I think that it is in the 211 or 210 section of Title 20.) You cannot be part of “personnel” and the school board attorney at the same time. Mr. Haynes also caught the “Two Contracts” (the “fix” was on, so to speak). Dorsey and Ericka seemed to get testy about Norreese not only exposing the Land Deal (the real big scandal) but he was also exposing the Two Contracts. This was about the time that Ericka enlisted Eldrin Bell’s support to get Norreese removed from the school board. It was about the time that she and Vice Chairman Rod Johnson incredibly sold the school system and the entire Clayton County community down the river to save their own hides.

Now SACS reported none of this. This was the sordid truth of what was going on. We may never know the full sordid truth of what is going on in the Atlanta Public Schools or on the Atlanta Board of Education, but we do know that the referenced lawyer (Valeter something) and the former Chairperson (Burks something) were and are “shills” (Catlady, I am borrowing one of your favorite words; seem very apropos here) to Beverly Hall.

I would personally much rather have Khateem El at the helm than the shill that just stepped down. By the way, APS, for years, has had a house full of “personnel” lawyers. It’s a built-in conflict-of-interest — not unlike the built-in conflict-of-interests at both GAE and PAGE where their staffs are giving the unwinnable tasks of trying to represent the teachers and the administrators at the same time. You can’t do it! It’s a conflict. This is the problem with the Atlanta situation now. I agree with Mr. El that the Atlanta Board of Education needs to go out and hire its own attorney(s), separate and apart from anything that Beverly Hall may say in the matter.

John Ellison

September 22nd, 2010
10:39 am

How many board members send their children to private schools?

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
10:42 am

Maureen: You have fallen for the “Jeff Dickerson PR.” APS is in the worst shape than it has ever been it. Its management is shades of the Gestapo. There’s no discipline in the schools, and the teachers are treated almost as badly as Michael Vick’s dogs. Talking about Vick, I am excited! He looked great on Sunday, and finally Andy Reid made the right decision to start him this Sunday. Eat your heart out, Arthur Blank. Go, Michael, Go!

Maureen, in my past, I have been a ring announcer for both professional boxing and professional wrestling. I have told you on many occasions that you remind me of wrestling fans. You are a mark. You just want to believe that Beverly Hall’s “reforms” are real. Beverly Hall has caused more damage, in my opinion, to the Atlanta Public School System than any other person in history. When she leaves, there will be celebrations breaking out all over the school system. Are you hearing me, Mr. El? Celebrations.

But, what do I know? I am a little crazy, am I not? I actually think that it is not O. K. for students to curse teachers, threaten teachers, and beat up teachers. And I also think that it is not O. K. for spineless, jellyfish administrators to idly watch this happen and to actually blame the teachers if they report this abuse from the thug-students.

Maureen Downey

September 22nd, 2010
10:43 am

@John Ellison, That is a good question. I know in the past that there were APS board members who had one child in public and one in private, but am unaware that any current board members have children in private schools.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

September 22nd, 2010
10:53 am

Dr. Trotter, You talk to teachers and parents and I talk to teachers and parents. And we likely aren’t talking to the same ones. I stand by my statement that the APS of today is far better than 20 years ago and 11 years ago. By the way, I have not talked to Jeff about APS. Jeff and I worked together for years when he wrote editorials for the Journal and I wrote for the Constitution but have not talked to him about any school clients he has.
He did come with Dr. Hall — along with about five others APS staffers — when she met with the AJC, but he and I have not talked even once about APS.
I do admire Jeff’s dexterity. If there is a school system under siege, he seems to be the one to call since he is also working with DeKalb. (And, no, we haven’t chatted about DeKalb, either.)
Maureen

And I can definitely see you in the ring.

DMB

September 22nd, 2010
11:07 am

It’s criminal. They should be working to better education for our children. Instead they are promoting their own personal agendas. Get rid of them all.

Who To Trust On The Board?....No One!!

September 22nd, 2010
11:10 am

1. Unfortunately, as needed as the APS Board hijacking was, it was illegal and therefore does nothing more than exacerbate the situation. If they gang of five is so smart, another avenue of change should have been tried.

2. The ultimate problem is you can’t trust any of them. As I have stated on this blog and others, far too many board members seek election with their own narrow agenda in mind; whether it’s for their own personal gain like a stepping stone to higher office, or wanting to push their religious views on the students and public at large. So ultimately we need to find a system that brings the best and brightest to run our government. The APS is far from that. Nathan Deal is the poster child for “Is This The Best We Can Do”?

APS Parent

September 22nd, 2010
11:16 am

While El and his group are wrong, no open letter begging for help even allows me to be sympathetic for Burks and her crew. They are acting like a bunch of ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ monkeys which is destroying the system. They are all proving to the public that they cannot do the job that is before them.

The APS system and Board, over the past 7 years, has been dysfunctional. They are star struck by Hall and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce with promises of grandeur and threats of firing. If a good hard look at how kids were succeeding and improvements were leaping off the page were uncovered 5 years ago maybe we would be looking at a more progressive, successful system and not one of corruption. The GA Department of Education is at fault in all this mess as well. They never questioned the success of some of the schools. The DOE would take any report handed over from APS even with errors and not say anything. Teaching the test and then giving the answers during testing was always a part of the curriculum with APS. The goal was to make sure the numbers were good whether the kids learned or not. And a lot of kids passed the test but did not grasp the content of the subject and are now struggling in college. True, this is not just an Atlanta problem but it is a pattern across Georgia. But, only until the cheating scandals came out – no one questioned any success in any system. And you ask how can a student go to college but can’t write a term paper and sometimes can’t read.

Hopefully, the two assigned investigators along with the Attorney General will turn the system around.

Concerned Parent

September 22nd, 2010
11:22 am

As a parent of more than one child, every kid is very different as has different needs. If private schools are an option and meets the needs of a particular child, I have a hard time bashing any parent for that, even if it’s an elected leader. Look at Aaron Watson. Former longtime APS school board member and chair. has his daughter at a private girls school instead of Grady High School. That came up during election interview questions, but I don’t recall his answer. Is Grady not able to meet his child’s needs? or are his desires and pocketbook greater than the average family?

Unconcerned

September 22nd, 2010
11:30 am

You all write these long fricking blogs like you are some type of intelligent people. For those of us who live outside the loop (285) there is no intelligent life form left in Atlanta and we could give a (as Save The Babies puts it) rats ares about you! Drink that out of your brown paper bag!

Roekest

September 22nd, 2010
11:36 am

BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

And yet so many yuppies claim Atlanta is a great place to raise their kids. Of course, those kids are probably all in private schools.

EnoughAlready

September 22nd, 2010
11:36 am

Intelligence inside or outside (285)????? We have the two worst candidates running for Governor and you think the unintelligence is inside 285.

Sorry the “unintelligence majority” is within the entire state!!!!

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
11:37 am

Maureen: I don’t doubt that you have talked to parents, but not to parents in the “hood,” so to speak. Yes, the Northside parents are indeed happy with Hall. That’s the point. Hall has apparently granted the Northside (Sarah Smith, Morris Brandon, Margaret Mitchell, and Warren T. Jackson Elementary Schools — and a few other select schools) almost Kurd-like independence from the oversight of the her goose-stepping lieutenants. It’s just depends on with whom you talk. Have you talked with any of the parents at Parks Middle School where there’s 89% suspicion of systematic cheating? I doubt that you have wondered off University Avenue down the narrow Windsor Street or wondered off Martin Luther King Drive and headed down the drug-infested surroundings of James P. Brawley Drive to get to Kennedy Middle School (where the suspicion for systematic cheating was scored at 53%). Or, have you even been to the more upscale Southside neighborhoods with schools like Usher Elementary (78% suspicion for systematic cheating) or Peyton Forest Elementary (86% suspicion for systematic cheating). How’s ole Jeff Dickerson going to spend this?

For your “probable” parents, perhaps Beverly Hall is wonderful. But, Maureen, you’re not getting the full story. To use wrestling vernacular, Jeff is a “booker.” He creates the story line. “Marks” are those who believe the story line. They call you “smart” if you are not a “mark.” The wrestlers will intone: “Oh, don’t worry about him; he ’smart.’” Maureen, I am just trying to help you be “smart.” LOL.

By the way, my nephew has a real talent for being a booker. He was a booker here in Georgia. (He’s also a very good educator.) I remember when he brought the Dream (that’s Dusty Rhodes, Maureen) out of retirement and brought in his former nemesis, Tully Blanchard, from Texas. (By then Tully was also retired and was a preacher.) Dusty did a few commercials on TV in Columbus, Georgia leading up to the big event. Dusty said words to this effect, as no one else can say in such a raspy voice: “I’ve wrestled all over the world…Japan…Europe…New York City…Los Angeles…but it all comes back to Columbus, Jawja!” He kept saying that it ALL came back to “Columbus, Jawja!” You can imagine that they had to turn people away at door…”way down south in Columbus, Georgia.” (I borrowed the last line from the old song, “The Columbus Stockade Blues.”)

Like Dusty Rhodes, Beverly Hall can whip the business community up in furor…over nothing. Just pure hype. It’s a good “show,” though. Anyone who knows the inside on professional wrestling knows that the events are called “shows.” Dusty Rhodes, in my opinion, put on the BEST “show” around. But, then again, Beverly Hall can put on a “show” too. But, she can’t talk that smack like “Dutty” Rhodes. He’s truly “The American Dream.” See, Maureen? I am getting caught up in the hype just thinking about his show. Imagine how charmed I would be if Jeff Dickerson brought him to meet me for breakfast?

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
11:38 am

Maureen: My last comments were blocked. Please release! Thanks! P. S. I promise that I did not use the word “a_s.” LOL.

EnoughAlready

September 22nd, 2010
11:39 am

Actually there are “three” of the worst candidates running for governor, but the other guys chances are so small that he’s not worth mentioning.

The people in this state are in denial (inside and outside 285).

Dr. John Trotter

September 22nd, 2010
11:40 am

Maureen: I don’t doubt that you have talked to parents, but not to parents in the “hood,” so to speak. Yes, the Northside parents are indeed happy with Hall. That’s the point. Hall has apparently granted the Northside (Sarah Smith, Morris Brandon, Margaret Mitchell, and Warren T. Jackson Elementary Schools — and a few other select schools) almost Kurd-like independence from the oversight of the her goose-stepping lieutenants. It’s just depends on with whom you talk. Have you talked with any of the parents at Parks Middle School where there’s 89% suspicion of systematic cheating? I doubt that you have wondered off University Avenue down the narrow Windsor Street or wondered off Martin Luther King Drive and headed down the drug-infested surroundings of James P. Brawley Drive to get to Kennedy Middle School (where the suspicion for systematic cheating was scored at 53%). Or, have you even been to the more upscale Southside neighborhoods with schools like Usher Elementary (78% suspicion for systematic cheating) or Peyton Forest Elementary (86% suspicion for systematic cheating). How’s ole Jeff Dickerson going to spend this?

For your “probable” parents, perhaps Beverly Hall is wonderful. But, Maureen, you’re not getting the full story. To use wrestling vernacular, Jeff is a “booker.” He creates the story line. “Marks” are those who believe the story line. They call you “smart” if you are not a “mark.” The wrestlers will intone: “Oh, don’t worry about him; he ’smart.’” Maureen, I am just trying to help you be “smart.” LOL.

By the way, my nephew has a real talent for being a booker. He was a booker here in Georgia. (He’s also a very good educator.) I remember when he brought the Dream (that’s Dusty Rhodes, Maureen) out of retirement and brought in his former nemesis, Tully Blanchard, from Texas. (By then Tully was also retired and was a preacher.) Dusty did a few commercials on TV in Columbus, Georgia leading up to the big event. Dusty said words to this effect, as no one else can say in such a raspy voice: “I’ve wrestled all over the world…Japan…Europe…New York City…Los Angeles…but it all comes back to Columbus, Jawja!” He kept saying that it ALL came back to “Columbus, Jawja!” You can imagine that they had to turn people away at door…”way down south in Columbus, Georgia.” (I borrowed the last line from the old song, “The Columbus Stockade Blues.”)

Like Dusty Rhodes, Beverly Hall can whip the business community up in the frenzy…over nothing. Just pure hype. It’s a good “show,” though. Anyone who knows the inside on professional wrestling knows that the events are called “shows.” Dusty Rhodes, in my opinion, put on the BEST “show” around. But, then again, Beverly Hall can put on a “show” too. But, she can’t talk that smack like “Dutty” Rhodes. He’s truly “The American Dream.” See, Maureen? I am getting caught up in the hype just thinking about his show. Imagine how charmed I would be if Jeff Dickerson brought him to meet me for breakfast?

Unconcerned

September 22nd, 2010
11:51 am

EnoughAlready: You are right, there are three of the worst candidates, but who, with any brains at all, would like to run for Governor! Maybe we should move the State Capital out of “Hot Lanta”, and outside 285????????

hryder

September 22nd, 2010
11:54 am

Obviously, the four do not understand that their words have meaning nor do they think in a logical fashion. They are demonstrating this by writing such a missive, which indicates a perceived lack of board unity. In other words they claim the board should do one thing but then ignore their own advice and words and do the exact thing which they condemn. Thinking and reasoning logically, when something is known to be false anything which follows cannot be accepted based on that statement or proven fact(s).

Jacksmum

September 22nd, 2010
12:02 pm

Lawyer

September 22nd, 2010
12:19 pm

I am supprised that the four board members of the APS, have the courage to openly say or do anything. The APS school board has from the onset given Dr. Hall a blank check authority to run the school system. With this Dr. Hall has lied to the Board and public at large and given herself salary increases under false pretenses. Its about time for the Board to take control and do as it was elected, regardless. Furthermore, any school board has the authority to amend its internal policy under the guides of Roberts Rules, etc. No external entity or legislative body can control the internal policy making functions of a school board. Therefore, the amendment and new officers will stand, if not the board needs to fight it in court. SACS will not intervene as long as the operation and administration of the board is reasonable and open to the public. Now, the Board has leadership that will challenge Dr. Hall, the next move in the best interest of students is to fire Dr. Hall short of the Governor’s criminal indictment of her and her cabinet. Also, the Board need to stop wasting taxpayer money by holding the 12 principals in vacation status making six figure salaries. Thus far, APS has nothing but circumstantial evidence on them so Professional Standards can do nothing to them and the teachers identified. STOP WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY AND FIRE DR.HALL.

Concerned Parent

September 22nd, 2010
12:40 pm

@Lawyer Can you please check Roberts Rules of Order and verify that it even there the rule is that to remove an officer, a 2/3 majority is needed? How’s that for policy?

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

September 22nd, 2010
12:55 pm

@ Shar: great post at 8:39. Exactly on point. The ousted chairwoman has indeed been mute during every scandal (count ‘em!), from e-Rate: The Sequel through the whole “Blue Ribbon” debacle.

Why? Because they had neither the experience nor talent to handle the catastrophes that have unfolded on their watch. Not to excuse them, but who would?

It’s a safe bet that all nine school board members were counting on an easy, uneventful term with no hiccups; they were expecting to bask in the reflected glow of Bev Hall as she rode APS’s incredible (!) test scores to more trophies and accolades. But the house of cards has collapsed, and now the jokers are exposed.

Whatever you think of El, at least he is saying the right things. Stop ducking. Start answering. LaChandra “No Comment” Butler Burks’ run-and-hide mentality was never more apparent than during the most recent e-Rate reporting by the AJC, when she said (through a third party) that she could make herself available for comment because she was “out of town.” You know what? My cell phone actually works when I’M out of town. Maybe, LaChandra, you need a better voice and data plan.

Except now we don’t really need to hear from you, do we?

It’s time for grown-ups to take over. El may not be the one. But Burks already proved she isn’t.

chillywilly

September 22nd, 2010
1:45 pm

These “Fourplay” Board Members are a complete joke. If they’re serious about transparency & doing what’s right, come up to the 4th Floor (Finance Division). Here are some things that you need to look into:
1. Why did two Accountants resign recently? I understand that one was interviewed for the Grants Supervisor’s Position, was rated No. 1 by the interview panel, but was passed over for promotion. I understand the other Accountant left because she was smarter & knew more than her Accounting Supervisor, but was paid considerably less in salary. What is REALLY going on here?
2. The CFO Chuck Burbridge apparently took issue with Board Member Courtney English spending $75.00 on some travel expense. Why haven’t we heard more about the $1 Million invoice? Instead of paying the vendor the correct amount of $100,000, they were paid $1 Millon instead UNDER BURBRIDGE WATCH. Did Burbridge conduct an audit to determine if any more invoices were overpaid? What is REALLY going on here?
3. Why was the senior citizen Grants Manager terminated and replaced with a Grants Supervisor that I’m told was personally hired by the CFO? What is REALLY going on here?
4. Several years ago, two Accounts Payable employees were terminated because of attendance issues. Why hasn’t APS terminated the Accounting Manager & the Accounting Supervisor who allegedly cheated on the time & attendance? What is Really going on here?
5. There was only ONE Accounting Manager’s position open, but the Comptroller was approved by the CFO to hire TWO Accounting Managers. One was clearly more experienced & qualified than the other one. Where did Finance get all of this money from? Why was the “lesser qualified” Accounting Manager given a salary that was higher than the “most qualified” Accounting Manager? What is REALLY going on here?
6. Two Accounting Supervisor’s Positions were created and filled with two outsiders. They were “supervisors”, were paid supervisors’ salaries, but were not assigned any employees to supervise until TEN months later. What is REALLY going on here?
7. The Deputy CFO’s Position was vacant for more than a year until it was filled by a candidate from Cobb County Schools. Was this person the most qualified? Why did he leave Cobb County to come to APS? What is REALLY going on here?
8. The Inventory Department provided CFO Burbridge & Dr. Hall with a documented report of the missing & stolen equipment, deception and evidence that the Inventory Contractor (that has been paid more than $1 Million) provided APS with inventory reports that were WRONG. Two weeks later, the three Inventory Department employees that published this report were terminated. What is REALLY going on here. There’s more, but this should keep you busy for a while.

Lastly, PLEASE reopen EVERY internal investigation that was conducted by Penn Payne. We believe that you will be stunned at what you find.

If you really want to earn the respect of the public, please terminate Dr. Beverly Hall, Chuck Burbridge, Veleter Maj(??), & Sharon Pitts immediately. Thanking you in advance.

PS We don’t expect you to do any of the above, therefore we won’t be disappointed when you don’t.

J.R.

September 22nd, 2010
1:48 pm

Very disappointed in the “group of 5″ (especially Brenda Muhammed, who is usually a voice of reason).) Never mind the reason, the act alone has succeeded in returning the board to its former days as a disgraceful clown show. Katim Sheerer El, the head clown, while articulate, is clearly void of even basic leadership qualities.