With Atlanta’s accreditation in jeopardy, the five-member majority of the Atlanta school board that is operating in probable violation of the law ought to come to its senses and comply with the state attorney general. In refusing to acknowledge that the policy change they forced through to enable them to elect a new chair and co-chair violated their charter, the five are putting the children of Atlanta in the crossfire.
And those kids have already paid enough of a price because of the self-serving and illegal actions of adults in the system.
The cheating by some APS teachers and administrators on state exams has cast a shadow on the legitimate achievements of Atlanta schools. It has tarnished the reputation of honest teachers and sparked tensions with the governor who has now sent GBI agents into the schools to investigate cheating.
This week, Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, warned that his accrediting agency would be concerned if the board continued to operate in conflict with state law. If the APS board does not resolve its conflicts by Dec. 1, he said his agency will make a recommendation to its governing body concerning the system’s accreditation status. A loss of accreditation undermines the ability of APS high school students to qualify for scholarships, including HOPE.
To Khaatim Sherrer El, Yolanda Johnson, Courtney English, Nancy Meister and Brenda Muhammad, this is not about taking a stand. This is about taking the children of Atlanta into account and acting in their best interest.
The five board members have every right to question how Superintendent Beverly Hall has handled the CRCT investigation. They should ask hard questions. They should hold her and her staff accountable.
But they should do so within the confines of the law under which they were elected and under which they must operate.
Their policy change and their coup d’état were deemed in conflict with the law by Attorney General Thurbert Baker earlier this month. Baker ruled that the board’s governing charter — last revised in 2003 and approved by the General Assembly — spells out six specific situations when a board chairman or vice chairman may be removed from those positions in the middle of the two-year term. None of those six justifications was present when the five staged their revolt in September and commandeered leadership of the board, ousting Chairwoman LaChandra Butler Burks and replacing her with El.
This is not the moment to engage in a court battle with the Atlanta Public Schools in free fall and GBI agents roaming the halls.
The APS board is headed down the road taken by the dysfunctional and damaging Clayton County board of old. It ought to reverse direction now before it ends up in the same dismal place — with the schools losing accreditation and parents losing faith.