APS standoff: Mayor says “Enough” on power struggle. Board chair says system has more pressing problems.

APS parents are alarmed at the possible loss of accreditation and the consequences to scholarships for their high school students. But the five-member majority of the Atlanta Board of Education refuses to capitulate and intends to maintain its leadership changes, despite the Attorney General ruling that their actions violate the charter and thus are illegal.

Those of you urging the five to stand their ground are putting the agenda of the adults in front of the needs of the kids in APS. The five dissident board members do not have to have one of their own at the helm; they are in the majority on the nine-member board. They can wield power without owning the chair’s seat.

Their actions in ousting the sitting chair and co-chair before their terms were up without appropriate cause roused the interest of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which has been aggressive — overly so to its critics on this blog — in clamping down on school board overreach. Two years ago, SACS yanked Clayton’s accreditation because of a chaotic school board. Since then, SACS has placed the Clayton school system on probation.

SACS accredits only APS high schools. That accreditation is an important imprimatur of competency, and many scholarships are predicated on a student attending an accredited high school, including Georgia’s lucrative HOPE Scholarship.

Mayor Kasim Reed is getting irate, telling the AJC, “Enough is enough. I am deeply disappointed by the board’s actions, which are severely undermining the best interests of our students by risking the accreditation of the entire school system.”

School board Chair Khaatim S. El issued a response to Mark Elgart of SACS, in which he notes that Atlanta has real problems, including CRCT cheating scandal, that ought to be of greater concern to everyone, including SACS.

Here is his response to the SACS review:

We welcome Dr. Elgart’s interest in Atlanta’s schools. However, there are several points about which he apparently is misinformed.

The change in leadership that prompted Dr. Elgart’s attempt to influence Board policy stems from a concern by a majority of the School Board members that they were not being represented by the former Board leadership. That is an extremely important point: The Board chairperson is not independent from the direction of the Board. Yet, the majority constantly found that we were not being informed of important decisions, that the Board chairperson was making far-reaching decisions without the consent of the Board or even advising the Board that decisions were being made. Our first message to the community, the children in Atlanta’s schools, and Dr. Elgart is that majority will must prevail or else a mockery is made of electing representatives to the Board.

There are real issues that could impact the accreditation of Atlanta’s schools – the CRCT scandal, the plunging performance on AYP, the issues with graduation rates, the meltdown on the provenance and performance of the Blue Ribbon Commission, the state and federal investigations, to name just a few. I’d like to remind Dr. Elgart that all of those problems festered and grew to unmanageable proportions under the former leadership of the Board of Education. It was the majority’s concern over the former leadership’s refusal or inability to confront those problems, as well as the lack of transparency and accountability by that former leadership, that forced us to take extraordinary measures.We deeply respect the opinion of the Attorney General. However, there is no basis for Dr. Elgart to contend that the opinion is “valid” law. Only a court could do that.

The Attorney General’s opinion is just that, an opinion without the power of enforcement. We too have a legal opinion, from the counsel to the Georgia General Assembly, that asserts we acted correctly. We hope to achieve consensus among Board members, but Dr. Elgart’s siding with a minority political faction and asserting that he is a legal authority is not constructive.

Any process involving accreditation entails rigorous investigation and analysis. Dr. Elgart cannot assert a finding and penalty without the proper – and lengthy – process. He runs the risk of undermining the credibility of his own organization by contending that his position on a political dispute enables him to make summary judgments and exact extreme penalties.

This has all the makings of a protracted standoff, which won’t help the children in the Atlanta district. APS is already reeling from the CRCT investigation that found more improbable erasures in Atlanta schools than any other in the state. Dissatisfied with APS’s internal probe of CRCT testing, the governor has sicced two prosecutors and the GBI on the system.

160 comments Add your comment

Lynn D

October 29th, 2010
9:12 am

Is there no common ground here? Why not just draw the name of the chair and co-chair out of a hat?

If a big issue is control of the agenda, why not allow board members to add items to the agenda?

Dr NO

October 29th, 2010
9:20 am

Does the mayor nor anyone else have the power to dismiss this entire dysfunctional board? Because thats what is needed. Toss everyone of them out and start over with a fresh crop of wanna-be celebrities.

SDK

October 29th, 2010
9:21 am

This could be one of Perdue’s last act – disband the APS Board.

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
9:22 am

Maureen: The A. G.’s “Opinion” was not a “ruling,” but just an “opinion,” albeit what is called “persuasive.” “Chaos” and “dysfunctionality” are not reasons to try to remove school board members. holding the threat of SACS against them. SACS is being used as a political tool, as it is wont to be used. Mark Elgart seems intent on allowing SACS to be used this way. If he and his hypocritical SACS organization were really interested in the fate of the students of Atlanta, DeKalb, and his home county, Fulton, then he and SACS would have intervened years ago. This is all about money and who controls the purse strings. Pure and simple. It’s all about money, as Dr. John Trotter, my second cousin, has been stating for years. It was about money in Clayton County. Removing school board members for arguing (being “dysfunctional”?) and engaging in a couple (yes, a couple) of school board meetings which were not properly advertized? Good grief. Anyone with horse sense can see through that. It was about money in Clayton County. Heck, the Cobb County Board of Education was found to have violated the Open Meetings Law on 57 occasions recently! Anyone hear of Mark Elgart and SACS trottin’ over to the Big Chicken to threaten its accreditation? No, Mark’s friend, school board attorney Glenn Brock, would have none of this! Ha! Yep, it’s the Good-Ole-Boys just getting frustrated when they don’t have control anymore, and the public troughs of these school systems are just too big to be ignored!

I am Cousin Booger, and I’m much more snarky than my cousin John who is taking some time off during Pigskin Season!

Dunwoody Mom

October 29th, 2010
9:23 am

Wow, the arrogance of Khaatim S. El is astounding. To actually diss the State Attorney General and SACS?

Attentive Parent

October 29th, 2010
9:30 am

That response by the current APS Board chair certainly lays out explicitly the “cause” for the majority’s action.

They are specifically alleging wrongdoing within the Board.

So was the APS charter drafted in a way that would not include these alleged facts as “cause” for such a change?

If not, is that because the charter only lists additional reasons for a change of the Chair and not rights that already exist under civil law involving improper performance?

Is the majority simply trying to gain time while more facts come out?

This is clearly more than a matter of personal pique.

If the previous chair still held that title, are their attendant powers that could be used to impede all these investigations?

It seems simplistic to say that these 5 are being egotistical and do not care about the potential impact to the children.

Maureen Downey

October 29th, 2010
9:36 am

@Lynn D, I am not sure why this has to be the line in the sand. El lays out all the problems facing the district. Why add a SACS review in the midst of all that?
Again, he and the other four members are a majority. They ought to be able to force issues simply on their united front.
Maureen

Chris

October 29th, 2010
9:51 am

I hope Booger keeps posting his garbage, as it only provides further evidence that the people who support this nonsense are just local petty politicians of the old Atlanta kind. Fortunately, this person is too out of touch to realize how much he hurts his cause.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
9:53 am

“Is there no common ground here? Why not just draw the name of the chair and co-chair out of a hat?”

What nonsense. There is an official process that needs to be followed. If these “public servants” want a change, they need to wait until the next election.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
9:59 am

These people are doing this for their own selfish reasons.

From checking out El’s background, my guess is that he wants in on an IT scam like the one that nailed the APS for millions a few years back. Check out his crap web site:

http://www.resultsdrivenconsulting.biz

His LinkedIn page states that this business (which was created around a year ago)

“secured $790,000 in public/private investments for a new learning complex, which includes a renovated elementary school and new childcare center”

http://www.linkedin.com/in/khaatim

This guy is trying to position himself to funnel business to companies owned by his cronies. This clown is a Bill Campbell wannabe.

Even if his motives are pure (which I doubt), there is nothing about this guy that would indicate his leadership is worthy of this upheaval.

http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/1861101118113928800/cwp/view.asp?A=3&Q=293758&C=55899

His resume is mediocre at best and apparently the guy has never had a real job.

Don’t bother trying to send him an email It bounces. What a joke.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
10:04 am

Let’s look at another member of the cabal, Nancy Meister. Here is her APS page:

http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/18611010817935940/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=54979

Pretty impressive, huh? Pretty thin on her thoughts on education, but real heavy on promotion for her real estate business.

The page is so good, that it is almost identical to her official business page:

http://beacham.com/agents/sites/nancy.meister/

Methinks Mrs Meister believes that the APS is a good way to promote her real estate business.

The bottom line is that the absolute bare minimum standard of competence for a school board is to maintain accreditation. I have no idea what is motivating these people to ignore that, but it obviously is not concern for the children of Atlanta.

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
10:12 am

Boys and girls: SACS is not about to defrock the Atlanta and DeKalb school systems. This is all an idle threat…just smoke and mirrors. Mark Elgart did this once in Clayton and probably rues the day that he traversed down Tara Boulevard to get in that mess. Mark ended up with political do do all over himself. He’s not going to strip these other two systems of accreditation and have all of its families in an uproar and trying to enroll their kids in the schools of Gwinnett, Cobb, and North Fulton. No, he already destroyed the economic viability of one county (Clayton) and the powers-that-be are not about to allow Markie to do this again. Their victory in Clayton was Pyrrhic at best.

Don’t get your panties in a wad! Mark Elgart is not about to defrock APS. It will never happen. He’s scared to shoot dat ball! He finally shot that ball in Clayton and disaster ensued. Do you reckon that his buddies want a bunch of APS kids applying for admission to the schools of Christ the King, Westminster, Lovett, Marist, Padeia (sp?), Pace on West Paces, St. Pius, et al.? Come on, now. Just think about it. Do you think that The Boys are going to allow little Markie Elgart to shake things up so much in the Atlanta and DeKalb school systems that the spill-over effect can be felt in their little private schools? Which planet are you living on (hate to end this with a preposition, but what the heck?)?

Smoke and mirrors. Games people play…just like ole Joe South use to sing about (darn, ended that with a prep too!). It ain’t what you see, folks. The real meeting takes place before and after the public meetings. Quit acting like wrestling fans and smell the coffee. Mark Elgart is just trying to help Beverly Hall and the Four-vote minority. Kasim Reed has his hands in it as well. Sam Williams and his Chamber of Commerce buddies are waiting with baited breath, hoping that this latest move with the rattling of the Educational Atomic Bomb (SACS) will work. Watching Mark Elgart weasel his way around our public schools with his private organization is somewhat comical and disgusting at the same time. So, Markie, if you help Kasim get his folk back in power, would you then send your kids to enroll in King Middle School? Ha! I didn’t think so.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
10:18 am

Go Booger go.

Your brand of divisive class/race based argument is the just what people need to see. It gives a good view of the kind of people who are driving this stunning display of arrogance.

Please keep turning this into a racial issue. That will be the final nail in the coffin for your sad coup.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
10:19 am

Apparently, a lot of this coup is being driven by overt racism. That’s old Atlanta. It ain’t gonna work any more.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
10:20 am

Anybody think that El is as driven by class and race hatred as is Booger?

APS grad from 80s

October 29th, 2010
10:24 am

It appears the Atlanta School board Chair Khaatim S. El is the one displaying uncooperative behavior that is designed to meet is personal needs. How does he plan to explain to Atlanta’s students about rules and policies. He is basically telling SACS, the State’s Attorney General, and Atlanta’s mayor…. I do not care about your suggestions or guidelines, because I will do what I want to do. If the accusations he is making are true, his actions that pretty much circumvented the rules are distracting people from taking necessary steps to improve the education provided to students. How is he any different from the other board members he pushed out of leadership positions?

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
10:24 am

I am literally cooking Ham & Eggs now. But, I laugh at your journalistic hi-jinks (I probably spelled this wrongly). I see you trying to drag me into some race struggle. I never mentioned race one time. But, yes, it is a class thing. Pure and simple, buddy. It’s about all controlling the public troughs…which are rather large in large school systems. Gotta run! Ham is heating up!

thesolution

October 29th, 2010
10:24 am

Chris, are you serious????

An old adage goes “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”

Buddy, this time Trotter and crew nailed it.

Divisive? Please,the BOE has that piece on lock. SACS or Mark Elgart, representing SACS is a fraud and this is old time politics. My personal disappointment in Kasim Reed has bounced most folks I know that voted for him into the draft Mary Norwood for Mayor again camp

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
10:29 am

Just flipped the eggs…Real quick now. Remember when ole Alvin Wilbanks in Gwinnett failed to report about 45,000 serious disciplinary offenses to the State of Georgia, as required by law? What did Mark Elgart do or say. N O T H I N G.

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
10:39 am

Hey APS Grad: What does “Atlanta’s mayor” have to do with the school system? Mr. El and other board members are elected by the people just as Kasim was. I remember ole Kasim when he was just a whipper-snapper, working the Republican crowds with his father back in the late 1980s. I am not saying he is a Republican, but that he learned how to work those Chamber folk at an early age. Didn’t they finance his campaign, as they financed Shirley’s?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by twilbert, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: APS standoff: Mayor says “Enough” on power struggle. Board chair says system has more pressing problems. http://bit.ly/cd8AlY [...]

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
10:48 am

I can hardly stomach dealing with Token Liberals. They will invite you to a power lunch at The 191, but they wouldn’t deign to invite you to Sunday Dinner (yes, “Dinner,” not “Lunch” in the South, Maureen) at their home on Tuxedo. D-mn to those Power Lunches! I’d rather throw down at the Busy Bee! Even Paschal’s has gotten too effete for me. But, I did love the Carousel Lounge at the old Paschal’s!

It’s amazing what a good protein breakfast will do for the brain! Heck, I’m on a roll this morning! And it’s high school football tonight! I enjoy life! Heedabeedahoohoo!

EnoughAlready

October 29th, 2010
10:55 am

The five need to act like adults; follow the rules and let the voters decide whom to keep. If a change in the ATL School Board is necessary; it will happen in the voting booths.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
10:57 am

thesolution/Booger –

Yeah, your racial/class warfare rhetoric is divisive. Your argument seems to be that this change needs to be made because you don’t like people who don’t live in your neighborhood.

Sorry, but the rest of us don’t really care about your hatreds. We certainly don’t think it is a plausible cover for a self-serving power grab by your buddies.

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
11:08 am

Chris, you need to eat more eggs because your thoughts lack lucidity.

Ormewood Native

October 29th, 2010
11:13 am

School boards should not be politicized, should not disregard the law, and should not become involved in operational decisions. It is really rather simple. School boards that get into accreditation trouble are the boards which ignore those three simple no-no’s. SACS is not “overreaching.” It is merely doing its job.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:14 am

That’s great, Booger. You pursue your “lucid” arguments based on your personal hatreds. Should be pretty effective in letting people know just what motivates you.

thesolution

October 29th, 2010
11:16 am

I am not Booger or anyone else. I am an APS troll as I suspect you are. The difference between us “Chris” is that I am no longer drinking the Kool Aid. There are many issues in the system that we work for and frankly, anyone with any concern for the children are very afraid. This is my planning period so I will get back to planning but “Chris” please know and let the cabal know that we are more than ready to support our children but first, the Board, the APS central office (CLL/Ivory Tower) and all the leeches who have jobs defending the numberous messes going on in our system need to get back to the children.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:17 am

thesolution/Booger –

“Heedabeedahoohoo”

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:19 am

Have no idea what an “APS troll” is, but I have two kids in the system and pay taxes, I need provide no further explanation.

If by stating that you are an “APS troll”, you mean you work for the APS, you are clearly part of the problem. If you are so bitter and burned out, get another job. That’s what folks in the real world do.

Beeftips and Boogers

October 29th, 2010
11:20 am

I am the ORIGINAL BOOGER!

changewillnevercome

October 29th, 2010
11:24 am

El, I have new found respect for you. Your an outsider, You question the system. You challenge then even though the powerfull atl elite are against you. Watch your back man, there is no telling what those hoodlums will do to maintain status quo.

You have gonads of steel.

We need more people like you and Yolanda, Courtney.

The old guard needs to be changed

They are the one that got us in this mess

SACS is irrelevant you don’t need them to get HOPE Grant

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
11:25 am

Ormie: Saying that school boards “should not be politicized” is like saying that people should not breathe…or maybe like saying bootleggers should not drive fast. Dealing with “oughts” instead of “ises” will only frustrate you. SACS itself is an overreach. A private organization which is not accountable in any way to the people should not be accrediting our public schools. It is too open for abuse which is what we are now seeing. SACS is simply being used as a political tool. Do you think that if the Georgia public schools (k-12) were accredited by a state agency not unlike the State Board of Regents that colleges and universities throughout the country would say, “No, we cannot accept any students from the Empire State of South because this state does not genuflect before Pope Elgart”? Do you really think that they would say this? Oh, Ormie, you too are a wrestling fan. I can tell. Hey, The Shiek will be challenging Cowboy Luttrell at the Armory in Carrollton on Thursday night. They are wrestling for the Intercontinental No-Holds-Barred West Georgia Title. You really ought to go to Publix and get your ringside seats at TicketMaster. Mark Elgart is like Vince McMahon! It’s Showtime, boys and girls!

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:26 am

Wow the arguments in support of the five are really impressive.

I hope every Atlanta resident sees the “thinking” behind these people.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:29 am

““Heedabeedahoohoo””

“You have gonads of steel.”

“The Shiek will be challenging Cowboy Luttrell at the Armory in Carrollton on Thursday night”

“It’s amazing what a good protein breakfast will do for the brain!”

The glibness and foolishness of Booger’s statement reinforce the fact that he has no children in the APS. His only care is the politics of his little circle of cronies.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
11:31 am

The argument against the five “We can’t let APS lose accreditation.”

The argument for the five: “I don’t like people who don’t live in my neighborhood.”

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
11:38 am

Chris; For the record, I didn’t make the “gonads” statement. But, I did happily write the other statements. Heedabeedahoohoo! I do, however, remember back in the 1980s that a GOP Stalwart looked at me in apparent disbelief and made a comment about my political testicles being “of steel.” At or around the same period of time, one of the Democratic school board members made mention that if he had to tote around my political testicles that he would have had a hernia. But, I didn’t make the statement about political testicles above. Yet, I must say that I have some admiration for the mettle of Mr. El.

Atlanta mom

October 29th, 2010
11:38 am

When the furious five took over, it was about “transparency”. Now it’s about “that the Board chairperson was making far-reaching decisions without the consent of the Board or even advising the Board that decisions were being made.”. Share with me. What decisions?

kwanza

October 29th, 2010
11:39 am

@cousin booger LMAO! “Education Atomic Bomb” I think I need some of your protein shake. I’m typically not a huge Trotter fan (correction–just about never), but this just sounds right. Even though I’m probably really green, it’s easy to tell that this thing is more than what meets the eye…it just sounds so sketchy…. Something else to disintegrate that last shred of youthful idealism and optimism. money. Maybe I should just become an artist.

If your smoke-mirrors-money-is-behind-it-all-theory is true, then I suppose it’s not about who is right…but who can launch the most convincing campaign to the public since they have the power to oust and reelect. With Mayor Reed backing the fab four what are the chances that these rebels will prevail? These people don’t really have much of a voice in comparison, although I must say they’ve quite a good job in make some noise. What if they don’t back down??? Will they be taken to court? So much drama! Where’s the popcorn? Back to the job search!

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
11:42 am

Chris; It ain’t about neighborhoods; it’s always about the cheddar. The cheddar. That’s what it is about with you. In your heart, you know that Cousin Booger is right. It’s the cheddar, friend.

Atlanta mom

October 29th, 2010
11:45 am

I seem to recall, when Clayton County’s accreditation was pulled, Sonny pushed some legislation through to protect those kids, at least in the State of Georgia. Did it have to do with being allowed to be admitted to our state universities (having graduated from a non-accredited HS) or did it involve HOPE?

Maureen Downey

October 29th, 2010
11:50 am

@Atlanta, It was exclusive to Clayton and it was to allow the current seniors access to HOPE.
Maureen

Cousin Booger

October 29th, 2010
11:52 am

St. Paul stated years ago in one of his letters to young Timothy: “…for the love of cheddar is the root of all evil.” He didn’t say that cheddar was evil but that the love of cheddar was the root of all evil. What we see going on in the political world (even school board world) is usually rooted (almost invariably) in the love of cheddar. Now I have had too much fun this morning. Finished my coffee from the D. R. (a teacher-friend bought it for me in the D. R.) laced in Cinnamon and need to get about my day. Have had a good time verbally jousting with my new cous, Chris. I think that it’s gonna be fried green tomatoes at Charley’s Homecooking in Fayetteville late this afternoon. Pre-game meal! I’ve got things to do and abusive folk to mess with (darn prep ending the sentence again!) today. I love my job! Out of here!

Chris

October 29th, 2010
12:48 pm

Booger –

Do you have children in APS?

Chris

October 29th, 2010
12:50 pm

Apparently none of the people supporting the five have kids in APS. To them this is just another political football. How shameful.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

October 29th, 2010
2:05 pm

Elgart will never back down. If he did, no district would ever fear him again. Without a hammer, Elgart is nothing. He’ll never give up his hammer.

So, the inevitable consequence, should our BOE fail to get its act together (whether they kiss and make up or have their heads knocked together by Bubba Gov) is the loss of Hope eligibility for APS high-schoolers, and that is an awfully high price to pay for Mr. El’s hubris.

Mr. El, you’re right about the imperious LaChandra Butler-Burks. But a guy with a bigger hammer than yours just showed up and you now must back down.

The moral of the story for all of us is as old as democracy itself: we the people…usually elect the wrong people. We elect people who want to be elected, not who want to serve.

Chris

October 29th, 2010
2:59 pm

Looks like Booger doesn’t have kids in APS. He is just playing games with the lives of other people’s children. Nice.

Booklover

October 29th, 2010
3:00 pm

Hey Maureen–
Hate to interrupt Booger, et al…
Is AJC planning an article on how the state didn’t make QBE payments to school districts this morning? My district’s Asst. Superintendent just emailed us to let us know that yes, our paychecks are good, but only because my district has adequate reserve funds.

I suspect some districts don’t have reserves enough to cover payroll; remember that teachers only get paid once a month, so a district’s payroll is a huge sum. Also some GA districts were operating in the red last year so I’d be surprised if those districts could cover payroll.

I’d like to know:
A) What happened to the QBE payments? (QBE has not been funded at the level required by law for at least two years now, anyway)
B) What are the reactions of the teachers whose paychecks bounced/ were not deposited?

I know that if I didn’t get paid, I’d be
A) Supremely angry, because I wouldn’t able to pay my bills on time and then my credit score would be damaged.
B) Looking into a class action lawsuit. You can’t expect people to work for free, but of course teachers in GA are all but expected to do this, anyway.

Lee

October 29th, 2010
3:37 pm

Cousin Booger = John Trotter.

gogither

October 29th, 2010
3:38 pm

The one thing I agree with anyone about is that Ms. Butler-Burks is totally and completly useless