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.