APS board chair: “Downtown business district” setting city’s agenda to detriment of students

Outgoing APS chair Khaatim El (AJC file)

Outgoing APS chair Khaatim El (AJC file)

As the saying goes, the gloves are coming off in what Atlanta school board Chairman Khaatim S. El  describes as a “game of tug-of-war with Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed.”

El, who recently announced that he will resign his chairmanship under pressure from the mayor and others, sent an e-mail Friday about the politics involved. He wrote this e-mail Friday night after interviewing candidates for the news APS school chief, a process that continues today and may result in the release of the names of finalists.

El charges that politics and appeasement of downtown business interests have led to a minimizing of the truly important challenges in APS, including helping students affected by the alleged CRCT cheating.

El points to what he considers the undue influence of business interests on city and school affairs. He cites a Friday story in Creative Loafing about pension plan sparring by the mayor and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell as another troubling example of what has gone awry under Reed’s leadership.

In this e-mail, El raised issues that I felt were worth discussing here on the blog:

Despite good work and a lot of courage, my time as chairman of the School Board has been mired by a very public, and much more nefarious behind the scenes, game of tug-of-war with Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed.  A person, who by the way, I supported heavily in his campaign — asking my colleagues on the Board to endorse him, hosting community meetings for him in my home and leading his election day strategy in my City Council District. So, we’re not strangers.

Sadly, I came home tonight after interviewing candidates for Atlanta’s superintendency to hear yet again that this is how this new mayor plans to do things. It starts with taking your cue from a few leaders in the business community and bullying, berating and maligning anyone who gets in your way. There’s no debate on the issues or room for the kind of dissension that makes good policy.

In my case, no one ever challenged me on whether I should have spoken out about a widespread cheating scandal. No one ever challenged me publicly to a debate about the need to drastically improve the district’s graduation rate, especially for African American males. That a bold plan focusing on grade level reading was a bad idea. Or that I was unqualified to deserve the support of a majority of my colleagues.

No, instead what the public was fed by this mayor and his powerful friends was a contrived notion that I led an illegal coup d’etat. It was a very artful and intentional misdirection that doesn’t acknowledge that the only apolitical bodies — the state Legislature’s lawyers who wrote the bill in question and ultimately a court of law — found the Mayor’s position to be wrong. A judge concluded, in his Consent Order that was signed by all nine Board members and their attorney’s, that the Board “in changing the leadership was lawful and did not violate the 2003 charter.”

And if how I became the chairman was really the issue, that should have been resolved when me, and the vice chair at that time, both stepped down, and the Board held new elections. What perplexes me more is that in the Consent Order we agreed that whoever was elected must serve until December 2011, in an attempt to bring stability to the Board’s leadership. The truth is that at the center of the School Board’s dysfunction are the same special interests who were shamed by my calling out the cover-up into the CRCT investigation

So, what’s my point? We can default to that’s “just” politics or we begin to ask tough questions about the cost of politics being abused in this way. The answer is simple. You lose focus on more than 6,000 + children in 58 schools who were shortchanged out of a quality education from a widespread cheating scandal.

The reason I can’t let this go is because these are the children whose parents cannot afford to send them to a Sylvan Learning Center to get caught up and these are not kids who will stay in school when it’s really discovered that they cannot read in the 9th grade.

My time is up and I’ve already decided to step down as chairman for the good of the school system but look no further than to what’s happening to the Atlanta City Council on this pension reform debate — another one of the mayor’s political stepping stone issues where impacts and people really don’t matter if you’re not in the downtown business district.

Instead of working collaboratively with people who disagree, you attack them publicly to discredit their position. I just hope in the process we don’t lose good ideas or good service from smart, consensus building leaders like Council President Ceaser Mitchell for the sake of personal political agendas. This is a slippery slope to the point where the “people”  you know who our government is supposed to serve have no voice. I don’t know if that’s the democracy we should be spreading around the world, let alone be what Atlanta is known for.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled board

82 comments Add your comment

Dave The Educated

June 11th, 2011
5:43 pm

Students can’t be made to learn and that skill is no one’s but their own.

Politics, teachers, physical plant, budget – nothing matters if the aptitude is not there.

You can lead a horse to water, but …

All the blaming for a natural lack of skills is just a distraction. Open the book, read it, if you don’t get it that is not for someone else to take the shame.

Greg

June 11th, 2011
5:46 pm

Touche! He’s right, the mayor made this a personal fight from the start and he’s doing the same thing on pension reform. Mayor Reed’s leadership style is summed up this way: My way or the highway!

Unfortunately, he’ll win most of the rounds. The question is: are the people who elected him winning along with him?

Remember Bill Campbell?

Dr. John Trotter

June 11th, 2011
6:06 pm

Mr. El, I totally agree with you about Kasim. I have been saying for the longest time that he is a tool of the Big Mules…or, can I use the more appropriate metaphor that he is hoping to be invited to the table at the Piedmont Driving Club? Ha! I respect your stand, and I regret that you stepped down as Chairman, but perhaps this frees you up to speak very forthrightly, as evidenced by your piece today. Keep the faith!

Casandra Johnson

June 11th, 2011
6:13 pm

I am in full agreement with Mr. El’s statement, in which the level of assault that he describes appears to be the order of the day in the City ot Atlanta. The tragedy that has taken place in APS has in fact led to the detriment of far too many students, as well as I have witnessed first hand where all out assualts have been launched against anyone who has refused to bow down and go along with the dark forces and sin and corruption that is prevalent at the highest levels in that region. In the Bible, it’s called “spiritual wickedness in high places”. I recently transitioned from Atlanta, and when I left, all I could hear in my spirit from God Himself was judgment was coming to that region and that I did not want to be anywhere near when it came. Fair warning has been given and all that I can say is woe to Atlanta, which is a city that clearly has the markings of a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know what happened to those cities. For those who will hear the sound, by the spirit of the True and Living God, I urge you to get out before its too late because judgment is soon to come as a result of the sin sick and corrupt nature which has overtaken that city! To Mr. El, just as I stated to you when we previously communicated, I commend you for having the courage to take a stand and speak out against the wrong doing that has plagued the children of Atlanta. You have done all that you can do, now let God do the rest!

Tell It Like It is

June 11th, 2011
6:14 pm

I applaude Mr. El. He hit the nail on the head. Why don’t you tell the entire truth about Reed. He is lying tool of the white attorneys that are taking the City of Atlanta to the absolute cleaners. Tell them the truth Mr. El.

[...] post by News Sources and software by Elliott Back Comments [...]

Roach

June 11th, 2011
6:22 pm

Yeah, yeah, it’s all about the kids. And seizing power contrary to established board policy was the only way that the kiddies could be helped. And they’ve been helped so much by this noble sacrifice. And all of my other screen names agree.

If people here were such morons that they would fall for this, there would be no hope for them in school.

Greg

June 11th, 2011
6:34 pm

The status quo brought cheating, inflated contracts, purchasing scandals and so on….Power cedes nothing without a demand. I applaud the lawful actions taken by El. His courage in the face of entrenched interest is laudable. Mayor Reed, it not too late for you to change the course your on. If you keep up the way your going, I see prison in your future.

Teacher no more

June 11th, 2011
6:38 pm

Mr. El;
Whatever…we the people elected you to represent the 2nd district. You did not save Douglass or Turner Middle.
You tossed us to the wind but we believe in second
chances. You knew that crap Dr. Hall was pushing wasn’t
working long before the CRCT scandal emerged. We
pleaded with you and you abandoned us. Less the mayor
forget, he only won by a few votes. This fighting with other leaders will cause him to be a one term mayor. We voted him in and we will vote him out. We have not forgotten that we voted you on that board, not him or the governor. Don’t underestimate these old voters on the westside. We’re not buried yet. Stop all the bickering Mr. El and trully put those kids first. Get rid of all that small schools mess and force parents on the westside to take an active part in their child’s education. Force them to PTA and have them sign off on homework. Make it a suspendable offense for students to curse and talk back at teachers. Tell the mayor to worry about getting crime down please and getting rid of pot holes and missing manhole covers. Get those corporations out of the schools and get the students back to learning for learning’s sake. Lastly, give APS teachers a 2% raise and treat them like human beings. Invite them all down for an “Evening With the Board” to chat about ways to improve student achievement. Give the teachers a voice and you will garner more support. Have teachers and parents make a pact together to make this the year of a grassroots movement to raise student achievement. No bigwigs allowed; just those people on the front line.
And, Mr. El, we know that the Constitution still reigns supreme in this land. Our mayor needs to remember that we the people rule. Don’t try to take away the rights of your citizens; we’re not illegal aliens.

Dirty South

June 11th, 2011
6:43 pm

People should have learned from Clayton County BOE and it’s accreditation debacle! One thing people got to understand is, the MONEY allocated for Minority School IS NOT intended to be MOSTLY spent on the Lil Black Child. 45 percent is spent on local business interest, 35 percent spent on schools, administrators, teachers, specialists and the like. 20 percent, maybe is spent on the Lil Black Child. That’s why the media names the local businesses as the Major Stakeholders, not minority voting population ( Blacks) and their children education. Strong Black Leadership stand up to the power structure and they in SACS to threaten or take accreditation, remove Black BOE member thus disenfranchising the Black Voters. Real Is Real.

Teacher no more

June 11th, 2011
6:43 pm

Clarification…we didn’t vote for the governor!

Amazing

June 11th, 2011
7:01 pm

Mr. El needs to take his seat on the bench. His leadership of the school board was a failure and he is now looking to save face. If he had been a true leader and deliver results, the mayor, the governor and all those he is accusing would not have been involved. It is his failure that has led to this situation.

Glad I can afford to send my children to Pvt School

June 11th, 2011
7:13 pm

Reed’s concern is to protect the million dollar skim that the Jackson Family has in APS’s food service, he could care less about the students.

Luther

June 11th, 2011
7:23 pm

What a tangle web has been wowen, the Mayor of Atlanta has shown his hand and he clearly is leading the city in the wrong direction. He should look to the late Maynard Jackson’s leadership style. Maynard if he were alive would smack some sense into Kasim. It is sad to see what is happening to my beloved city due to some leaders in key positions having no backbone to stand up for what is right. I applaud Mr. El who is doing the right thing on behalf of the children in the APS school system. The board needs to listen carefully to the concerns of the teachers and adopt a policy that demands parental involvement. The school board leadership should understand that big business does not want to see their cut taken from them and will use SACS and the state to challenge their authority. Being beholding to their financial support of your reelections efforts compormises the intergrity of an open process. Continued bickering only exposes the board to attack voters interest. This has the effect of not only nullifying our votes but decreases the value of our communities and augments a prison industrial complex. A child that cannot read will soon be imprisoned. What value does an imprisoned young person bring to our beloved city. This is shameful and this is wrong. This abuse of power is creating a modern day slavery system. What became of the slogan ” A city too busy to hate”. When leaders adopt “it is a my way or the highway ” attitude and can’t stand public challenge we all become bound to a unrightous dirty web and this attitude deserves immediate retrobution. It is wrong to attack city workers and teachers in such a malicous manner. It is wrong to not allow for open debate when it comes to the pensions workers are looking to collect. I regret that Mr. El stepped down but in hindsight better doors will open up due to his truthful stance.

Dirty South

June 11th, 2011
7:28 pm

Remember SACS is a tool used by the BUSINESS ELITE to DISENFRANCHISE BLACK VOTERS. That the Bottom Line Up Front! SACS threatens accreditation, the Gov removes BOE members. Question, what about the Black Vote that elected the BOE members?

Dr. John Trotter

June 11th, 2011
7:50 pm

This new lame-brained law about the governor removing duly elected school board members, I believe, violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act as well as the Georgia Constitution.

The Big Mules were so right to support Kasim Reed. He has proven indeed that he is very controllable and quite the sycophant to the business community.

All of the huffing and puffing about leadership on the Atlanta Board of Education boils down to one thing…who controls the money. It’s all about the cheddar. When the business community could not get its way, it apparently called in Kasimmie to do their bidding for them. From reading what Mr. El wrote today, it appears to me that Kasimmie is not adverse to stepping on those who helped him. Wow, what people will do to get a seat at the Piedmont Driving Club. Ha!

not shocked

June 11th, 2011
8:17 pm

When people ask, “What’s wrong with our schools in this country?”, the answer is simple….districts like APS are run by the most incompetent/greedy individuals with personal agendas..who, in turn, hire superintendents who will do their bidding just to maintain their jobs, including hiring the worst individuals to supervise the principals, who, in turn, hire incompetent principals, who, in turn, hire lousy teachers, and ultimately, children suffer through years and years of disaster….disgusting.

Queen

June 11th, 2011
8:20 pm

Mr. El,

I commend you for exposing “what was done in the dartk to light.” You led the charge to correct wrongdoing in APS when noone else would touch it. Even as this regime of terror coming to an end, Dr. Hall and her administration is appointing principals, some who were involved in the cheating scandal to lead schools. Go figure. The mayor and his cronies continue to bully the board to keep the secrets of the Atlanta Public Schools and the Chamber of Commerce. There is so much fraud in APS that it should even spark the interest of the FBI. Mr. El, please continue your fight in doing what is best for the children of Atlanta.

chillywilly

June 11th, 2011
8:21 pm

Thank you Mr. El for telling it like it is. I think Kasim Reed is a weak kneed, no backbone, shiftless, string dancing dummy for the business community. I’ve always suspected for years that the business community controlled APS. Why else would APS hire a CFO from Chicago (Chuck Burbridge) who flies in and out every week and also hire a former state auditor (Nader Sohrab) as Controller who use to rake APS over the coals with his audits? Can someone please give us the 4-1-1 as to why APS Finance hired Brad Johnson, Holly Keller, Crissi Calhoun, Thomas Marshall and Sandy Mormon? Inquiring minds would like to know. Terminate everyone of them!

Give em hell, El! Kasim Reed will NEVER get my vote. People know that Mark Elgart, Reed, Nathan Deal and the Chamber of Commerce attacked Reed and the other 4 members in order to shift attention from Beverly Hall.

Tell us more Mr. El. You have nothing to lose. Do it for the children.

chillywilly

June 11th, 2011
8:24 pm

Correction………………… Last paragraph in my post above.

“Attacked El and the other 4 members”. Hell, Reed was one of the attackers.

Paulo977

June 11th, 2011
8:31 pm

‘El points to what he considers the undue influence of business interests on city and school affairs” ABSOLUTELY correct on this . Check out what is happening in Dekalb Schools!!!

Paulo977

June 11th, 2011
8:37 pm

Dirty South

“45 percent is spent on local business interest, 35 percent spent on schools,”

You are right and no one cares!

Also check out how the publishing industry is raking in the money churning out crappy test prep materials for the crappy standardized tests!!!

A Conservative Voice

June 11th, 2011
8:55 pm

Let’s clone this guy and get him to straighten things out

Superintendent’s Message

My Dear Boys and Girls:

I asked someone last Friday morning why every child whom I met was smiling, and they replied, “Don’t you know? The children are back in school; they are happy at their work again.” How different it is from the old days when children were driven to school, and how happy I am to receive you into our school buildings and to see you working to develop your personality, to enjoy your games and exercises, to find real pleasure in your books and your activities. To each and every one of you I send my very happiest greetings for the very best year of all your school life.

The teachers look so much better; they have rested and they are ready to give you their very best efforts. Our supervisors and administrative force are at your service. The whole object of the school system is to see that you receive the instruction which should be given you and that you profit by the opportunities which the city offers. You must work hard in order that when you become grown men and grown women and have children of your own that you will give them better opportunities even than you received. Each of us owes an obligation to the oncoming generation and to the years that are in front of us. It is our business to act in the present and to prepare for the future. Each little boy and girl and each big boy and girl has this obligation. I trust you will remember it during this year, and use, to the very best possible advantage, all the opportunities which come to you.

Always your friend,
Willis A. Sutton

Superintendent of Schools.

This appeared in the Atlanta Constitution on Sunday, September 17, 1933
Mr. Sutton was Superintendent of the Atlanta Public School System

amazed

June 11th, 2011
9:18 pm

I think El is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. He’s serving his own interests to the detriment of the students. How much in legal fees did they spend fighting this battle over the chairman?

However, he is right that Reed’s style is to bully and throw temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Its pretty embarrassing. He did the same things with the transportation board (doesn’t matter that he was right-its still not the way to do things).

say what?

June 11th, 2011
10:16 pm

Reed’s style is all or nothing, except when Deal took him to DC as his “calling card” to get in to see the POTUS. What self respecting man would allow another man to call them his calling card to get HIM in to speak to the POTUS? And then he stood BEHIND Deal, as Deal was saying this nonsense-almost as he was being used, but he did not mind, as long as he was allowed to keep his position.

Getting to Mr. El, you are just as bad as the rest of the people to whom you are now assigning fault. Things do not go your way, and now you want to tell the story of the destruction of APS.

Glad that you had the voice to do so, but too little too late.

say what?

June 11th, 2011
10:19 pm

Also, when is DeKalb going to finally admit that Ramona Tyson will be the permanent superintendent? This continuous “we do not know who will be the super” is ridiculous. Her saying over and over that she does not want the job, is getting tiring. July 1st will be a new fiscal year, and we have no one selected.

Atlanta mom

June 11th, 2011
10:34 pm

Oh please. Mr. El sat on the board for EIGHT years and did nothing. Apparently he absorbed nothing as well. As recently as one year ago, he didn’t even know what AYP meant. Nor was he capable of running a board meeting. It was painful to watch him in January. Had no clue what the proper procedures were to amend the board agenda. No clue how to keep speakers to the allowed time limit. No leadership skill at all.
And exactly what has he done for the children????? He appears to be working hard to make sure the next graduating class comes from a non-accredited system. I’m sure those 5,000 students are thrilled.

yagottabekiddingme

June 11th, 2011
10:36 pm

El has been on the school board since 2003. He got there well after Dr. Hall, and said NOTHING till it could benefit himself. He overthrew the board charter to put himself in power. Now he throws himself at the mercy of the great unwashed, saying he tried his best, but he is going to have to relinquish his chairmanship.

I remember lying manipulative kids on the playground, too, El, and you are a very good actor. Positioning yourself for a role in politics, I see. Good thing Mayor Reed isn’t white, or this whole thing could have turned into another sort of argument for you, huh?

Step aside for THE GOOD OF ALL THE CHILDREN IN ATLANTA. You are not a leader you are a whiner.

Ed Johnson

June 11th, 2011
11:11 pm

Mr. El, one can imagine you feel much betrayed. Now perhaps you might understand why I voted for Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor.

When it comes especially to our K-12 public education systems, it must never be about I’ll-scratch-your-back-today-if-you’ll-scratch-my-back-tomorrow politics. Your writing gives a sense you may have expected as much from then mayoral candidate Kasim Reed. It must always be about “content of character, not color of skin,” and certainly not politics.

By trying to bring the school board to face and deal openly and honestly with Atlanta Public Schools’ poor quality of top administrative leadership that predictably evidenced itself as the brutal CRCT cheating mess and subsequent attempted cover-up, which I witnessed, you and four other board members demonstrated admirable content of character. Be encouraged to hold to that. In the end, many will come to appreciate and admire it, but not now, not today. It takes a while for some folk to move beyond their self-interest for fear of losing to imagined competition or losing school accreditation.

In any case, let’s look forward to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed being a one-term mayor. His private meetings with “select” school board members and bullying of other board members speak volume about a “content of character” that’s dismissive of democratic ideals. His is a leadership behavior Atlanta and our country can no longer afford.

Paddy O

June 11th, 2011
11:14 pm

this is a fine example of hubris. What appears to be systematic cheating in the APS, with the tacit approve of Super Hall (hired someone from Newark, NJ? Do you know how corrupt that city is?), so she can squeeze as much bonus as she can from the board. Yet, its the business community that is cheating the students of their education? Good one, buddy!

Sean Casey

June 11th, 2011
11:48 pm

Mr. El- good riddance. Thank you for FINALLY stepping out of the way to allow credable, qualified leadership have the opportunity to take place. YES you were elected by your constituents. YES you were elected (twice) by the board as chairperson. YES you failed to lead that board, serve your constituents and the children of APS. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

Adele Meeks

June 12th, 2011
12:02 am

I’m a little dumbfounded that Khaatim’s constituents believe he is doing a good job. He’s clownin’ for real. He’s worse than a old school politician. He will try to upsurp everything available at the students’ expense. Can’t they see that. Suddenly now he is speaking out against the Mayor – because the Mayor is the only one who can really challenge him without getting the racial backlash. Mayor Reed didn’t just decide to attack Khaatim El. This was a long time in coming. APS is under probation accreditation for goodness sake! Here is a link to just a peek at some of the problem: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2011/01/19/sacs-report-criticizes-aps-chairman-el-alisias-contract.html

Dirty South

June 12th, 2011
1:16 am

My god, now if you want to hear a real fool listen to Adele. This fool will tell you exact what the white folks put in the newspaper and think it’s gospel. Stevie Wonder and the Three Blind Mice can see that this SACS butt is nothing but about MONEY and the WHITE BUSINESS ELETE. PERIOD…… Somehow, I think her knows the truth but try’s to deceive!

Former SPARK parent

June 12th, 2011
1:33 am

Mr. El, you are accountable for the lack of oversight of Bev Hall, who tried to hide evidence of the biggest cheating scandal in the history of standardized testing in the United States (according to the NY Times). She is your lone employee; you drank her Kool-Aid for 8 years and failed to protect the very “African-American males” you now profess to champion.

You finally saw the light and you did a good deed in moving to oust the execrable LaChandra Butler-Burks, who has fewer talents than surnames.

But you still proved yourself a weak, easily circumvented BOE member and your whinging now falls on deaf ears. Good luck in whatever you decide to do next, because next election you’ll be out along with the others.

blue_moon

June 12th, 2011
2:03 am

Mr. El, your brazen action, to name yourself chair of the APS BOE, is the primary reason SACS put APS on probation which potentially jeopardizes the future of all Atlanta’s children. Now it looks like you’re also going to be the primary reason that Gov. Deal may elect to replace the still dysfunctional APS school board.

People are fed up with you and and the entire board’s incessant bickering and whining. When you said you were going to step down as chairman, I’m sure there was a collective sigh of relief across Atlanta. But now it looks as if you want to take Mayor Kasim Reed and the entire Board down with you. Narcissistic people do things like that.

You say that exposing the CRCT investigation cover-up turned others against you but I think YOU turned others against you. You had plenty of time to speak up about a cover-up before Gov. Perdue took over the investigation but you didn’t, possibly, because it wasn’t in your best interest to do so at the time. Everything you’ve done since being elected to the school board position has been self-serving.

It looks like you pretty much were elected in 2010 to the District 2 seat of the Atlanta School Board almost right out of college so you obviously brought limited experience and limited knowledge. According to your website you’ve sat on almost a dozen other boards across the city–even some that appear to be in conflict with your board position. While the others boards you serve on probably don’t pay you the approx. $1500 a month tax free stipend that you are being paid as Chairman of the APS board; but even if they paid you half or a third or a fourth of that amount, you would still be making a very nice annual salary for having done nothing but sit on boards.

Mr. El, you cannot possibly serve on 12 boards and be totally committed to the children of Atlanta Public Schools. Sitting on the board has served you well financially but the children of Atlanta don’t need people like you advocating for them because you’re much too busy advocating for yourself. I think the City of Atlanta should pass a law that prohibits any member of the APS BOE from serving as a paid member of another board or is a member of an organization with conflicting interests. If that happens, then maybe we’ll move closer to having a board that actually cares about our children.

According to the APS website, it looks like you recently got a job with United Way. It appears to be the only ‘real’ job you’ve ever held (http://www.khaatimforourkids.com/aboutkhaatim.html). Hopefully, the United Way ‘work’ experience will teach you that when you sign on to serve the public, it should never be about you. And when YOU become the issue, then it’s time for YOU to move on. So thank you for moving on. And it appears that after the immature and castigating remarks you made about Mayor Kasim Reed, you may have to move far beyond Atlanta.

While Mayor Kasim Reed may need to use a bit more diplomacy, I’m grateful that he is unwilling to let you or anyone else continue to put the education of Atlanta’s children at risk.

Truth Seeker

June 12th, 2011
2:10 am

There is no other word to describe Mr. El other than “ridiculous.” He pretends to care about “the children” yet his actions are merely the work of an egomaniac grasping for power and a stage. If Mr El really cared about the children as he states, he would step aside completely by resigning from the Board, along with the other school board members, who clearly cannot function in a way which is best for our children. It is Mr El who has chosen to make this issue about the mayor rather than the children. Mr. El’s recent letter about the mayor is indicative of where he places his priorities- laying the gauntlet with the business community and the mayor and rehashing unimportant school board court history rather than with the children. Mr. El, we know it takes a “village” to raise our kids- that includes the business community, mayor, governor, and citizens. You have proven yourself to be the “village idiot.”

Where's the village?

June 12th, 2011
3:07 am

So many of you are on the outside looking in, and some of your comments show that you’ve gotten caught up and distracted by Mayor Reed’s/Dr. Hall’s/Chamber of Commerce’s/Blue Ribbon Commission’s/Business District’s/Elgert & SACS’ ploy to shift attention to the school board’s disagreements and away from the the cheating scandal, elaborate cover-up, illegal business deals, and politics that are going on in APS. Look, I am not here to defend Mr. El, but sadly, his statements depict a very accurate picture of the politics that have been going on for the past 12 years under Dr. Hall’s superintendency. I reiterate, “…follow the money trail!” Honestly, I was also a strong supporter of and voted for Mayor Reed, and I am very disappointed to see him play politics and place the business community’s interest before the interest of truly educating and helping the students of APS (at least those on the south side). I do not plan to vote for Mayor Reed when he runs for re-election.

I have been a teacher in APS before, and now after, Dr. Hall’s regime, and believe me, there has been systemic cheating and intimidation at all levels from the top down (from Dr. Hall to Kathy Augustine to the Executive Directors to the Principals . . .), and it still continues today even after she is set to leave in only three weeks. Cheating has been going on at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and even at the SRT/District level the entire time Dr. Hall has been at the helm. The only exception might be the Buckhead schools. Sadly, everyone in APS knows this is true. It is like the elephant in the room, but everyone is so afraid to publicly speak out about the cheating & intimidation or stand up to these forces because the person who tries to stand up becomes a target of his/her principal and district-level administrators (and the remainder of their career in APS will be pure hell).

If a teacher’s students/class does not meet AYP and Dr. Hall’s targets, then that teacher will be publicly ridiculed and blamed, placed on a PDP, etc. It’s so sad because no one wants to acknowledge or take into account the real and many deficits that many of our black and special education children have in APS. I have high school colleagues who share they receive students who cannot subtract, multiply, or divide and who read on a third grade level. Also, principals, administrators, and even some members of the public do not want to acknowledge the serious discipline issues at APS schools and the lack of parental involvement (both are particularly awful at the middle schools and high schools). No matter how much a teacher prepares or how hard a teacher tries to teach, how effective can a teacher be when majority of his/her instructional time is spent either dealing with severe discipline problems (i.e., students cursing at each other and cursing out the teachers, fighting, endless joking/joning, no paper/pencil/school supplies, on and on . . .) or spent on endless, meaningless paperwork?

For instance, I’ve called parents to discuss their child’s behavior, and many parents have literally hung up in my face and/or told me not to call them anymore because they can’t do anything with their child, and they are sick of receiving calls from the school. Instead of receiving support form site-level administrators, teachers are told they have to simply deal with these problems. Yet, when these same students fail on standardized tests, everyone (including the same parents who hung up in your face and/or cursed you out as well as the administrators who did not support you with these issues) wants to place all the blame on the teacher. I speak to colleagues across the district, and this type of behavior and lack of support is very prevalent. Someone posted “It takes a village to raise our kids,” but it seems like the village only consists of the teachers. The Mayor, Governor, Business Community, Elgert/SACS and even the parents, are not on the South side helping to raise our black kids. Where are they, and where have they been before now? Therefore, teachers in APS have been backed into a corner and essentially forced to pretend that Dr. Hall’s reforms were really working (and unfortunately, many succumb to cheating). However, I am surprised it took this long for the systemic cheating and intimidation to be revealed. I thought the public, school board, state school board, and parents should have questioned the unrealistic gains in APS years ago. Majority were fooled then, and based on some of the comments, continue to be fooled now.

It is very sad that so many students have dropped out (or mysteriously vanished from rolls), because they were so unprepared for high school due to being pushed along through elementary and middle school. These students could not cut it in their high school classes or on the GHSGT.

I know some of you will comment that teachers should have stood up, but that is much easier said than done when standing up or speaking out would cause and individual to be ostracized, blacklisted, made an example of, lose relationships with colleagues who would become too afraid to be seen talking to you, and more than likely, eventually lose your job or cave in to the pressure and simply leave.

Reality Bites

June 12th, 2011
7:22 am

Thank God for private schools. Hall and the El-toolo have put APS on the map….as a laffing stock for the rest of the country. Take a bow u 2.

Shan

June 12th, 2011
7:34 am

As far as I am concerned, El is just as bad as the very people he denigrates in his letter. He knew about Hall’s mismanagement of the school board, and only now does he care about assigning blame?

Doris M

June 12th, 2011
8:49 am

Mr. El is right. APS is controlled by the Atlanta business community. Dr. Hall followed their instructions about raising test scores. High performance is good for business within the city. It’s all about the money. Dr. Hall built the incentive money into her contract. It all sounded very good for her to say that if the scores did not meet the markers, she would not receive any bonus. But now we know that the scores DID NOT meet the markers. She needs to return the illicit bonus money she received. Teachers and school staff only received a small bonus for meeting AYP, Dr. Hall is the one who hauled in the big load.

And why does Dr. Hall have a criminal attorney representing her. It is because it is a crime to alter official documents (test sheets)? Will the Feds ask for funds to be repaid? Oh my aching tax dollars!!

N GA Blues

June 12th, 2011
9:14 am

“And if how I became the chairman was really the issue, that should have been resolved when me, and the vice chair at that time, both stepped down, and the Board held new elections.”

Well, Mr. El, I think you would have just lost points on the SAT or ITBS. However, I also suspect the even the 8th grade CRCT wouldn’t ask you to find the error in that sentence, because it’s “too difficult”. I wonder how many APS high school seniors could actually find it? Never mind that they’ll be -expected- to find those errors for themselves in the papers they’ll have to write in college, if they’re lucky enough to get that far.

(By the way, just in case he’s reading: it should have been “…resolved when I, and the vice chair at that time, both stepped down….”)

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

June 12th, 2011
9:18 am

In a video released last week, El admits to “being a potted plant” and “drinking the Kool-Aid from the Hall Administration.” How is that the ‘business community’s” fault? The Chamber stepped in to encourage and vetted Board candidates 12 years ago, as the Board at that time was a scene of buffoons at play. Still, the voters of Atlanta- us!- failed to follow up on the Chamber’s initiative by voting in miniscule numbers,by not holding Board members accountable, and by adopting a wait-and-see attitude about stories of scandals the AJC brought out, year after year after year. And in the end, race – who is from which one- has been the only theme that has struck a chord with most of the APS personnel, with the Board members and with the City’s citizens. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Lee

June 12th, 2011
9:43 am

Watching the Khaatim and Kasim exchange is akin to watching two seagulls battle over a dead fish – mildly entertaining once you get past the smell.

BTW, if not for the “downtown business district”, Atlanta would be, well, Detroit.

Teacher no more

June 12th, 2011
10:01 am

@ “Where’s the village?”… Thank you. The Dr. Hall machine sadly punished those of us who had the audacity to speak out early about the “APS transformation fiasco” and “cheating.”. … Mr. El didn’t act when we approached him and other members on the board. We are still fighting for what is best for our kids. However, I wish that someone would stop the use of APS school children as guinea pigs for every education experiment by every Tom, Dick and Harriet Ph.D on earth. They start with urban kids because their parents are operating at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. They are too busy just trying to make ends meet. Mr. El, we the people who voted you in expect you to do the right thing.

not shocked

June 12th, 2011
10:37 am

You nailed it, Lee…..

Dr. John Trotter

June 12th, 2011
11:07 am

@ Where’s the village?: You appear to be speaking from reality. This, folks, is the reality of what goes on daily in the Atlanta Public Schools. We have heard this anectotally each week for going on 25 years. I have been working directly with Atlanta teachers since 1988. Since Hall came here in 1999, these problems become exponential. Please re-read what “Where’s the village?” has written. It smacks with reality. I address some of the same issued here >>>

http://georgiateachersspeakout.com/

Conerned Parent Looking for Leadership

June 12th, 2011
11:12 am

Wow – I read these comments and it is so very clear why the Atlanta Public School SYSTEM is so dysfunctional. The leadership has completely abdicated its responsibility and, instead, decides to find 1001 reasons that the problems are somebody else’s fault, the result of some exogenous events that were completely out of anyone’s control and, when discovered, were someone else’s responsibility to fix.

The fact is, the entire school board should be fired as they failed to act decisively (because they were “concerned” about what might happen to THEM if they did) when it became incredibly clear that a cheating scandal had pervaded APS. That scandal at best, was ignored or conveniently “missed” by the Administration or, at worst, implicitly (even, in some offices, explicitly) orchestrated and supported by key members of the Administration. That is a fraud perpetrated against our children.

Meanwhile, instead of tackling the most important, albeit difficult, task of exercising courageous leadership and decisively acting to correct this egregious violation of our children’s right to a quality, honest education, the Board chose to bicker among itself about who should be in charge, play toddler-like games involving power and meaningless titles and trinkets and completely avoid the important issues and challenges facing a major metropolitan school district.

Let us remember, Chairman El, the foundation for these issues and basis for the “crisis” began and festered long before Mayor Reed had any influence over the Board’s actions, inactions and mis-directions.

Mayor Reed may be guilty of being a bully. However, he has endeavored to tackle difficult issues (like the pension issue) that, if not addressed in some way, hold the potential to create long-term harm for our community. He is also guilty of listening, studying and considering ideas and opportunities presented to him by a diverse group of community members. (By the way, I did not support or vote for Mayor Reed in the last Mayoral election).

That should be a lesson to you. The Mayor is not perfect; however, the differences between you are substantive and ethos-driven. No credible person would label Mayor Reed a cheater, at least not to the caliber of the APS SYSTEM. More abhorrent, unlike the Mayor, you are now an adult who was complicit in perpetrating a fraud against defenseless children you were elected to serve and protect. Your tirade – blaming everyone but yourself and attempting to justify your unethical and judgment-lacking decisions based on legal technicalities – not only weakens your criticisms of the Mayor but, moreover, shows your narcissistic tendencies. While it could be, the probability that a Mayor, two governors and an accreditation agency are all wrong and you are right is slim.

I’m sure you are aware of what they say about living in a glass house; please remember, before you speak ill of your fellow public servants (sic) remember that your house is already missing several windows.

To be fair, this shouldn’t be all about you. It is also about every other member of your Board that either supported your fraudulent crusade and those that didn’t have the conviction to more forcefully fight against it. Not unlike tyrannical regimes of the past, it isn’t only the leader that must be removed, but the entire governing structure must be replaced. Unfortunately, that appears to be the only satisfactory course of action here.

Two final thoughts. This discussion needs to be guided away from personalities and back toward policy. While the observations made here regarding the current Chairman are made regarding his role as a policy maker and, in no way, should be construed to be personal attacks. I don’t know the Chairman personally which, candidly, makes my observations both more objective and subject to the limitations of distance. I make them based on my careful review of the public record and from observations at Board meetings and official events and appearances. I trust the Chairman – and all members of the Board – are good people with good intentions that have simply fallen way short of their responsibilities as Board members (as I’m sure 99% of us may have done in the same situation).

Second, I refer to the “APS SYSTEM” throughout as these problems are the result of the SYSTEM corrupting the judgment of leaders who failed to act for a variety of largely systemic issues. Of course, there were bad actors in the system that initiated the cheating process and those people should be heard, adjudicated and punished as appropriate.

Let us not forget – and this is the real tragedy in this charade – that there are hundreds of exceptional, caring, enthusiastic teachers and administrators in the Atlanta Public Schools that come to work each day excited and motivated to create the next generation of Atlanta leaders. Teaching is tough work and to belittle it with the drivel that has become the APS governance system is disappointingly tragic.

Assuming it is correct, the letter posted earlier by “A Conservative Voice” from Willis Sutton, the Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools in 1933 is something that everyone here should read and should be posted on the wall of every APS educator’s room. While the challenges of teachers and administrators have changed significantly since then, the mission of our schools hasn’t.
Maybe, just maybe, those who perpetrated this fraud against our children have tried to make the problem and solution so complex that they can completely abdicate personal responsibility and more gracefully fade into the sunset and be forgotten. Sutton wrote, in part: “Each of us owes an obligation to the oncoming generation and to the years that are in front of us. It is our business to act in the present and to prepare for the future. Each little boy and girl and each big boy and girl has this obligation. I trust you will remember it during this year, and use, to the very best possible advantage, all the opportunities which come to you.”

To all board members, administrators and teachers, each time you think you have a difficult decision or may be straying from the mission as educators, as “trustees of our children’s future” re-read that passage. If you take it to heart, the Atlanta Public Schools can transform themselves from a SYSTEM of careless leaders to a COMMUNITY that nurtures, educates and prepares our children to be future leaders we can be proud of.

At the end of the day, it really is that simple.

Dr. John Trotter

June 12th, 2011
11:53 am

Sorry about the previous typo… Ha!

@ Where’s the village?: You appear to be speaking from reality. This, folks, is the reality of what goes on daily in the Atlanta Public Schools. We have heard this anecdotally each week for going on 25 years. I have been working directly with Atlanta teachers since 1988. Since Hall came here in 1999, these problems become exponential. Please re-read what “Where’s the village?” has written. It smacks with reality. I address some of the same issued here >>>

http://georgiateachersspeakout.com/

Ed Johnson

June 12th, 2011
12:30 pm

@A Conservative Voice, thanks for posting Willis A. Sutton’s back-to-school Superintendent’s Message of 1933. Love, compassion, empathy, vision, support, service, friendship, opportunity, responsibility — all such human qualities are there.

Now, contrast this back-to-school Superintendent’s Message:

August 9, 2010

Dear Parents, Employees and Friends of Atlanta Public Schools,

Welcome back to the 2010-11 school year. I know that we are all ready to continue our very important work of teaching and learning. Indeed, this is a very exciting time for Atlanta Public Schools as we look forward to implementing progressive programs and initiatives that are designed to further improve student achievement.

* Effective Teacher in Every Classroom (ETEC) Initiative: During the coming school year, we will be launching the latest APS school reform initiative – Effective Teacher in Every Classroom (ETEC). This innovative program advances our efforts to recruit and retain highly effective teachers.

* Transformed schools: The final three high schools: Mays, North Atlanta, and Grady, have been transformed into small schools/learning communities for the new school year. Also, our middle school transition program expands to all APS middle schools as they implement student advisory programs to connect learning pathways to future careers. Our two single-gender middle schools – B.E.S.T. Academy and Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy – open their associated high schools to 9th graders for the first time this year.

* A new look: Top-to-bottom renovations are underway at four APS schools: North Atlanta, Benjamin E. Mays and D.M. Therrell high schools and Continental Colony Elementary. These projects involve complete renovations and upgrades of existing buildings and campuses, an investment of more than $100 million. The redesigned Grady Stadium also opens this year with new lighting and sound systems and a new synthetic field.

* Technical upgrades: We are continuing our wireless infrastructure build-out that will soon facilitate instant connectivity to the district’s network and the Internet from virtually anywhere within our schools and offices. Our move to a wireless system allows teachers and administrators to efficiently conduct meetings and share information. The use of wireless carts transforms our classrooms into true 21st Century learning environments where technology is completely integrated into teaching and learning every day throughout the district.

While we continue to look forward to the coming year, it’s important that I share with you the latest information on the controversy surrounding the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) erasure findings. On August 2, we received the Blue Ribbon Commission’s investigative report. You can access the full report and the actions we are taking on the APS/CRCT website at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/crctupdate. We have already implemented two initiatives of the three-step program developed in response to the preliminary results of the investigation.

The first step took place in the spring with substantive procedural and test security changes in the administration of the 2010 CRCT spring and summer retest. The next step will commence on August 10 with a 12-week accelerated academic recovery program developed specifically for students who did not meet standards on this year’s CRCT exams, and are enrolled in schools listed in the severe and moderate categories on the state’s report. The last step involves our follow-up on the findings of the independent investigation.

The Blue Ribbon Commission Report makes it clear: “The investigative team did not find any data or other evidence, nor were there qualified allegations made, that there was any district-wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate the 2009 CRCT scores and outcomes of students at 58 APS schools.”

We will continue to insist that our testing standards are strictly adhered to at every grade level. I believe that even one infraction that negatively impacts a child’s education is unacceptable. APS will vigorously pursue all cases of infractions including those referred by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Our APS journey has produced significant improvements to student performance and the work must continue. Educating Atlanta’s future leaders is a privilege that we take very seriously, and we look forward to welcoming each new student on August 9. Thanks in advance for your support throughout the 2010-11 school year.

Sincerely,
Dr. Beverly L. Hall
Superintendent

http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/18611010892250280/cwp/view.asp?A=3&Q=290524&C=55611

Inman Park Boy

June 12th, 2011
1:30 pm

Neither Mr. El nor the mayor give a rat’s a$$ about the children of Atlanta.